Do you sometimes ask yourself, “Why do I have no energy, no motivation?” Then you are not alone. More and more people are affected by low energy – some occasionally, others permanently. In fact, according to the NHS, unexplained tiredness or exhaustion is one of the most common reasons why people consult their GP.
While there can be a number of causes for this condition – psychological, physical as well as lifestyle causes – they all have the same effect on motivation: When you have no energy, you also have no motivation.
However, energy and motivation are not the same, and having no motivation does not necessarily mean that you have no energy. Low levels of motivation can also be due to inadequate goal setting, anxiety, stress or lack of self-confidence.
Since your energy levels have such a great impact on your motivation, it is important to ensure you boost and maintain your energy. For that, you first need to know what exactly causes your lack of energy and motivation.
Here are the main causes.
Common physical causes:
- iron deficiency / anaemia – not having enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues
- arthritis & fibromalgia – causing fatigue and exhaustion as a result of having to cope with inflammation and/or pain
- under- or overactive thyroid – affecting the hormone levels
- sleep apnoea/hypopnoea – causing lack of oxygen and disrupted sleep
- insomnia and other sleep disorders – having difficulties falling or staying asleep
- chronic fatigue syndrome – causing unexplained extreme tiredness not due to a medical condition
- pregnancy – causing a change in hormone levels
- being overweight – body uses up more energy to perform everyday activities
- being underweight – makes you tire out more easily due to poor muscle strength
- inflammations and diseases in general
Common psychological causes:
- stress – triggers an increased production of stress hormones thus exhausting your body and mind
- anxiety – may cause tiredness as a result of an imbalance of hormones and chemical messengers
- depression / seasonal affective disorder – causes tiredness due to a chemical imbalance in the brain
- emotional shock (e.g. bereavement, relationship break-up) – affects the chemical processes in the brain thus causing exhaustion
- lack of exercise – can lead to poor blood circulation and less oxygen supply to your brain
- physical exertion – exercising too much without getting the required rest leads to exhaustion
- lack of sleep – means your body doesn’t get the time it needs to restore its energy making your energy levels drop
- boredom – slows down brain activity and chemical processes thus causing tiredness
- too much caffeine – drinking too much coffee, tea or energy drinks may not only upset your sleep pattern but also lead to iron deficiency as caffeine inhibits the absorption of iron
- regular intake of alcohol
- poor diet
What you can do to boost your energy and motivation
First of all, you need to establish the cause of your low energy and motivation. You have to know whether it is the result of a health issue or rather your lifestyle. If you think that you might be suffering from a medical condition, you should, by all means, consult your doctor to get the appropriate treatment.
However, there is a lot you can do to boost and retain your energy levels to ensure you have a solid foundation for motivation – as trying to be motivated when you are lacking energy is like building a house on quicksand.
Here are some points to consider:
Do you get enough sleep?
It might appear quite obvious that if you don’t sleep enough, you will be tired and lacking energy. Still, around half of UK adults feel they don’t get sufficient sleep, according to Aviva’s Wellbeing Report. The reasons are manifold and not simply a matter of just going to bed late. It’s all about the quality of sleep as much as the duration of it.
To get a good night’s sleep, you need to make sure you feel relaxed and calm when going to bed. Avoid drinks containing caffeine, particularly in the evening. If you enjoy your nice cup of tea after dinner it would be advisable to switch to caffeine-free tea. Also, don’t eat heavy meals too close before going to bed as your body will be too busy digesting the food.
Another thing to do is switch off your digital devices at least one hour before going to bed so your brain gets a chance to switch off as well. Instead, do something relaxing like having a warm bath, listening to music or doing yoga or Pilates. In addition, create a comfortable and peaceful sleeping environment with a suitable bedroom temperature.
Do you get sufficient sunlight and fresh air?
Sunlight and oxygen are quite important for your brain to feel alert and awake. If you don’t get enough sunlight, your brain will produce more melatonin – a hormone that tells your body to slowly go into sleep mode. Similarly, as the brain needs a lot of oxygen to function well – about three times as much as muscles in your body do – a lack of oxygen will quickly affect your brain function.
Therefore, it’s essential that, especially in winter, you get as much natural daylight and fresh air as possible. It’s a good idea to make a brief walk in the morning, at lunch time or in the afternoon part of your daily routine and to allow a lot of light and air into your home and/or office.
Do you eat the right sort of food?
There is no doubt that you should always try to have a healthy, varied and balanced diet, which will have a positive impact on your energy levels. But it’s not always clear what exactly makes for a healthy diet. Some people concentrate on eating fruit and vegetables cutting out most other types of food. Others focus on carbohydrate intake as it’s said to provide you with energy.
For a balanced diet, it is, however, best to include a whole range of food containing a variety of vitamins and minerals. You don’t even need to cut out comfort food, such as chocolate and biscuits, entirely, although you should keep sugar intake to a minimum. Whilst sugar may provide you with a rush of energy, energy levels will quickly drop again leaving you tired and exhausted.
If you want to boost your energy, make starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice, bread or pasta the base of your diet – aim for roughly one third of your overall food intake – and complement them with iron-rich foods, such as red meat and green vegetables, as well as food rich in vitamin B12, such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk. Also include plenty of fruit and vegetables with your meals.
Do you exercise regularly?
There has been a lot of research on exercise and its impact on the brain and the findings are quite conclusive: exercise has the ability to improve memory and thinking, boost mood and sleep while reducing stress and anxiety.
This is for various reasons: better blood circulation with an increased oxygen supply to the brain, increased release of chemicals in the brain that boost the health of brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain as well as an increase in the volume of certain brain regions.
And this is easier to achieve than you might think. According to the NHS Guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64, only 150 minutes of exercise a week, such as cycling or brisk walking, are enough to make a difference. This is less than 30 minutes a day!
So, ensure you include some sort of exercise in your daily routine.
It’s in your hands to build the foundation for motivation
As there is such a strong connection between having energy and being motivated – in fact, having energy is the prerequisite for being motivated – it’s clear how important trouble-shooting is to establish the reason for a lack of energy.
Fortunately, in most cases, you can easily energize yourself by adjusting your lifestyle to include exercise, fresh air, the right nutrition, and a sensible sleep routine. And it doesn’t have to be a drastic change to make a difference.
It is something everyone can achieve since everyone can take action to boost their energy and build the right foundation for motivation. Start with small steps and it will soon take momentum.