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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

12 Changes to Make When You Feel a Lack of Energy and Motivation

12 Changes to Make When You Feel a Lack of Energy and Motivation

Do you ever feel tired of feeling tired? It’s like you get up in the morning and instead of feeling rejuvenated like the people from the TV commercials, you drudge the sound of your alarm and hit it like Ted Williams hits a baseball.

The worst thing is that you have work that needs to be done and you literally can’t afford to slog throughout the day. But there are ways how you can fix that. Since your body is a holistic being, the change in one area will affect a plethora of changes in the other ones. So that’s why these changes will make you feel energetic and motivated to push the day.

The changes affect one of the four crucial categories of every single person:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

So let’s start to make these changes if you feel a lack of energy and motivation:

Physical

1. Daily walks

Most of us do work which requires us to sit for a long time in uncomfortable chairs. The human body isn’t designed for that. So take 10-30 minutes every single day and just go for a walk. It will help your body stay healthy.

And if you think you don’t have time for that, you can invite a person with whom you need to have a meeting and go for a “walking meeting.” You basically go for a walk and have the meeting in that kind of setup.

There are no excuses which would prevent you from doing this activity – it’s light, easy, and short. But at the same time, provides the much-needed boost to energy for your body.

2. Take a nap

If you think that the kids in the pre-school are foolish to take afternoon naps, you are missing out on a great energy boost. A mere nap of 20-30 minutes boosts your focus, lets your “smart” brain refocus and prepare you for more work that you need to do.

All the biggest performers in the history took naps because their work required immense amounts of cognitive focus which drains you of energy. That’s why naps are important.

3. Stretch

Sometimes, all you need is to stretch your body for two minutes. When you’re stiff, especially if you don’t exercise in the morning, your body still didn’t wake up. So it’s important to let loose all the body parts and allow a non-disrupted flow of energy throughout it.

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This will make the blood flow better, especially coming to your head which needs to focus on demanding cognitive tasks. So stand up from your chair and stretch yourself out because it will make you more energized. You can also try these simple stretches in your office.

Emotional

4. Eat what fills the head and the stomach

I didn’t put food in the physical part because for most of us, the relationship with our food is emotional and there is a big reason for that. The sugar-heavy saturated food makes us high at the moment but then comes the low and you lose all energy to do anything at 11 am which is absurd.

When you start thinking about food, start thinking about usability and pick the one which you can use the most. High fiber, protein food will fill your stomach but your brain as well and you won’t be tired after it.

5. Call a friend

Relationships play a major part in our lives. They are the main source of our happiness and our entire species is called a social animal. So when you get down and low, one of the best energy boosters is actually going into a social environment and just having a good time.

Social circles tend to pump the energy back into us even when we think we have no energy left for anything.

If you are at work and there are no “water cooler” talks around, simply call a friend on the phone and talk with him for a minute. Don’t message him, simply give a call and talk over the phone.

6. Play a game

Do you know that most CEO’s reported that they play games to be more productive. Sounds a bit paradoxical, but when you take into the account the nature of games, you understand the reasoning behind it.

Games are old as human civilization itself and even though we fail at around 80% of the games that we play, we still enjoy playing them.

Playing a simple game of, let’s say, Minesweeper can make you feel more productive and energized. So don’t think of games as energy wasters, think of them as energy amplifiers.

Intellectual

7. Play some music in the background

It doesn’t matter if it’s only white noise in the background or classical music or pop songs, music does wonders to us regarding energy and motivation.

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You know what works best for you and during which time and this only serves as a reminder that sometimes you need some music in life to make magic happen. Here’re some nice motivational songs you can try: 30 Inspirational Songs that Keep You Motivated for Life

P.S. I was listening to Dragon Ball- Cha La (German version) while writing this. There is just something super motivating, inspiring, and energizing in that song for me which forces me to write until my hands bleed.

8. Books

The stimulus provided by books help you regain focus for a longer period of time. So you should start reading some (if you already don’t).

In the beginning, people can’t read more than a couple of pages of a book without falling asleep. That’s perfectly fine because your brain is readjusting to the focus necessary to read through tens of pages of a book.

After a month of reading books daily (20 pages per day will suffice)[1], it will be way easier for you to stay focused and energized at work because you will have trained your brain to stay sharp and focused for a longer period of time.

9. Change frames and perspectives

Frames are a powerful weapon in hands of people who know how to use them. When you encounter a problem or a challenge which makes you stop before you even start, the problem isn’t in the task itself but in the way you approach (frame) that kind of task.

Doing a gym routine of six exercises with 4 repetitions each becomes way easier when you think about it in terms of levels in a game. You start a quest to level up your physical attributes of strength and stamina, and each rep brings in more experience which makes you level up at the end of the gym routine.

Whenever something brings your energy down or makes you feel unmotivated, try to look at it from a different angle.[2] When you change your relationship with a problem, it stops being a problem.

Spiritual

10. Meditation

Taking just a minute to breathe in and out, focusing and letting go of your thoughts through meditation and mindfulness can bring your energy levels back up in an instant.

Meditation has been used for thousands of years as a stress reliever, happiness bringer, and energy booster. If you are working in a crowded office, find just a minute of quiet and alone time to meditate and you will see major differences in your energy and motivation levels.

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11. “Get in zone” ritual

Most people today call it “flow”. It’s about finding the sweet spot between boredom of menial tasks and the anxiety of tasks for which we are incompetent.

When you get yourself in the zone, you distort time and gain massive focus and energy to do anything which is in front of you. Runners use the term “runners high” for this.

I used to be a gamer and I could sit in the chair for 10 hours playing the game without moving a muscle or even flinching. The immense focus and energy I summoned for that were incomparable with everything else in my life.

It’s not that we don’t have the energy and motivation, it’s just that we don’t have a clear path of summoning it (yes, I just used a gamer reference). Flow provides us with that path.

12. The power of now

Whenever we’re doing something, we are always thinking about the next thing that we have to. This makes us constantly chasing something which is in the future and is never quite here.

You are working on a task for a client at the moment, but you’re constantly thinking about the meeting that you have in three hours.

When you come to the meeting, you are constantly thinking about having to go to the gym in two hours.

When you come to the gym, you are constantly thinking about dinner with your wife and kids.

When you start dinner with your family and kids, you constantly think about the report that you need to send before you go to bed.

When you get in bed, you think about the things that you need to do in the morning as soon as you wake up.

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And this perpetual cycle keeps going and going until you are out of breath, energy, motivation to do anything.

The point is to stop and be in the moment — enjoy the power of now. It provides so much rejuvenation to simply look at a tree and think about nothing except that tree. When you live in the moment, it not only brings energy but conserves the one which you would spend thinking and worrying about the future things that you need to do.

Small Changes Bring Big Results

All of these changes don’t seem like a big deal when you read about them. But in practice, they make massive results especially if you can combine them. The big results come only from an accumulation of small things so the sooner you start working on them, the sooner you will see the results in bigger energy levels and motivation.

The small changes in the physical domain include taking daily walks, napping, and stretching.

The small changes in the emotional domain include eating the right kind of food, talking with friends, and playing games.

The small changes in the intellectual domain include listening to music, reading books, and changing frames/perspectives.

The small changes in the spiritual domain include meditation, getting in the zone/flow, and being the moment (having the power of now).

Small changes, big results.  What are you waiting for?

Featured photo credit: Seth Doyle via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Bruno Boksic

An expert in habit building

13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Boosted Productivity How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier What Is a Routine? 9 Ways to Define a Routine That Works 12 Changes to Make When You Feel a Lack of Energy and Motivation 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

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Published on February 17, 2021

How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated

How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated

How do we achieve our biggest goals in life? Hard work, learning new skills, and staying focused are definitely important things, but one of the most important things we need is motivation. Losing motivation can stop us in our tracks. It can make us procrastinate, doubt our skills and abilities, and take us off the path to success. In the worst cases, a lack of motivation can destroy our goals and kill our dreams.

Where does motivation come from?

It starts with thoughts and chemicals in the reward systems in our brains. It continues to develop in our brains and is further shaped by our behaviors. This is why neuroscience, which is the study of the function of the brain, is so important.

When we understand the basics of neuroscience, we can hack the reward system in our brains so we can stay motivated to achieve our biggest goals.

The Neuroscience of Motivation

At the most basic level, humans want to avoid pain and experience pleasure. Our pleasure-seeking behavior is based on a mental reward system that’s controlled by our brains. This reward system is what keeps us motivated and helps us achieve our biggest goals and dreams.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in our brains that help shape our thoughts and behaviors. One of the main neurotransmitters in our reward system is the “pleasure” chemical dopamine. Dopamine is produced mainly in the mid-brain and then moves to other areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, which plays a big role in our emotional development. It also moves to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for thinking, feeling, planning, and taking action.[1]

When you do something pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine to make you feel good mentally and physically. This commonly happens when we eat our favorite foods, have sex, have a great conversation with someone, or do something else we really enjoy. Each time we feel pleasure from doing something, our brains remember what made us feel good. It actually assigns a reward value for everything we do.

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For example, eating a slice of our favorite pizza may have a higher reward value than drinking a smoothie. Being on that tropical vacation will have a higher reward value than watching that water fountain downtown.

Our brains even release dopamine before we engage in those things that make us happy. It’s the expectation of the reward rather than the reward itself that has the strongest influence on our emotional reactions and memories of what’s pleasurable.[2] Just planning that tropical vacation by checking out different locations on a travel site or looking at things we want to buy on Amazon stimulates our reward system by releasing dopamine.

Thinking about starting a project at work that we’re really passionate about also activates our reward system. This act of feeling the pleasure generated by our mental reward systems is what creates reward-seeking behavior and is a big part of motivation.

Vanderbilt University researchers discovered that “go-getters” who are more willing to work hard have greater dopamine activity in the striatum and prefrontal cortex, two areas of the brain that influence motivation and reward.[3]

Hacking Our Brain’s Reward System

Here are four ways to hack the reward system in your brain to stay motivated.

1. Keep Growing

When you do the same things over and over, that dopamine rush tends to get smaller and smaller. A great way to stay motivated is to keep growing by doing bigger and bigger things.

Take on bigger, more challenging projects at work. Once you’ve reached a running or fitness milestone, start working toward a bigger one. If you’re fluent in a foreign language, learn how to have more complex, philosophical conversations. If you have your own business, find ways to acquire more clients so you can generate more profit. Keep learning new skills that will push you to the edge of your comfort zone.

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Taking on greater challenges helps our brain’s reward system continue to assign high reward values to things we do. Start by accomplishing small goals. As you accumulate more and more small wins, work your way up to more challenging goals.

2. Use Visualization

“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.”—Bo Bennett

A great way to stay motivated is to visualize accomplishing a goal—even though you haven’t completed it yet. Visualization actually causes the brain to release dopamine. This makes us see our future rewards more clearly and go after them more fervently.

When our brains release dopamine and we feel that rush of euphoria, our hippocampus, which is part of our brain’s limbic system, records those pleasurable moments in our long-term memory. The more we visualize success, the more our brains associate this visualized success with pleasurable feelings.

When we can imagine a better future, we’re motivated to keep pushing forward and overcoming obstacles in our path. This is why people work hard to get raises and promotions, invest their money, put their kids thru college, and do other things that help them or others prosper later in life.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, and other famous and influential people have used visualization to achieve sky-high success.[4] It’s a great way to use the power of your imagination to keep you motivated to succeed.

3. Avoid Excessive Stress

High levels of stress are associated with chronic inflammation, which can cause our motivation to decrease. Researchers at Emory University have theorized that chronic inflammation from stress may cause a chemical reaction in the body that decreases dopamine supplies in the brain.[5]

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Low levels of stress can actually help us perform better by making us more alert. That adrenaline rush we get from stress can give us the energy and the edge to do our best. But when stress levels are high, stress can be damaging to our bodies, minds, and motivation.[6]

High-stress can lead to burnout. In the worse cases, it can cause people to quit projects or quit their jobs. It can cause mental problems such as anxiety or depression. It can lead to health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses. Reduce stress by doing deep breathing exercises, meditating, running, or exercising regularly.

4. Reframe Challenges

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.—Wayne Dyer

Another great way to hack your brain’s reward system is to change how you look at challenges in your life. A common problem is that many people see difficult work as an obstacle or simply something they don’t like doing.

A good strategy is to look at difficult situations and obstacles as opportunities that will help you and those around you grow. This will help us look at difficult things in a positive light and actually look forward to doing them instead of dreading them.

For example, if three employees on your team aren’t getting along with each other and two of them are thinking about quitting, don’t look at this as a very stressful, terrible problem. Instead, look at the situation as an opportunity to use your interpersonal skills to gather the angry employees together, let them voice their concerns, and then resolve the problem.

It will help them improve personally and professionally. It will also help you and your company prosper as well. You can also apply this same way of thinking to your personal life. If your friends or family members aren’t getting along, use the disagreement as a growth opportunity that will benefit them and you.

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When we can see difficult things as great opportunities, we’ll start to look forward to them. When we look forward to doing things, it makes the reward system in our brains reward us with more dopamine, and it increases the chances that we’ll look at future problems as opportunities to grow.

Conclusion

Motivation is a challenging part of personal and professional development. This is why motivational videos and motivational speeches are so popular. A central part of staying motivated, even during the most challenging times, is to understand how our brains work. Science has given us a good understanding of our brain’s reward system and the chemicals and pathways that allow it to shape our behavior.

Hack that reward system in your brain by taking on bigger challenges, visualizing success, avoiding excessive stress, and looking at difficult situations as opportunities to help others and help yourself grow.

When we begin to master our brains, we’ll be better able to master our lives and achieve those big goals.

More Tips on How to Stay Motivated

Featured photo credit: Giorgio Trovato via unsplash.com

Reference

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