There are days when you wake up feeling invincible and charged up to take on the world. Then there are days when nothing seems to go your way and you feel a cloud over you. Sustaining motivation can be a tough ask when things falling apart around you.
There’s no magic potion or blue pill to change negative thoughts overnight. But it’s something you can tap into by design then harness. Beth Burgess an Author, Speaker, and Life Coach explains why motivation is as much chemical as it is psychological, in this excellent article at PakWired.
Motivation is a state that is not just psychological, but also biochemical. If you know a bit about brain circuitry and chemistry, you can use some scientific tricks to sharpen your motivation.
Certain brain chemicals switch on energy and motivation in the human body; so boosting levels of these neurotransmitters will give you more drive and determination. Use the following brain tricks and tips to stimulate your motivational mode, by using the power of biochemistry and psychology.
Dopamine is one of the brain chemicals most strongly associated with motivation and reward. Studies show that experiencing self-belief causes a surge of dopamine; so a positive self-image can be a really powerful motivator.
Think of yourself as someone who relishes new challenges and can succeed. Build your identity as a go-getter by forming mental movies of yourself feeling motivated and achieving your goals. Surround yourself with others who believe in you as well. Research shows that being told you will perform well by others releases dopamine, too.
If you feel demotivated by a specific task, remembering a time when you enjoyed doing that activity can spark your motivational mode. A 2014 study showed that recalling and describing a positive memory of a task increases motivation in that area.
Not only does remembering a pleasant experience of an activity boost motivation to start doing it, but study participants actually achieved more over the next week when they had a positive memory in mind.
Even if you don’t feel very motivated to begin something, that doesn’t mean your efforts are doomed to failure. The way that the brain works is that it will naturally start to produce dopamine as you begin to get things done.
If you’re not very motivated, pick a tiny, easy part of the task to begin with. Dopamine is produced every time you achieve something, no matter how small it is. The brain enjoys frequent positive feedback to let it know things are progressing towards a final goal. The dopamine boost you’ll get from that initial achievement will leave you feeling buzzed — and pave the way to you doing more.
Psychology teaches us that the most naturally motivating tasks of all are those for which we have intrinsic motivations. This basically means that the more you enjoy the process, and the more it matches important values for you, the more likely you are to complete an activity.
You can change how you view mundane tasks by recognizing their significance or making them more fun. For example, if you’ve got accounting to complete, look at it as a symbol of you being in control of your finances. Pin photos of your family around your work area, to remind yourself who you’re working hard for. Make admin tasks more enjoyable by making up little games, or take your laptop outside, so you can enjoy a bit of sun while you work.
Coffee is known to release dopamine into the brain, as well as having the ability to increase mental focus. Scientists have found that caffeine can enhance some cognitive tasks, such as memory functions, and spark off the motivation and reward circuit in the brain.
Drinking sips of coffee as you begin, and progress through, a task can help you to feel more motivated. However, make sure you don’t overdose on caffeine. Too much coffee can lead to an energy slump later in the day.
One of the most powerful ways of getting dopamine into the mesolimbic pathway, where it will make you feel motivated, is by acknowledging your own achievements. The dopamine reward system goes into overdrive when we achieve positive feedback of one kind or another.
Completing a task should give you this dopamine burst, but you can nudge the process along by validating yourself. Make a mental note of three things you did especially well on any task you finish. If you’re the type of person who needs praise from others to feel satisfaction, share your successes with others to get that dopamine boost.
Catecholamines are important neurotransmitters for mental energy, stimulation and motivation. As well as dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline belong to this category of brain chemicals. If you keep levels high, you will have more motivation, energy and mental focus.
Catecholamines are built from an amino acid called L-Tyrosine, which can be found in several food sources. Seaweed is extremely high in L-Tyrosine, but if that doesn’t tickle your taste-buds, you can also get this important amino acid from turkey, cottage cheese, egg whites, chicken and duck.
The body is designed to conserve energy in harsher conditions and environments. For example, when winter comes, the body saves its energy for surviving, rather than enthusiasm. This is why you may find yourself lacking energy and motivation during cooler, darker months. However, hibernating can actually create an unhelpful feedback loop, confirming to the brain that it should stop all non-essential functions.
If you find your enthusiasm flagging with a change in environment or season, this is the very time to make an effort to get active. By getting outside and moving about, you’re telling your brain to stop conserving energy. You should find that your enthusiasm and motivation return once you give your brain the green light.
In recent years, neuroscientists have learned that people are not fixed in terms of how they think and feel, nor in what they can achieve. You can strengthen any circuit in the brain by simply using it more, making it easier to go that way naturally next time.
If you have a monumental task that you just can’t seem to get motivated for, practice making motivated states by working on something else a little smaller. You wouldn’t run a marathon without having completed a few smaller races. Pep yourself up by achieving some smaller goals in a similar area, so you can strengthen your natural motivational response. Combine some of the tips above to help you build super-motivated states.
Featured photo credit: Lifehack via goo.gl
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