A lack of motivation to complete tasks can block your ability to get ahead in life. In this article, we discuss a variety of supplements and lifestyle choices that have been reported to have an effect on motivation.
Disclaimer: This article is not a recommendation or endorsement for any of the substances mentioned throughout this post. Many substances mentioned below are purely investigational, and have not yet been proven or officially approved for effectiveness in increasing motivation in healthy human users. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science behind these compounds’ effects, biological mechanisms, and potential health applications. None of the information in this post should ever be used to replace conventional medical care or treatment — and always be sure to discuss any new supplements with your doctor first! Natural Approaches to Boosting Motivation
Before we discuss some potential motivation-related lifestyle and other factors, it is important to keep in mind that the FDA has not approved any substance or therapy for the purpose of increasing motivation.
None of the information in this post should ever be used to replace conventional medical care. If you think you might be experiencing motivation-related issues, it is important to talk to your doctor first to look into getting an official diagnosis, and to discuss potential treatment options. Also always be sure to discuss any new lifestyle or dietary changes with your doctor first, in order to avoid negative interactions and other potential risks.
With that said, recent research has uncovered some interesting connections between lifestyle, supplements, and motivation. Future research will be needed to determine how safe and effective these strategies might be. INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE:
1) Natural Sunlight
Regular exposure to natural sunlight has been associated with many diverse benefits, both physical (biological) and psychological.
Among these benefits, some evidence suggests that sunlight exposure may have several potential effects related to dopamine, the reward system, and motivation in general.
For example, sun exposure has been associated with: Increased availability of dopamine receptors (such as D2 and D3 receptors), which may help boost motivation by increasing the brain’s overall level and activity of dopamine [ 1 ]
Triggering the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin , which may boost overall mood and motivation [ 2 ]
Better regulation of the circadian rhythm , the body’s “master clock” that controls the sleep cycle and other important biological processes [ 3 ]
Increased productivity , possibly due to better overall psychological well-being and better sleep [ 4 ]
Some researchers have proposed that some of the psychological benefits of natural light may only require as little as 10-15 minutes of exposure to sunlight, which may make this a particularly easy and practical strategy for boosting mood and motivation [ 2 ]!
Limited research shows that getting healthy amounts of natural sunlight may help regulate the circadian rhythm and support dopamine activity–thus potentially increasing motivation and productivity. 2) Flavonoids
Flavonoids are a family of bioactive compounds naturally found in many herbs and plant-based foods.
Flavonoids can be found in many of the common foods that make up a healthy diet , such as fruits, vegetables, and tea. They are also often extracted from certain plants, which enables them to be taken in the form of concentrated dietary or nutritional supplements [ 5 ].
There are thousands of different flavonoid extracts with varying effects, some having the potential to increase motivation and boost mood.
For example, one animal study reported that rats who were fed an extract of cocoa-based flavonoids showed higher levels of dopamine in their urine, which may imply increased production of dopamine throughout the rest of the body [ 6 ].
Flavonoids have also been associated with improvements in mood — another effect which may be due to increased levels of dopamine. For example, blueberry-derived flavonoids have been reported to boost mood in both children and young adults, as well as potentially improve some important cognitive functions (such as those related to executive function ) [ 5 ].
Although the mechanisms behind these potential effects are not known for certain, some researchers have speculated that this may be due to the fact that foods like chocolate contain tyrosine , an important “building block” ( metabolic precursor ) of dopamine [ 6 ].
However, some other potential mechanisms have also been proposed, including: Increasing dopamine levels by inhibiting monoamine oxidase (MAO), the enzyme that is normally responsible for the breakdown ( metabolism ) of dopamine and other major neurotransmitters throughout the body and brain [ 7 , 8 ]
Protecting dopamine neurons against cellular damage and stress, such as from oxidative stress , inflammation , and environmental toxins (especially for certain types of flavonoids, such as epicatechin , polymethoxylated flavones , procyanidins , and isoflavones ) [ 9 , 6 , 10 ]
According to early research, flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables may improve motivation by supporting dopamine activity and antioxidant defense. More research is needed to verify this effect. 3) Caffeine
The stimulant caffeine is the most widely-consumed “drug” in the world.
Caffeine’s “stimulating” and “wakefulness-promoting” effects are most commonly attributed to its ability to block the activity of the neurotransmitter adenosine , which normally triggers sleep. However, it is also known to have significant effects on the brain’s dopamine system, which is believed to underlie some of its potential effects on motivation [ 11 ].
For example, in one double-blind placebo-controlled study, caffeine was reported to increase exercise capacity when taken one hour before exercise. The authors of this study suggest that caffeine specifically reduced the “perceived effort” involved in physical activity, which may be why it increased peoples’ motivation to exercise for longer [ 12 ].Relatedly, several animal studies have reported increased motivation and enhanced cognitive performance during complex behavioral tasks in both rats and bees [ 13 , 14 ].The mechanisms of caffeine likely involve both dopamine and adenosine: Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors ( A1R , A2aR , A2bR , and A3R […]