Does this extended lockdown have you struggling with a lack of motivation and energy? Are you stuck to the couch, mindlessly scrolling on your phone or playing digital games, maybe eating too much sweet stuff? Are your feelings of guilt from getting nothing done increasing your depression and anxiety?
This lack of motivation is linked to dopamine, a brain chemical which at a primal level is about survival – moving towards something that will benefit us or away from harm. It motivates us into action to get a reward. Eventually, through learnt responses, it drives our daily activities and habits on a subconscious level. And these responses might not always be the most helpful.
Now, most of our usual daily activities have changed and the future is uncertain. Our brains are confused and making us fall back on actions which provide quick pleasure and avoid the threatening uncertainties.
There are, however, some strategies you can try to trick yourself into becoming more motivated and energized.
Just get started – Starting is always the hardest so set a small goal that seems do-able – like walking for ten minutes or writing the first paragraph. Any small success results in a dopamine fix and, most often, you end up doing more than planned.
Make a to-do list – Break tasks down into small steps that are achievable and measurable. Every time you reach one of the goals tick it off on your list – this releases dopamine which helps you to keep moving.
Get physical – Overcome physical laziness, and your mind will usually follow. Take a brisk walk outside, do some exercises on the carpet, jump around to some dance music. This not only releases dopamine but many other feel-good brain chemicals as well.
Listen to music – Music affects our emotions. Music with a beat increases dopamine and also your pulse and respiration, providing your body with more oxygen. There is a reason why they play music in gyms.
Everyone is different so you need to find a strategy that works the best for you. If you feel that none of this works and that you are sinking into deepening depression or even having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call the Mental Health Helpline at 0800 456 789 any time of the day or night.