17 May How to boost motivation every week of your cycle
Need extra motivation to start a task or continue it–for example, working out, writing a novel, studying for an exam or building the world’s biggest Lego spaceship?
You can use your menstrual cycle to reach your goal! That’s because during each week of your cycle, hormones have different effects on your mood, outlook, desires and behavior. If you know how to harness these hormonal influences, you can use them to push yourself to begin a project and keep going till it’s done.
Fortunately, knowing how to harness your cycle to boost motivation is easy. Just read on for the simple hacks that use your hormones to rev your get-up-and-go in your Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4:
Week 1: Take short breaks to have fun
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
During your Week 1, rising estrogen has you enjoying silly fun. Plus, it helps rev your mood even higher whenever you take time to play by spurring a flood of feel-good brain chemicals, such as endorphins.
So, use this hormonal fun-craving effect to your advantage: Promise yourself that for every X amount of work you do (say, for every five pages you write or chapter you read), you’ll take a five-minute time-out to enjoy a video game, watch a funny video on YouTube or do something else that’s quick and entertaining. Looking forward to a smile-inducing mini-break will keep you on course.
Bonus: Research shows that briefly switching off a task that uses your brain improves concentration by giving your noggin a rest.(1,2) So, you’ll be even more productive once your break is over.
Pro tip: Set an alarm! It’s easy to lose track of how much time you’re spending away from your task. As they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” A reminder that it’s time to return will help you stay on track.
Week 2: Think of a rival or someone you admire
Day 8 to Day 14 (or ovulation day in your cycle)
In your Week 2, high estrogen and testosterone are making you more competitive than during any other phase of your cycle. Researchers believe it’s because your hormones want you to try to outdo any potential romantic rivals for the mate you have or the mate you want–and this ambition then spills over into other areas of your life, making you want to outdo folks in sports, your career and more.
This desire to win win win makes pumping up motivation easy: When you’re tempted to skip out on a task you should be doing, simply think of someone who you consider a rival who’s done a similar task–but better. For example, if you’re putting off training for a race, think of a competitor you know who beat your best time. If you’re a writer procrastinating on your first book, think of an author you know who already published her first book. The desire to finally beat that person’s accomplishments (whether they find out about your success or not) can help spur you on.
Don’t have any rivals? Then think of someone who your admire who did a similar task you’re doing. For instance, imagine an Olympic champion who broke barriers and competed against all odds. Or think back to your favorite author who published books despite facing challenges. High hormones make you more easily inspired, which can light a fire under you to get moving on your task.
Are you unmotivated to tackle a project simply because it’s boring, such as creating a spreadsheet or editing code? Then plan to do any kind of competitive activity after the dull task is finished, such as entering a photo into a contest or joining an online video game. Looking forward to the reward of competing can help you stick to your hum-drum to-do till it’s all done.
Week 3: Promise yourself a special indulgence
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (which is Day 14 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
Throughout your Week 3, rising progesterone is triggering a desire for comforting indulgences that make you feel cozy and relaxed. That’s because your body thinks you might be pregnant during this phase of your cycle, so progesterone slows you down, pushes you to get snuggly and spurs cravings for homey foods.
You can use this hormonal effect to pump up motivation by promising yourself a special comforting treat once a certain amount of work is done. This could be a soothing cup of herbal tea you save for once-in-awhile occasions, warm bath with a scented fizzy bomb or delicious gourmet dessert. Pick the treat before you start your task and think about how it will make you feel once you get to it. With this goal in mind, you’ll be powering through so you can finally hunker down and enjoy it.
Week 4: Plan to pamper yourself
Final 6 days of your cycle
During your premenstrual Week 4, estrogen plunges, which can drag down your mood and confidence with it. That’s because as estrogen drops, it reduces levels of chemicals in the brain that manage emotions and self-esteem, such as serotonin. The good news: Enjoying a little pampering during this week of your cycle temporarily boosts these flagging levels of mood-managing brain chemicals back up, making you happier and more self-assured.
So, use this information to both rev your joy and propel yourself forward in a task by promising yourself a special pampering experience for a certain amount of work you do. For example, plan to treat yourself to a mani/pedi after editing a report or watch a guilty-pleasure TV show after studying for two hours.
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(1) William S. Helton, Paul N. Russell, “Rest is best: The role of rest and task interruptions on vigilance,” Cognition, 134 (2015): 165-173
(2) Alejandro Lleras, Atsunori Ariga, “Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements,” Cognition, 118 (2011): 439-443