I’ve always found the deep-winter time—those weeks and months right after the buzz of the end-of-year holidays has subsided—challenging for my mental health and motivation. For some of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this low mood may hit in November already, as the days get shorter, sunlight is scarce, and the temperatures drop. It’s not uncommon to feel tired, low on energy, unable to get and stay motivated. This can have an impact on all areas of our life: our work, our relationships, and our mental health.
That said and speaking as someone who’s struggled with the Winter Blues for years, you don’t need to be a hostage of your mood—or the weather. And while it’s completely normal (and human) to have ups and downs and feel demotivated sometimes, you may have more power over your mood than you think. You can create the conditions for you to feel motivated, as I show you below. You can also choose to get things done even when you’re not feeling terribly motivated—because they align with what matters to you.
Below are some simple, tried-and-tested (by yours truly) tips for taking charge of your motivation this winter.
1. Start with the basics
Are you sleeping enough? I’m sure you’ve noticed at some point in your life that you’re a different person when you’ve had eight hours of restful sleep. Many studies have shown that the amount of sleep we get is linked to the state of our mental health. Also, what ‘fuel’ are you putting in your body—and by that, I mean what foods are you eating? Some foods make us more sluggish and low-energy than others. These are the usual suspects: processed foods, anything fried, anything with added or refined sugar. In general, the less processed, the better for your energy levels and mood.
2. Make movement part of your day
Is exercise—in the broader sense, whether it’s going for a walk around your block or putting on some music and dancing in your living room—a non-negotiable part of your week? Even small doses of daily movement are better than none and they work wonders for your mood (it’s biology!). So get outside and get moving. Get an exercise partner if you need it to feel more motivated and held accountable. Find something simple, uncomplicated, that doesn’t require a lot of effort or complicated equipment to get started so you have no excuse. Your mental health will thank you.
3. See the light
Winter blues are a real thing, but what if the reason you’re sad is SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight in the autumn and winter months and currently affects a very small percentage of the global population, but it’s treatable, for instance, with light therapy (special lamps that simulate exposure to sunlight). Are you perhaps missing the light?
4. Do something that brings you joy every day
It has to be something you’ll easily do even when your mood is low and it can be as small as a cup of hot chocolate, a short walk with a friend, or a bubble bath at the end of your day. For me it’s making time to listen to a course I bought or playing a video game with my son (guilty). Use it as a reward for doing something you have a hard time motivating yourself to do. Put something in your calendar that you can look forward to at the end of your day.
5. Switch to something else
A wise coach once taught me a good strategy for when I’m feeling demotivated or low on confidence and can’t get myself to do something I need to do. She suggested that instead of trying to push through the lack of motivation, I take a break and do something else. By choosing to do something I’m good at or something that makes me happy (for example, baking), I feel good about myself, which shifts my energy. Once that has happened, I can get back to what I was trying to do before with renewed motivation and boosted confidence.
6. Connect to your ‘why’
If you’re feeling demotivated, especially at work, it helps to remind yourself why you do what you do. Connecting to your core values and sense of purpose will motivate you to keep going even if you’re not in the best of moods because you are doing something that matters to you and brings meaning to your life. If there isn’t a strong connection between your values and your work or if you don’t feel a strong sense of purpose, maybe it’s time for a change.
The fact that I write this post sitting at my desk looking out the window into the chilly, damp winter night (it’s not even 5 pm) and the fact that you get to read it are both proofs that these tips work!😉
Do you get the Winter Blues?
And if you do, have you tried any of the strategies I mention here?
To read posts from November, click here