Posted 2 months ago

Motivation during the cold winter months

Honestly, at this stage of 2020, it’s almost hard to know what to say. Motivation is hard, and that’s why relying on it is, well… Unreliable.

What I’ve come to realise over time is that NOT having the expectation to always be motivated helps. It helps me be kinder and more compassionate to myself.

I’ve always found winter hard. Dark and short days mean that my mood is lower more frequently, I cannot be bothered to do anything past 2pm, and it could be so bloody easy to just say fuck it.

Which is precisely why I work so hard and spend so much time on building systems that I can lean on when motivation is low. Systems will always be more stable and reliable than motivation.

Yes, we’ve heard it before, but implementing a routine and sticking to it can make such a difference to your overall levels of energy, assertiveness, productivity and mood. So, here are my tips for keeping yourself ticking over till the days start getting longer and brighter. You might also want to use these techniques to help you not lose focus on your goals over the festive period!

  1. Do the most daunting / hardest task first

 NOOOOO. But yes. By getting the hardest task of the day done first thing – or the one you’re most likely to put off and avoid – you can help yourself by reducing the lingering anxiety that the task creates, as well as by starting your day with a big pat on the back. For some, this may mean training first thing in the morning, or doing their cardio, or getting their steps in.

This technique can be used for your day-to-day but also week-to-week tasks. For example, I meal prep and plan all my food out for the week on a Sunday. This involves spending a bit more time on MyFitnessPal, sorting out all my meals for each day of the week ahead (or Mon-Fri), and then prepping my lunches for the week ahead. I also like to write all my workouts in my logbook ahead of the week, to save me time when I head into the gym first thing in the morning to train.

So, whatever the task, put your adult pants on and tick it off first thing. This way, you’ll be able to focus on other, more enjoyable stuff for the rest of the day.

  1. Get outside during the first half of the day

If you live in the UK, you’ll know how dark and gloomy winter days can get. The further up north you live too, the worse it gets. You may have noticed a huge dip in energy as the sun starts to set at 3:30pm, or you may find it extremely difficult to get out of bed when it’s still dark.

My best advice – and the advice provided by many sleep experts – is to get outside if you can in the first few hours after sunrise. This will not only provide you with a boost of blue light (and as such, cortisol) to kickstart your day, but it will also ensure your circadian rhythm doesn’t go completely whack with shorter days.

It’s not easy for those of us who work indoors, head into work when its dark and leave having missed all daylight! So, really do try and prioritise getting yourself outside whenever you can – the earlier in the day / closest to sunrise, the better!

  1. Make it easier for yourself

If you know you struggle with motivation to get up and go for a walk/train/out of bed, do yourself a favour by creating an epic “10 minutes to motivation” playlist, with songs that make you want to jump up and down and go wild.

Yes, it sounds corny but who cares – I can assure you that on the days where you’re feeling your lowest, struggling to get out of bed, struggling to get up from your WFH desk to go to the gym, struggling to go out for a walk to get your steps in, (…) having that playlist there and ready to go will make a difference. I also suggest you leave your gym bag / walking shoes / clothes for the day ready the night before, and even plan and lay out your outfit if that helps make things easier.

I know this may read as quite generic advice, but I hope you can take comfort from knowing that winter months are notoriously difficult for many of us, even those of us who manage to get up at the crack of dawn and seem to have our shit together. Personally, I’ve found the above habits and tools to be extremely helpful in the long term when it comes to ensuring I don’t spend the winter months wishing I could hibernate them away!

It goes without saying that having a coach in my corner to keep me accountable to my goals has been invaluable too. Having a reassuring voice, a sounding board and a rational eye during the low-mood, high food winter and festive periods can really make a positive impact on the quality of your journey. So, if you find yourself applying these tools, but feel like you could maximise them further by having a coach, don’t wait any longer and get in touch today.

Clara Swedlund MSc MBPsS