How to stay motivated

5 Surprising Ways To Boost Your Motivation

If you want to get more done at work, see results quicker in the gym, or achieve your goals more efficiently, being motivated is the key to making improvements fast. Especially if you’ve made new year’s resolutions or have started creating healthy habits, sooner or later you’ll need to know how to boost your motivation in order to keep the momentum going. To understand what motivation is, how it works, what impacts it, and the key ways to improve your motivation this year, read on for our guide to getting yourself in the right mindset to achieve exactly what you want.

What Is Motivation & Why Is It Important?

Motivation is the reason behind our behaviour; our behaviours make up our habits, and our habits create the results you’re experiencing right now. Feeling happy, energised and fit? That’s because you’ve been motivated to act out habits that have helped create those circumstances. Feeling low, lethargic and as though your goals are a long way off? That’s because you haven’t found the right motivational tools and habits yet.

When it comes to feeling motivated at work, statistics show only 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged in their work, and 39% feel underappreciated at work. Meanwhile, 81% of employees are thinking of quitting their jobs for better offers…. [1] In the health and fitness world, research shows only 1 in 5 people in the US exercise each day, and 1 in 4 adults don’t meet the globally recommended physical activity levels. [2] Motivation can play a huge role in whether or not we’re likely to be physically active, passionate about our work or inclined to make healthy choices, and as you’ll learn, having a few tricks on hand to boost your motivation can be transformative in these areas of life. If you’re a personal trainer, coach or therapist, you might even be surprised at how effective some of these simple motivational tips can help your clients too.

The Two Types of Motivation You Need To Know

There’s a lot more to improving motivation than an upbeat playlist and a few motivational quotes (although they can also be pretty useful, as you’ll learn). There are several different types of motivation [3], and if you understand which one you’re acting from, you’ll also understand why your current strategy is working or not. We also covered types of motivation in our recent blog on the secrets to creating habits that last.

Extrinsic Motivation: This type of motivation is driven by external rewards, such as money, grades, the way your body looks, or social status. Do any of your habits align with this type of motivation?

Intrinsic Motivation: This type of motivation is driven by internal reward, such as feeling healthy within yourself, feeling less stressed, or engaging with an activity that is truly meaningful to you. Do any of your habits align with this type of motivation? Within the realms of intrinsic motivation, there are three sub-categories; autonomy, which includes activities we choose to do ourselves and have not been told we ‘should’ do; mastery, in which we’re motivated to get better at things that matter to us; and purpose, in which we’re motivated when our actions are in service of something larger than ourselves.

So, which type of motivation is better? It all comes down to personal circumstance, but studies reveal that intrinsic motivation is the type that generally leads to the most positive outcomes. [4] Research into learning and education further shows that actions that are both autonomic and intrinsic (things we’ve independently chosen to do ourselves to generate an internal reward). With this in mind, it’s worth noting then, that perhaps the first step to feeling more motivated is to ensure your goals are based around something you want to do, because it matters to you. Take a moment to think about the reason behind your goals; is the type of motivation associated with them affecting how driven, positive or focused you feel about those goals?

Using Dopamine To Increase Your Motivation

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which plays a crucial role in motivation, learning, movement, and in choosing actions that allow us to gain good things and avoid bad things. [5] Having low levels of dopamine cause motivation to plummet, and extremely low dopamine levels are even linked to Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome and depression. Low dopamine can also simply make you feel tired and moody, which are ironically two big obstacles to feeling motivated to work on improving your wellbeing. [6] To improve your dopamine levels, research shows practices like meditation can have profound effects, [7] whilst other highly impactful dopamine boosters include getting out into early morning sunlight, exercising, receiving massage, listening to music you enjoy, learning something new, and doing an activity you find challenging yet enjoyable. Specific nutrients such as tyrosine-rich foods can help improve dopamine levels, as can supplementing with a high quality vitamin D3, probiotic, fish oil, ginseng, magnesium and ginko. [8]

Find the supplements to boost motivation and support your dopamine here:

 So, now you know more about motivation, how to leverage the different types of motivation, and how to increase your dopamine; let’s dive into the five key ways to boost your motivation:

1. Focus on the positive

    When we’re motivated to achieve and move towards something, rather than avoid something, research shows this can actually make us feel a lot more motivated, and puts us in a more positive state of mind. Starting a diet based entirely upon restriction and what you ‘can’t’ eat is far less likely to yield good results than a diet based upon choosing foods that make you feel healthier, that you know are benefitting you, and that you can enjoy. This is a concept simply termed ‘Towards and Away From’ motivation in the coaching world. ‘Towards’ represents something you want, whilst ‘Away From’ represents something you don’t want.

    Feeling irritated, angry or fearful about a situation (such as fear of a health issue like diabetes, obesity or heart disease later in life) may be a big enough kick-from-behind to get you started, but it is not sufficient motivation for sustainable change.[9] ‘Away from’ motivation is also unclear and stressful, neither of which support healthy habits. To make change truly sustainable, and to maintain your momentum of motivation, you’ll need a large dose of ‘Towards’ motivation too. Your ‘Towards’ motivation involves being clear about your goals, as well as having a clear idea of the smaller steps you’ll take to achieve those goals. The closer you get towards your goal, the more motivated you’ll feel, which is a great way to maintain your beneficial behaviours.

    To help shift your mindset from ‘Away’ to ‘Towards’, try thinking about what you do want instead of what you don’t; get very clear about how you want to feel when you achieve your goal; and get into the practice of regularly visualising what you’re working towards, which is a powerful motivational amplifier in itself. [10]

    2. Track Your Progress

    Seeing results is one of the best ways to stay motivated on your journey, and as we mentioned a moment ago; the closer you feel you’re getting towards your goal, the more motivated you’ll feel. Studies show that the more often you monitor your progress, the greater likelihood you have of succeeding, and that if you report your progress publicly or physically record it, you’re even more likely to stay motivated and achieve your goals. [11] Having clarity on your path will help keep track of your progress; document your goals, and the tasks needed to achieve those goals. Give yourself deadlines and milestones, then record your progress along the way. This could mean logging each time you get to the gym, recording the weights you lift or miles you run or swim; documenting the healthy meals you’re making on social media, keeping a log of the number of days you go without alcohol, or even with 5 minutes of reflective writing per day, which gives you the opportunity to track how you’re feeling internally, as well as how you’re progressing in daily life. 

    3. Surround Yourself With Positive, Likeminded People

    Being in a likeminded community with shared values, interests, goals and attitudes encourages us to maintain and strive for the results we’re looking for, and creates a sense of belonging and acceptance. [12] Our brains are extremely similar to how they were several thousand years ago, and when we feel part of a tribe, we’re much more confident and less stressed, as opposed to if we feel alone and outcast in our endeavours. Being surrounded by likeminded people improves motivation by giving us constant inspiration, as well as accountability. Having a community that shares your values and goals is also a useful way to avoid things that could prevent you from achieving what you want; if you’ve committed to Dry January for example, being surrounded by friends who want to spend Saturday night at the pub is going to be challenging… If you’re not able to physically get together with likeminded people, create a motivating space on your social media platforms – un-follow those who don’t motivate you to be your best, and fill your feed with those who do.   

    4. Use Music & Mint To Boost Motivation

      As well as developing a consistent routine and being in the right mindset, simple hacks to boost motivation are beneficial on days when you may be struggling. Music is a powerful motivator, and many studies show that listening to music before and during exercise has been shown to increase both motivation and effort, leading to improved performance outcomes. [13] Music can also improve focus when studying and learning [14], and delay fatigue when working out [15]. Whilst up-tempo music can be effective for raising energy levels, the key to motivational music really comes down to personal preference; depending upon the task you’re doing, choose music you enjoy to help you feel motivated.

      When it comes to our sense of smell, research shows that peppermint oil is one of the best energy boosters you can use to help keep you motivated. Proven to help prevent fatigue and enhance mental performance, peppermint oil has been shown to rapidly boost exercise performance [16] and improve mood too. Ylang-ylang however, had negative effects on memory in the study, and lengthened mental processing speed (whereas peppermint improved it), so reserve that oil for relaxation only! [17] To get the benefits, use peppermint essential oil in a diffuser, drink peppermint tea, add peppermint leaves to your water, or chew peppermint gum (try to opt for the plastic-free brands of gum for a healthier choice).

      5. Keep Up The Momentum

        As simple as it sounds, simply sticking with your healthy habits and being consistent with your beneficial behaviour is one of the best ways to boost your motivation. The more consistent we are with healthy eating, working out, walking daily, learning, and achieving, the better results you’ll see when tracking progress, and the closer you’ll get to achieving your goals. Keep up your momentum by scheduling in the activities that are helping you work towards your goals, such as dedicating non-negotiable time each day to walk for half an hour, scheduling in time to cook a meal instead of reaching for convenient processed food, or setting a reminder on your phone to pause and meditate for ten minutes a day. If you miss a day, don’t feel guilty, simply pick it back up the next day and continue as usual, and you’ll be on the way to achieving the goals you set out to meet in no time!


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        [17] Moss M, Hewitt S, Moss L, Wesnes K. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. Int J Neurosci. 2008 Jan;118(1):59-77. doi: 10.1080/00207450601042094. PMID: 18041606. 

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