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Wellbeing In Winter: How To Improve Study Motivation

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

Staying motivated in winter in any year is undoubtedly a challenge. Short days, fluctuating temperatures and bleak news are hardly conducive to making you want to leap out of bed to start the day, especially under the current lockdown restrictions. Worst, you might be left with a constant sense of guilt for not making use of the additional time.

Instead of falling into endless cycles of procrastination and guilt, here are 3 tips which will help your motivation for studying and improve your general wellbeing in these difficult months.

Bleak winter

1. Active Decisions

Humans make over 35000 decisions per day. Active and Passive decisions both co-exist in our daily lives (Pan et al, 2019). Active decisions are when decision-makers actively evaluate decision alternatives and anticipate outcomes, making an explicit choice. Passive decisions are responses to conditions of pressure and risk. A study on the relationship between choice and emotional experience demonstrated that active decisions create a greater sense of achievement and control in daily life.

So how can active decision making help you stay motivated with your studies? Start by becoming intentional with existing daily routines. For instance, try writing down down your morning routine: is your first action to stumble towards the kettle for a morning coffee? Do you mindlessly open your phone and check your messages? Now think about how you can incorporate active decision making through small adjustments. For example, you could try moving your kettle to somewhere else in kitchen, or your social media chats into a specific folder on your phone.

Morning Kettle

Making conscious decisions in the morning will create an intentional state of mind. This will prepare you to make active decisions in approaching your studies, such as how to prioritise your workload. Moreover, it forces evaluation on which activities are helpful or a hindrance to your energy levels. Last, it generates a sense of achievement, releasing Dopamine, which improves alertness, focus, creativity and concentration.

2. Light the way!

In the UK, the shortest day is 7 hours and 49 minutes. Natural light affects our circadian rhythm (Biological clock) which impacts levels of alertness, focus and cognitive performance. In the 1800s, natural light was still the primary source of building illumination in the UK. Today, our lives are primarily illuminated by electric light. In terms of environment, lighting has the most visible impact on the human body. Without natural light, melatonin is secreted at the wrong times of day and the body produces insufficient Vitamin D resulting in fatigue.

So how can you help your circadian rhythms in these winter months? Start by prioritising natural light in your daily routine. Schedule a walk outside before you start work in the morning or in the middle of the day. Position your workstation by a window and work in a lighter room if possible. Similarly, at night stay away from blue light by turning off devices and illuminate your room with a gentle warm light. Sleep and daytime motivation go hand-in-hand. You have to prioritise both equally!

Over time, you will develop awareness of the way the environment impacts your well-being. Plus, working in a well-lit space also reduces eye-strain!

3. You can do this

Self-assurance and confidence are key to staying motivated in tasks, especially during challenging periods. Studies have demonstrated that positive self-talk beneficially impacts athletic sport performance. So how can you improve confidence and tackle intrusive self-deprecating thoughts? Keep repeating mantras (short, actionable statements) to yourself. The same applies to your studies — try repeating them to yourself in the mirror: “I got this.”, “Dig Deep.”, “This is my day.”

It is also an important step to be aware of changes in mood and not punish yourself for not feeling completely motivated. Noting down the periods when you’re feeling in a better mindset for your studies and those times when you just can’t face another book will help you become aware of when you should tackle these hurdles, and when you should just have a cup of tea and take a break. Being self-assured as to where your limits are, and committing to those rest periods when you need them is just as important as positive self-talk when studying.

More confidence means you are more likely to take risks which could lead to greater successes in your studies. Over time, you might notice an increased confidence in tackling difficult situations in other areas of your life. Additionally, there are resources to help during difficult periods.

A Challenging Environment

Recognising that staying motivated in winter is a challenge, and not a failure on your part, is the first step to becoming more motivated. This changes your mindset to recognising that this is an environment to overcome rather than an innate quality. Active decision making, prioritising natural light and sleep, and boosting your confidence with positive mantras will all contribute to improving motivation both in relation to your studies and in daily life. And remember, eventually it will be summer again!


Blog Post Crafted by Sierra

Sierra studied a Research Masters in Social Anthropology at University College London following her undergraduate degree in Human, Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

In her spare time, Sierra enjoys practising Taekwondo, Ballet and Rowing and learning as much as she can about the world.


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