It’s that time of year when many of us are running out of puff and energy.  Winter has set in and the pace and volume of work aren’t letting up.

Ironically, while this is the time we most want to be actively using our recovery and resilience skills, running out of puff can also lead to putting those skills aside.

Keeping physically and mentally healthy during the more challenging winter months often requires a fresh injection of motivation. What then can help to keep our motivation high?

Our “self–talk” —what we are saying to ourselves in our heads—is key. This internal chatter can either boost or kill motivation.  For example, if I plan to go for a run at lunch time, my thinking can either help me get out the door, or keep me inside.  Try “I’m too busy and too tired to run today” vs. “I really don’t feel like doing this but I know I’ll feel good afterwards”.

Useful self-talk or helpful thoughts are the encouraging “you can do this” ones, a bit like having a supportive coach on your shoulder.  They cheer you on, help you celebrate your successes and, importantly, help you to bounce back and keep on going when you are running low on motivation or energy.

Optimistic thinking is also a style of thinking that is particularly useful for improving motivation.  Optimism means remaining hopeful, even when things feel challenging, as well as focusing on small successes.  Optimism isn’t, however, blindly thinking positive, “I can do this, no matter what”.  Positive thinking can be hard to believe. Optimism in action is acknowledging that something might be difficult but looking for solutions and ways forward.

Going back to the getting out for a run example, here’s how optimism might look in action.

View the inaction as:

  • Temporary – I haven’t done very well with getting out so far this week, but I can make some changes and do better today and tomorrow.
  • Specific – my motivation to run is low because I’m busy and it’s cold outside, I can plan my schedule to create some time and wear more layers so I stay warm.
  • External – most people find exercising hard in the winter; it’s not just me!

Experiment with different “self-talk” to see which styles are most helpful for you.  If you get stuck, talk with someone you trust to get more ideas.