I can’t believe how fast January flew! Can you?
For me, personally, it was a very tough month. Challenging settings, crazy amount of work, and despite all my great ideas at the very start of the year I suddenly got… lost. I lost my spark, lost the motivation.
I won’t delve into the details of how panicky I got about suddenly not seeing the light in the end of the tunnel. But it was scary, to say the least, because I went from having it all figured out to so lost in what seemed like a split second, but I got through it.
There was a time when I just had to lie low and do the bare minimum: eat, sleep, work, do yoga and be grateful. Yes, yoga and gratitude were part of my essential survival kit and have helped a lot to get through that phase. But then I knew that motivation and inspiration won’t just hit me if sit and wait for them.
Inspiration may sometimes (occasionally) flurry into our lives like unpredicted snow; it may come to you with something in the air, a breeze, or maybe a twinkle of the light. But motivation is different – and the two sure ways to find it are knowing your why and just doing it.
However, sometimes we still need a little extra something to get us going, especially when it comes to inspiration, and here are a few things that I have found quite useful to bring that inspiration and motivation back into my life when it was at its lowest point.
How to Inspire and Motivate Yourself
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Get up early
It may sound demotivated in itself, especially if you are feeling low, but setting that alarm clock and actually making an effort to get up early can be a game changer. Not only everything looks better (and somewhat magical) in the early morning light, rising early can also literally shed light on something you’ve never seen before. It also adds those extra couple hours to the day that allow you doing something you normally do not have the time for.
Stretch, Exercise or Walk
This may not be your usual workout time, but getting it out of the way early in the morning may help you shift the perspective. In addition, exercise stimulates your brain function by inducing release of certain hormones, or proteins. One of them is endorphins, the so-called happiness hormone that boosts your mood. A different type of hormone is called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Researchers are currently looking into this hormone, but numerous preliminary studies both in animals and humans show that this protein repairs and enhances the neurone that are responsible for your memory. There is a reason why our thoughts become clearer after a walk or exercise. Walking can be especially inspiring and boost your productivity. As you can guess, walking and yoga are my personal picks.
This sounds cliché, but it does work. You don’t need to be a meditation guru or a zen Buddhist to reap the benefits of quietening your mind. In my experience, morning meditation is the best for motivation and inspiration, whereas the evening meditation is more for relaxation. Upon awaking in the morning, try to not pick up your phone first thing, but instead sit up in bed with your eyes closed and just take a few slow breaths. You can tell yourself some affirmations, depending on what you want to achieve that day. My favourite is a little Sanskrit mantra ‘So Ham’ that means I am that. This helps me focus my mind on my intentions and prevents it from being flooded with various thoughts. Repeating this mantra is easy: when you inhale, think ‘So‘ (pronounced as saw), and when you exhale, think ‘Ham‘ (pronounced as hum).
Journalling is a good way to clear your mind and get inspired and motivated. There are many ways to journal. You can do a ‘mind dump’ by simply writing down everything that comes to your mind, or you can use prompt journals that will prompt you to do and write about something particular. I’ve had a number of these journals in my life, and there are lots more – from 5-minute journals to gratitude journals and other themed journals. My favourite journals so far have been ‘The Joy of Less‘ by Francine Jay, sharing the same name as her best-selling decluttering book, and ‘The 52 Lists‘ series by Moorea Seal, where you can choose from Calm, Happiness, Bravery, etc.
Read Inspiring Books
This really speaks for itself, but I will reiterate that reading books can be highly inspiring. The genre of the books that inspire will be different for each of us, depending on your likes and the kind of inspiration/motivation you are looking for. For example, fiction books inspire me to start writing, while books about psychology and soul-searching will inspire me to look deeper within myself. Decluttering and minimalist books are one of the most inspiring and life-changing for me in any aspect. In fact, I can attribute my inspiration right now to Francine Jay’s book ‘Lightly‘ that I have started reading last week. Meik Wiking’s ‘The Little Book of Hygge‘ had also had a very similar effect on me.
Clear Your Space
Cleaning and decluttering can bring you a new source of energy, inspiration and motivation altogether. Some of my friends have vouched for ordering a skip and turning their entire houses upside down to get rid of all the junk. Most of the time we don’t even realise how much junk we have inside our homes but clearing it all out can indeed be a life-changing experience. Earlier this week I cleared out my wardrobe. I just completely emptied it and then went through each item, placing back only what I thought was worthy and wearable given my current shape, style preference, etc. Everything I wasn’t sure about went on the top shelf and will be looked at later. But there was a good pile that went to the bin/donation box. This was the best moment of the week. It made me feel much lighter, yet much more powerful. I have more space to create my outfits with what I truly love rather than stare at the things that don’t inspire me anymore but take up my time and energy. This holds true for any part of your house, but the wardrobe is always a good place to start.
Embrace the Cold Showers
This is a challenge I randomly picked up after wanting to do it for a very long time. I have a post about the benefits of cold therapy which you can read, but despite lowering the temperature of my shower here and there, I was never quite consistent at it. This time around I decided to join Wim Hof’s Cold Shower challenge for 20 days and I am amazed at how motivating it is! In case you are wondering: no, it’s not pleasurable to ‘dance’ under the cold water for 30 seconds, but the boost of energy and instant gratification that I get after scrambling out of it and wrapping up in something warm is enough to keep me coming back for more day after day.
Creating A Routine that Inspires/Motivates for Productivity
My current routine is easy to guess from what I have written above.
My early morning routine takes only 5-10 minutes:
- Wake up before 7 (ideally just after 6, but before that I could barely get up by 8 to get to work at 8.30).
- Meditate for a minute or two repeating the ‘So Ham’ mantra before I do anything else.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Note the hours slept and my mood upon waking in my CGD London ‘Win at Life’ journal.
- Stretch for a couple minutes to shake off the stiffness.
Then I wash my face, brush teeth, dress up for the day, make a cup of Lungo coffee to go and pack my breakfast and lunch. I have my breakfast after I have worked for an hour or two, not only because it fits my schedule but because I also find it more productive that way. And I try to squeeze in a walk during my lunch break if the weather permits because it’s the best way to shake off the stress, clear my mind and energise my body.
My evening routine is a bit more lengthy, but each task generally takes anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour, with a couple exceptions:
- Walk with kids if the weather is good.
- Learn foreign languages (currently Japanese) – takes about 10-20 minutes.
- Study for college and/or work on my creative projects.
- Read for pleasure (and inspiration! I have a few different books in progress and choose one depending on my mood).
- Do yoga, barre or even practice karate (it’s all about mindful movement!)
- Shower: warm at first, but then switching to cold and counting the miserable 30 seconds that make me feel so good afterwards.
- Finishing the daily reflection in the ‘Win at Life’ journal.
Somewhere in between showering and journaling I will also have my dinner and maybe watch a bit of TV, read or write some more. And then I will have my quick skincare routine and spray my pillow with This Works Deep Sleep pillow spray before finally shutting off for the night.
This routine allows me to stay motivated and focused, and helps me channel my inspiration for creative projects. It allows me to capture and prioritise the activities that really matter to me, without which I feel like I am wasting time. It allows me to be productive and be reassured that I am doing the right things for my body and mind.
Your routine will most likely be different. Not everything that I do will feel good to you. But I hope it gives you some ideas and maybe inspires you to start acting now to bring more inspiration, motivation and meaning into your life.
One more tip:
Join a challenge!
Yes, find a challenge on social media or in some apps and join it. And keep going no matter what! For example, in January I do an annual 30 days of yoga journey with Yoga with Adriene, which you can find on YouTube – completely free. Now I have joined Wim Hof’s 20 Days of Cold Showers challenge. The Minimalists have decluttering challenges on their website. There is also a ton of apps that you can use to do various challenges. One of my favourite apps is Fabulous where I did the gratitude and daily stretching challenges. Nike Training Club has great workout challenges.
There are also creative challenges like photography challenges, drawing challenges or creative writing challenges. You can find them for free on Pinterest, or simply Google! These challenges are great for building new habits and changing your routines.
I challenge you to find a challenge and give it a go!