We all know that some of the best ways to look after our mental and physical health involve exercising, eating healthy food, and keeping our minds busy and purposeful. But staying motivated to do these things can sometimes be tricky.
If you’ve been struggling to get up and go recently or stay on top of your wellbeing, we hope the following eight tips will help you find or boost your motivation.
1. Focus on the positives and celebrate the little things
While it’s important to stay well-informed about current affairs and the issues of the world, it can be helpful to limit the amount of time you spend looking at negative news stories.
A few of the team at Rest Less reported feeling their energy draining away whilst reading the news, so some have taken steps to limit their news consumption to 30 minutes in the late afternoon – and are reporting significant boosts in their mood as a result.
Everyone will have their own rhythm, but our team found that reading the news first thing in the morning affected their mindset for the rest of the day, whereas doing it just before bed led to challenges switching off and sleeping.
It can sometimes be difficult to see past all the negative news. However, it’s important to remember that there are also a lot of positive stories as well – from someone finding a missing pet to stories of courage and charity. So, if you can’t stay away from the news, try to extract as many positive stories as you can. They may offer you some comfort and hope.
It can also be helpful to focus your energy on the good things in your life, however small. This could simply be that you baked a tasty banana bread yesterday, went for a walk in the sunshine today, or you’re looking forward to finding out what happens next in a book you’re enjoying. Positivity can go a long way in helping us to feel motivated.
2. Stay present
It’s almost impossible to predict what the future holds, so ruminating about it is likely to do nothing more than use up precious energy, demotivate you and keep you in a constant state of anxiety. Therefore, creating a distinction between the things you can control and those you can’t can help with this.
For example, you can’t control what other people in your life or the larger world do. So, instead, try to focus on what you can do today – whether that be giving 100% at work, looking after yourself mentally and physically, or taking time to do the things that make you happy.
Letting go of what you can’t control and focusing only on what action you can take now, in this moment, can be a liberating feeling – one that brings a real sense of calm. Generally speaking, the calmer you feel, the easier it’ll be to move through each day without carrying around the additional burden of things you simply can’t change.
If you’re struggling to focus on what you can control in the here and now, why not try mindfulness? Our guide will show you a range of techniques you can use to focus only on what’s happening around you at any given moment. For more advice, you might also want to look at our article: 10 everyday activities that can help you stay in the present moment.
3. Stay connected to the people who make you feel good
If you’re struggling to stay motivated, consider making an effort to stay in regular contact with friends and family members who are positive and tend to lift your spirits. If you’re feeling a bit low, it can be tempting to retreat into your shell and avoid social contact altogether, but a chat with a cheerful loved one can really give you a boost.
Staying connected acts not only as a reminder that we’re all in this together, it’s also a great way to share tips on how best to navigate uncertain times. If you’re looking to connect with new people, you might like to read our article: 7 different ways to meet new people.
You may also be able to come up with goals you can work on together. For example, if you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself to exercise, you could try arranging to do a workout with a friend over at your local park. Or you could simply agree to text each other a few times a week to remind each other to work out and/or talk about how it’s going.
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re finding things a bit tough. Often, when we open up to others, we find out that we’re not the only ones feeling this way, and a problem shared can often be a problem halved.
4. Find your purpose
One of the key reasons you might be lacking motivation is that you feel you have nothing to get up for in the morning.
You might think, “Why shouldn’t I lie in bed until midday if I have nothing to do today?” This is why it’s so important to establish a sense of purpose that motivates you to want to get out of bed and see the day through. If you have goals and things you want to achieve, it’s usually easier to get up and get going.
People gain purpose from taking part in a range of different activities. These could include starting a new part-time job, taking on a series of home improvement projects, or finding something new to learn that you can really sink your teeth into.
When you’re looking to establish your sense of purpose, consider what sort of activities you genuinely care about that would bring you some level of fulfilment or satisfaction. Otherwise, you won’t feel motivated to do them. If you’re having trouble pinpointing what you’re passionate about, you might find our article, 10 practices for self-exploration, useful.
Helping others, for example, offers a sense of purpose to many. Knowing that you can make a difference in someone else’s life, not wanting to let someone down, and the positive feelings that come from helping someone else can make you more likely to keep helping.
That feeling of wanting to get up and do it again and make a difference is one way of describing a sense of purpose. You can find volunteering roles either in person or online.
Finally, if you’re struggling to find your purpose, it can sometimes help to try something new. The first steps are often the most difficult, and by simply signing up for an online course or trying a new hobby, you may well find you start to see your way forward.
If you’re still struggling to find your sense of purpose, take a look at our article: 5 ways to find meaning and purpose in your life.
5. Face your fears
Another reason you might be lacking motivation is if your goals fill you with fear and make you feel pessimistic about the outcome of trying to reach them. However, while no one enjoys being scared, how we choose to respond to these fearful feelings will determine how we move forward – or whether we move forward at all.
Most fear is linked to the unknown and feeling that we can’t predict the outcome of what’s going to happen – and because of this, we often catastrophise and assume the worst. Then, to avoid our fears becoming a reality, we either take no action or an action that’s considered ‘safe’, even if it won’t help us get closer to our goals.
Often, one of the most effective ways to boost your motivation and move past a debilitating fear is to tackle it head-on. Many times, we try to suppress feelings of fear or get annoyed at ourselves for feeling fear in the first place.
But by acknowledging and accepting how we feel and choosing to do what scares us anyway, not only do we feel a huge sense of reward, but we also increase our resilience and feel more confident in our ability to tackle whatever challenge comes our way next.
For tips on how to turn fear and indecision into confidence, it’s worth reading Susan Jeffers’ book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. Our article will also explain more about what comfort zones are and how stepping outside of yours can lead to growth and adventure.
There’s also a great power in challenging negative thoughts and visualising a positive outcome. You can find out more about how to develop the skill of optimism by having a read of our article here.
6. Create small, realistic goals each day and week – but don’t be afraid to go with the flow too!
You may have heard this one a few times already, but that’s a testament to how having a routine can help give you some reassurance, stability, and a sense of control. As humans, we’re creatures of habit, so we take comfort in some sort of routine, no matter how flexible and changeable it may be!
Often, if we wake up and spend time contemplating all the things we could do with our day, we may struggle to choose or overthink each idea and end up not doing anything at all. To avoid this happening, try sitting down with your diary or a notepad every Sunday and mapping out some sort of plan for your week.
Planning your week doesn’t have to mean writing down what you’ll do every hour, every day. But it could mean deciding that on Monday, you’re going to give your living room a fresh coat of paint; on Tuesday, you’ll bake something you’ve never baked before; and on Wednesday, you’ll do some training with your dog and teach him/or her a new trick…and so on.
If you’re currently employed, you could also plan your work tasks in advance so that you feel more prepared heading into the week.
Try to stick to your routine as much as possible, but allow yourself some breathing space too. If you feel exhausted come Wednesday and want to take an afternoon nap, let yourself. Or, if you’re not feeling up to that 5K run that you committed to, try just going for a walk or running a short distance instead with a view to run further next time.
We’re humans, not robots, so although routine can be a motivational tool, it’s important not to punish yourself if you don’t stick to your schedule religiously. This can eventually become just as demotivating as having no routine at all. Small steps can offer big rewards, so only take on what you think you can realistically manage!
7. Explore what really motivates you
A loss of purpose and/or motivation (while a real challenge to work through) can actually offer a great opportunity. If you’re experiencing this, ask yourself: “When was the last time I had this much time to reflect, focus on what’s really important to me, and consider what makes me happy?”
We’ve read lots of stories and heard from our members about how later life has given them the opportunity to reevaluate what’s important, reignite old passions or discover new ones, and develop new skills.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about what really motivates you. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to move out of the city and into the country to pursue more outdoorsy hobbies. Or maybe you’ve rediscovered your love of painting and are wondering whether you could start selling your work.
Self-discovery is a journey that we may go on several times throughout our lives, and the results can sometimes be surprising – in a good way!
If you’ve been considering a career change but are looking for some inspiration, you may want to try browsing the career ideas section of our website or reading some of the personal stories from a number of our members who’ve taken the leap to a new career in their 50s, 60s, or beyond.
8. Get excited about your goals
Feelings of motivation will come much more naturally if you can get excited about the things you want to accomplish. This is easier with larger goals that have life-changing potential – such as making a career change or moving house – but it can extend to smaller goals too.
For example, if you have a boring task to complete at work or uninspiring chores to do around your home, then rather than focusing on how unexciting the task is, why not get excited about how good you’ll feel when it’s over?
Why not even decide how you’ll celebrate when it’s over? Rewarding yourself for tasks is a great way to give yourself an incentive to do them. For example, by watching a movie you love or treating yourself to your favourite food or a glass of wine at the end of the day.
To get more excited about larger goals and achievements, and to keep your dreams and motivation alive, you could also think about creating a vision board. Having a tangible reminder of your goals to look at every day can help keep you on track and remind you why you’re taking the steps that you are.
It can be easy to see people in your life and all over the internet doing all sorts of different things, and, in turn, feel like you have to do the same. Try not to compare yourself to others because no one of us is the same, and different things motivate different people.
Some people may find it easier to completely block their week out with activities hour by hour, while others may be happier planning a few things here and there, and perhaps even putting aside a whole day to snuggle up on the sofa and catch up on their favourite TV shows.
What motivates you may be of no interest to someone else and vice versa, so it’s crucial that you listen to your own mind and body, and focus on things that’ll help you and make you happy.
We all have good and bad days, so if you find yourself having a bad one, try to think of every day as a fresh start with a new blank canvas to start from, and a new opportunity to find what works for you.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share with others? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.