Struggling to Get Out of a Rut? 5 Ways to Boost Motivation

We all struggle with feeling motivated from time to time and occasional periods of low motivation are perfectly normal. We might be under extra stress or trying to deal with something that’s out of the ordinary in our lives. On days like this, we might feel tired, irritable, or just unable to find as much pleasure in the things we typically enjoy.

If you’ve found yourself in a rut or struggling to get motivated, here are 5 simple strategies to help you boost your mood and regain your motivation.

1. Check in with yourself

It may sound simple, but we can often become so preoccupied by daily life that we forget to prioritise our health and ensure we are meeting our basic needs such as getting enough sleep, eating regularly and consuming nutritious food, drinking enough water, or getting fresh air. Even something as simple as tiredness, hunger, thirst or feeling cooped up indoors can have a significant impact on our mood and motivation.

Consider your current state and whether there are some basic needs that may need to be addressed. By taking simple steps to look after your body and health, you may find that your mood and motivation improve too.

2. Take a break

Low motivation can be a sign of feeling stressed or burnt out. In these situations, trying to force ourselves to feel motivated or be productive is like pouring from an empty cup. Consider taking a break or giving yourself a “mental health day” where you let go of your expectations of what you think you are supposed to accomplish. Instead, focus on doing things that help you feel recharged and fill up your own metaphorical cup!

Sometimes some simple self-care can help put us in a better frame of mind. Again, check in with yourself and have a think about what you’re missing. Maybe a chat with a good friend or a stroll outside is all we need to reset.

3. Start small

When it comes to building up the motivation to do something, getting started is often the hardest part. A lack of motivation may stem from feeling overwhelmed, which may result in avoidance and procrastination. In these situations, it can often be helpful to break down the task at hand and start with a smaller, more manageable task. For example, if you’re overwhelmed with cleaning the house, try setting a smaller goal of doing one load of laundry or making the bed. Starting with one small task is sometimes enough to get the ball rolling. Once you get done with that easy job, you might think that tackling one more might not be so bad.  

4. Plan something

Even if you don’t have the motivation to work on something at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t start making plans for what you might like to do in the future. Mental imagery, or visualizing things that we want to do, helps increase our motivation, expected pleasure, and anticipated reward of those planned activities.

Doing something like planning a trip or some other activity can give you something to look forward to and get excited about. Thinking about a future project or goal might involve doing things like visualizing the outcome, planning out the steps involved, or even creating a mood board for inspiration. 

5. Identify unhelpful thoughts

The way we talk to ourselves has a big impact on our mood and motivation. At times, we might not even be aware of the impact our inner critic can have on our emotional state. We all experience fluctuations in our mood and motivation, however it is important to show ourselves compassion and empathy in these moments rather than criticism. Self-compassion involves not only being kind to yourself but understanding that your experiences are part of being human and being mindful of your own emotions.

Spending some time reflecting on how we are feeling may help us identify some potential unhelpful thinking patterns. This can be done through writing in a journal, talking to a friend for a different perspective, or seeking support from a therapist.  

Tried these strategies and still struggling with low motivation?

If you’ve tried these strategies and still struggle with motivation or if your lack of motivation is accompanied by other symptoms such as persistent low mood, irritability, significant changes in sleep or appetite, or feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, this may be a sign of depression or something else going on that might require a bit of extra support. If this is the case, reach out to your GP or therapist for help.

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