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Lady with tattoos and orange top hands behind head with a happy expression

How to master your motivation

22 Feb 2024 • 4 min read

It’s all about mindset. Mastering your motivation requires you to master your mind.

In a survey from 2023, it was found that 30 million people around the UK made new year’s resolutions, with health (28%), money (27%), family (24%) and self-improvement (21%) topping the charts for the most common resolutions. 1 

Motivation finds its way into just about every aspect of your life, day to day. From when you wake up to when you fall asleep. So, feeling unmotivated can make your daily routines feel more like a struggle.

Why it can be a struggle to stay motivated?

There can be many barriers getting in the way of staying motivated.

It could be that you simply don’t enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing and therefore have lost enthusiasm for it and see it as a chore. It could be that you wanted to try a healthier lifestyle but you’re being too restrictive. Most often, it’s mental health that causes the biggest barrier.

We’ve listed all these potential motivation barriers below, and we’re going to share with you some tips on how you could overcome them.

Mental health

Lack of motivation is a feeling we may experience from time to time as individuals. Mental health can intensify the feeling of being unmotivated.

Motivation helps us to feel energised and inspired. An emotional state of distress (whether that be anxiety, depression, grief, or trauma) will directly impact motivation.2

The Mental Health Foundation suggests these top tips to help overcome lack of motivation3
  • Break down tasks into manageable chunks 
  • Note each positive experience you have throughout the day 
  • Give yourself credit for little accomplishments 
  • Have some ‘you’ time 
  • Be gentle with yourself 
  • Try to be present 
  • Attend helpful events 
  • Ask for help
In a survey of 2,271 people, more than half of UK adults reported their main motivation for keeping physically active was to help their mental health, whilst 49% said it was getting in shape.4

Lack of enjoyment

Noticing that you have a lack of enjoyment, or the ability to feel pleasure towards something you once enjoyed doing, is a common symptom of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).In severe cases, this can also be known as ‘anhedonia’.6

If you think you may be experiencing this type of feeling, we suggest talking to your GP, as they can give you personalised advice and support. They can help you explore ways to manage your mental health.

Though, a way you might combat this could be to try something new. For example, if you don’t enjoy jogging, then you could try swimming? If you’ve fallen out of love with your strict workout sessions, then why not try a fitness class?

Seeing exercise as a chore

It’s probably safe to say that most of us, at some point, have planned a new exercise routine with great enthusiasm only to see our commitment fade?

Motivation can be temporary. So, try to build a small daily habit that in time will become routine, such as 20 minutes of yoga before breakfast or taking a walk on your lunch break.7

Research has found that listening to music during exercise can help make it more enjoyable.

Listening to music during intense interval exercise may be an effective approach for supporting participation in, and adherence to, this form of training.8 A podcast is also a great way to learn something new and distract your mind from work and other life stresses.9

Restrictive diets

Being restrictive with your food may lead to binging or falling off your healthier eating plan.

Constraining yourself to unrealistic goals, like cutting the food out you enjoy or not allowing yourself to eat certain food groups completely (carbs) is probably not the best way to start a weight loss journey.

When losing weight, it can be easier to make a few small changes rather than one or two big ones, and you’ll be more likely to stick with them. 10

It’s best to try not to label foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and instead focus on moderation and variety. Enjoying a slice of pizza or treating yourself to piece of cake occasionally doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, instead it’s a healthier way to think.11

The USDA recommends eating a variety of food groups each day, allowing your body to get a variety of nutrition.12 And, did you know you should aim to consume 30 plant points a week too?

Is spring the best time to be motivated?

Spring is said to bring a sense of renewal and rejuvenation. The warming weather and longer days invite us to shake off the winter blues and embrace fresh opportunities. It’s a time for growth, both in the natural world and in our own lives: 13
  • Increased motivation 
  • More daylight 
  • Better weather 
  • New beginnings
The equinox and solstice define the transitions between the seasons of the astronomical calendar, they’re a key part of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. The spring equinox marks the beginning of spring and from this day forward the day is longer than the night.14

One survey found that most participants said spring is the season of change (73%), leaving people feeling fresh (43%) and motivated (35%).15

Small steps and small changes in habits

According to updated statistics, only 9% of people successfully keep to their New Year’s resolutions.16

The time it takes for a new habit to form can vary depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances.

Having unrealistic expectations on how quickly habits are formed can lead to you giving up during the learning phase. One study found that it can take around 10 weeks for people to form a new habit.17

So, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it’ll probably take you anywhere from 2-3 months (or longer) to build a new behaviour into your life – not 21 days.18

Embracing longer timelines can help us realise that habits are a process and not an event. You need to embrace the process and be patient with it.

Benefits of not giving up

Research shows that self-compassion is very motivating, especially when you’re struggling with difficulty.

A study by researchers at the University of California found that self-compassion increases the motivation to recover from failure.19

These findings suggest that taking an accepting approach to personal failure may make people more motivated to improve themselves.20

So, words of encouragement, affirmations and goal setting could be your holy trinity for encouraging motivation.

The final say

Mastering your motivation requires you to be kind to yourself and patient.

Try setting smaller, manageable, and realistic goals to begin with and then start building them up if you want to. It’s important to remember that a long-term goal won’t necessarily be a quick fix!

Handpicked content

Sources

1. https://www.oxfordshiremind.org.uk/new-years-resolutions-what-are-the-numbers-and-how-do-we-achieve-our-goals/
11. https://blog.nasm.org/how-to-be-healthy-without-restricting-food
 
heeral-patel-bio

Heeral Patel

Reviewer

Health & Science Editor

Biomedical Sciences

Graduating from Cardiff University in Biomedical Sciences, I pursued a career related to health and medicine. Landing me my first job in pharmaceutical market research, from listening to patient stories my interest in health and wellbeing grew, leading me to work in publishing and editing content for medical education and women’s health journals. Now I am here as part of the Science team to create science and health editorial guidelines and content reviews so we can help the business with their mission of being science-led!

Something I am passionate about:
Exercise! I’m not a regular gym go-er, but I am an advocate for moving your body in some form or another, whether that’s a long walk or dancing! It’s really helped with my mental well-being, and I love getting 10,000 steps in!
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