I don’t know if it’s just me, but everything during this time of year always feels harder to do than in the summer. Daily tasks like getting out of bed, or walking my dog, seem daunting due to the cold. Even fitness goes on the back burner because my car takes too long to heat up before arriving at the gym. Silly excuses are much easier for me to rely on when it’s cold outside. I don’t have the motivation I normally have in the summer.
Motivation is said to be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from sources outside of one’s self, like money, fame, and praise. This type of reinforcement is actually very useful when adopting a new lifestyle or goal. However, external motivation can be fleeting. Intrinsic motivation, motivation that comes from within, your “why,” is a stronger source of motivation. This is where your purpose comes into play. But what happens when the extrinsic motivation fades, and your intrinsic motivation isn’t fully developed?
Below are seven research-backed methods of boosting your motivation today.
1. Walk in Nature
Walking in nature is one of the oldest methods of increasing creativity and motivation. Albert Einstein himself was known for walking a mile and a half every day while working at Princeton University. He was following the footsteps of other renowned intellects, like Charles Darwin and William Wordsworth. Even modern-day geniuses, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, have been known to have walking meetings. Many thinkers, writers, and creatives consider walking as part of their intellectual routine.
A new study by Stanford researchers found that walking boosted creative inspiration. In short, the study had 176 participants walk, sit, or a combination of the two for 5 to 16 minutes. Afterwards, the participants performed a “divergent thinking” creativity test, in which the participants had to think of different uses for an object.
“Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.”
Without understanding the benefits, my father promoted walking as a way to clear our minds (Read: 10 Life Lessons I Actually Learned From My Parents). And from personal experience, I can vouch that walking has relieved much of my stress and health issues. When I first began my journey to recover from my thyroid disease, I walked 3 miles every day.
2. Strike a Pose
A quick and easy way to boost motivation is to strike a “power pose.” Harvard professor and social phycologist Amy Cuddy gave a TedTalk on the effects of body language on the mind and body. She describes how “power-posing” physiologically increases our confidence in ourselves. Confidence in ourselves and our goals generates the motivation we need to strengthen our lives.
The most well known power pose is known as the Wonder Woman Pose. Try sitting or standing taller, back straight, chest wide, putting your hands on your hips to take up more space.
Click here to read the full research study on power posing.
3. Partner Up
Whether it’s writing every day, working out, eating healthy, meditating, etc., having an accountability buddy greatly increases your chances of success in your endeavors. The American Society of Training and Development found that you are 65% more likely to complete a goal if you commit with someone than if you didn’t.
Committing publicly to a goal, for example, starting a fitness Instagram account, allows others to encourage you. Starting my fitness Instagram was a HUGE motivator in accomplishing my goals. My first goal was to break 135lb squat. I did it, and my Instagram followers were with me during that journey. Next I claimed that I would squat 135lbs during a 5×5. I did that too, and my followers lifted me up. My next squat goal is to break 185lbs. By sharing my fitness goals publicly, I am determined to make sure I’m working towards them.
My motivation, in this case, is to live up to my word.
If you’re lacking the enthusiasm to start your goals, try committing to someone. You can do this by publicly announcing your goals. Or you can try giving a trusted and tough friend $10, and telling them that if you don’t accomplish your goal or task by the end of the week, they can keep the money.
4. Declare a Deadline
Part of having motivation is setting a meaningful deadline for yourself. Believe it or not, I started this blog post over a week ago. I kept putting it off because I’d miraculously find other things to occupy my time. Once I finally set a deadline for myself, November 2, my productivity and motivation shot through the roof! I’ve been researching and writing much more than before I set my mental deadline.
Dan Ariely, professor at Duke University and deadline expert, states that people respond well to deadlines because meeting them provides a distinct feeling of having achieved something within that timeframe.
Try this deadline tool to improve motivation: First, divide your work into smaller tasks and set deadlines for each one of them. Then, find a trustworthy buddy to hold you accountable for completing the tasks.
5. Listen to Jazz
Jazz is one of the most stimulating genres to the brain. One study found that listening to classical, jazz, or self-selecting relaxing music, significantly reduced anxiety, anger, and stress. And since stress is a known enemy to memory, listening to jazz can actually improve your memory and cognitive skills by eliminating your stress.
“Jazz stretches the brain’s capacity for sequential operations and ‘working memory’ because its melodies typically include twelve pitches per octave.”
Dr. Mark Jude Tramo, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Next time you’re in a motivational rut, listen to some velvety jazz and watch your brain activity rise with calm excitement. As I’m writing this post, I’m listening to one of my favorite Spotify playlist, Jazz Vibes, which soothes my brain with smooth jazz and the chillest instrumental hip-hop.
6. Try the Pomodoro Technique
The biggest complaint people have when it comes to motivation is that they lack the time. “I don’t have time to work out.” “I don’t have time to cook clean foods.” “I’m too busy to work on my ideas and my personal projects.” Sound like people you know?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool that uses a timer to break work into chunks, usually 25 minute intervals. The technique relies on active work and rest periods (much like exercise!). As someone who has previously been diagnosed with ADHD, I really appreciate the breaks with this method. It allows my mind time to wander for a bit, which helps me stay focused during the 25 minute segment, known as a pomodoro. If I know that I will have time for distractions, I will stay more focused during my allotted time for work.
Applying the Pomodoro technique can build discipline, so you don’t have to rely on motivation to get things done. Here’s how to apply the technique if you were, say, writing a blog post:
- Set the “pomodoro timer” for 25 minutes.
- Write during the entire duration.
- When the timer stops, take a 5 minute break, and tally your first pomorodo.
- When the break is over, start again at step one.
- After four pomodoros, take a 30 minute break and reset your pomodoro tallies to zero until the blog post is finished.
7. Eat Blueberries
Blueberries are proven to boost brain power by slowing the cognitive decline that comes with aging. The tiny berries are packed with antioxidants, which actually fight age-related oxidative stress. Eat them by the handful, or enjoy them mixed with your favorite oatmeal.
I eat blueberries every day with my morning Power Oats.