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How to Motivate Yourself

How to Motivate Yourself


    Bruno Mars

    is not alone when he wakes up singing,

    “Oh, today I don’t feel like doing anything. I just want to lay in my bed.”

    That’s just human nature, and some days it’s harder than others to entice ourselves to get to the gym or drag on our running shoes like crack fictional investigator Kinsey Millhone, who runs if only to be able to eat Quarter Pounders whenever she feels like it.

    But the one who wins the ongoing battle of wills within us is ultimately the one that signals success or failure. And those who can overcome that internal naysayer more often than not stand a better chance of seeing successful results, no matter the mission.

    I want it. I really, really want it.

    Consider Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”. The holiday tale about a boy on a mission starring Peter Billingsley has now become a cult classic on TBS, in part from its marathon run on the cable network every Christmas Eve, but also because of its heartwarming message about Christmas dreams that do come true.

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    And when it comes to motivation, few can match the determination and focus of Ralphie, who wanted nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder BB gun, despite myriad warnings about the gun’s safety. He wrote classroom essays about it, sat on a department store Santa’s lap to ask for it and placed ads for the gun strategically throughout the house for it his mom and dad to see in time for Christmas.

    Ralphie was motivated to invest so much effort into enticing his parents to buy him that gun because he was motivated by desire, and in the big picture could imagine himself with his Red Ryder, chasing burglars away as he starred in his own Wild West show, circa 1940.

    For Ralphie, the gun itself was an external, or extrinsic motivation, but the process of acquiring it was intrinsic motivation (or internal) as the fantasies of owning it gave him so much pleasure that writing essays seemed as if it was no work at all, even for a boy who viewed homework as an elaborate plot to steal his young joy.

    And through his efforts, Ralphie ultimately merged the two main sources of motivation that drive virtually everything we do.

    The same holds true for an Olympic hopeful, who strives to be the best he or she can be in hopes of earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal, but in working toward the goal sees intrinsic rewards in the lean, mean fighting machine that he or she has become.

    Most goals are reached by using both forms of motivation.

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    Intrinsic motivation: For the simple love of it

    Those projects we tackle where we look up at the clock, hours after we’ve started, and have no idea where the time has gone because we were so involved – that feeling is intrinsic motivation, and wouldn’t the world work better if all of us felt that way about everything we do?

    Imagine saying, every day, I don’t go to work, I go play. When looking at new challenges, seeing them in that light is a great way to make them happen.

    Seeing a challenge as a chance to become a better person is an excellent motivator, whether it’s a gourmet cooking class, a math problem or mastering a new dance move to look killer on the dance floor. The satisfaction of success is an internal motivator, and is in itself the reward.

    Extrinsic motivation: From the outside

    For Olympic athletes, the idea of a gold medal at the end of a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice is the driving force behind the action. The idea that he or she is the best in the world, and has the endorsements – and bling in the form of medals to show for it – is the reward that comes at the end of a hard-won battle.

    To motivate through workouts, we often have to envision those rewards coming to fruition to make it happen, to find the strength to get moving.

    What’s in a reward?

    But how do rewards in general motivate? Not so well, it turns out. Studies have shown that although we all love it, it turns out that money is not the best reward. A teenage girl who is offered $10 for every pound she loses might be more inclined to see being able to fit in a great prom dress, or land her dream date, as a better motivator than the money.

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    Once money enters into the picture, the task takes on the illusion of work, and that is seen less favorably. One classic study asked lawyers to help low-income people with their legal needs, some being offered a very low wage for their services, others being asked to perform the services for free. Turns out, the offer of money transformed the task from good deed to work, and made that control group less likely to agree. The motivation wasn’t money, it seems, but the good feelings that came from within for doing something nice.

    Threats of punishment also don’t work as motivation, it seems. Instead of making people more inclined to work harder, the looming threat of some form of punishment usually backfires. Nerves caused by the thought of failure usually lead to more slipups and mistakes rather than less. Fear is only a great motivator on a show like “Fear Factor,” and there, it’s the money that’s the true motivator.

    So what is the best motivator? That depends on the task at hand.

    How to get (and stay) motivated

    To get you on the right track, consider the following tips:

    1. Have a goal in mind.  Whether you want to fit into the same size clothes as you did at your high school graduation or you want to be able to run with your kids, pets, or grandkids at the park, the goal is the thing to keep in mind to help secure positive results.
    2. See and track improvements. Getting on the scale every Monday to measure pounds lost or realizing that running a mile suddenly turned into two miles without much extra effort can provide the impetus needed for getting over hurdles of discouragement, sure to come no matter the goal.
    3. Take a break. If you’ve been working really intensely, you’ll be likely to be even more invested in the coming days if you take a day to recover from a hard workout or take an afternoon to replenish energy stores with a coffee break if you’ve been writing day and night trying to reach a big deadline.
    4. Focus on how seeing the goal to fruition will make you a better person. The knowledge that comes from making good food choices or learning which forms of exercise offer the best health benefits makes you a better person. Knowledge is money.
    5. Reward yourself. Many people find that by setting up rewards as part of a process – new earrings for 10 pounds lost or new bike gear after taking on that steep climb without stopping – will help make the road to success just that. A real success.

    The more motivation…the merrier

    Everyone tends to have a dominant type of motivation.

    For some folks, they could care less about attention, accolades, and what other people think. They are motivated intrinsically. They simply want what it is they want for their own reasons. People like this don’t need to be carrot-and-sticked in order to achieve a goal.

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    On the other hand, you have those of us who are all about the rewards, attention, and bling. We are extrinsically motivated. We want what we want because of how it will make us look in the eyes of others. We have a strong desire to be able to show off our awards, jewelry, or body. We like be the envy of others, or at least receiving the praise of others.

    So, does it matter whether you’re more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Does being more motivated one way limit your success and results?

    No, not at all.

    What matters is for you to know whether you’re more motivated from within, or if you derive more of your motivation from external factors.

    You then take that knowledge and put it on steroids. Boost your most dominant motivator until there’s little room left to improve it. But, don’t stop there. After you’re done playing to your strength or dominant type of motivation, spice up your weaker area. Think of how you can double your less dominant type of motivation. Why? Because the more motivation you have and can cultivate, the more success you’ll experience. And that’s the whole purpose of motivation – to help you more easily and swiftly achieve your goal.

    Whether your desire is to lose 20 pounds, sculpt gorgeous abs, or increase your income by 100% within the next 6 months – motivation will make it happen for you. Increase your motivation and you increase your results.

    (Photo credit: Man Running with Focus via Shutterstock)

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    Justin Miller

    Healthy Lifestyle Architect, a Fitness and Nutrition Coach

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

    Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

    You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

    Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

    Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

    How Do We Remember?

    The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

    This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

    Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

    The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

    Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

    Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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    The last step is memory retrieval.

    That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

    You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

    Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

    7 Natural Memory Boosters

    So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

    1. Aerobic Exercise

    Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

    Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

    In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

    They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

    So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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    Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

    2. Sleep

    You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

    Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

    Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

    3. MIND Diet

    Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

    The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

    The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

    The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

    The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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    So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

    4. Relax

    We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

    When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

    To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

    Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

    5. Continuous Learning

    The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

    Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

    Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

    Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

    6. Stay Social

    The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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    Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

    In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

    What to do?

    Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

    7. Wakeful Rest

    This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

    But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

    What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

    Conclusion

    You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

    There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

    More Resources About Boost Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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