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Sharp Health News

What to do when motivation wanes

Feb. 13, 2017

What to do when motivation wanes

Making New Year’s resolutions is easy. But keeping them throughout the year? Not so much.

Studies show that by Valentine’s Day, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. The main reason is lost motivation. So the question then becomes, how does one maintain motivation all year long?

The good news is that even though sustaining motivation is tricky, it is not impossible. Here are a few strategies you can use to help you stay motivated while pursuing your goals.

Find the right ‘why’
More often than not, when we set our resolutions, we concentrate on what we want to do, rather than why we want to do it. However, the “why” is what will keep our enthusiasm and motivation going. It’s important to find the right “why” for your health goal. Why did you decide to improve your health? For example, “I'm doing it for my family,” “I want to be a role model for my kids” or “I don’t want to develop diabetes.” Whatever it is, find your main “why” and every time you feel like quitting, remind yourself why you started.

Build short-term gratification into your day
We are more motivated by immediate rewards than by the ones we have to wait to experience. In other words, when trying to talk yourself into going to the gym at the end of a long workday, motivate yourself by thinking about the endorphin rush coming your way in just 30 minutes rather than the fact that regular exercise can add a few years to your life.

Celebrate small successes
Smaller accomplishments are critical to maintaining energy and optimism that can keep you moving toward your long-term goals. Losing 30 pounds may seem daunting, but if you break it down into smaller milestones or goals — like walking 10,000 steps per day or losing one pound per week — you will see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner.

Not only will your resolution be easier to achieve, but also by reaching your smaller goals frequently, you will feel accomplished more often. Neuroscience tells us that feeling accomplished after each small success prompts the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. This helps with motivation and inspires us to repeat the action or take a similar step.

Build habits to sustain you when motivation wanes
Large goals, like losing weight, are often built on a series of new behaviors, such as adding 2,000 more steps to your day or cutting back on sugary drinks. Use the time when you feel the most motivated to frequently engage in new activities so you can strengthen them and turn them into habits. That way, when motivation subsides, you won’t need it — the new health behaviors will simply be part of your life.

If you genuinely want to make a life change, stop waiting for motivation to drive your success. Use the above strategies, plus a little bit of planning, perseverance and good old-fashioned hard work, and you will be able to stay on track and reach your goals.

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