Motivation isn’t just a mental game. “Research is showing that what you eat, how much you sleep, and other factors can directly impact your drive,” Dr. says Daniel Fulford, an assistant professor and a clinical psychologist at Boston University. These physical influences affect what’s known as perception of effort, or how much work you think an action will take, which in turn can determine whether you keep pushing forward, Fulford says.
Here’s how the process works: Your brain assesses the difficulty of a task or a goal based in large part on your physiological state. “It uses signals, including how hungry or how tired you are, to determine if a physical activity is worth the effort required,” Fulford says. For instance, if you’re exhausted, your brain might evaluate going to the gym now as requiring far more effort than it would after a full eight hours of sleep, and you’ll have a harder time persuading yourself to go. To keep your motivation high, then, you need your perception of effort to be low. Shape worked with the experts to identify four strategies that have been scientifically proved to do just that, so you can conquer any goal.
Pour yourself a pick-me-up
A cup of coffee or black tea not only invigorates you but also makes your to-dos feel more manageable. “Caffeine reduces your brain’s level of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that makes you drowsy. As your mental fatigue is relieved, tasks feel less difficult,” says Dr. Walter Staiano, the head of research at Sswitch, a neuro-performance company. Certain sugary drinks may have a similar effect, according to research in the journal Psychology and Aging. Adults who consumed 25 grams of glucose 10 minutes before taking a memory-search test were more engaged than those who sipped a sugar-free drink. Researchers don’t yet know whether other forms of sugar, like the sucrose in table sugar and the fructose in fruit, deliver the same results. So for
a sure thing, choose glucose gels, tablets, or drinks.