Cold days are sometimes the enemy of success. It’s just easier to motivate yourself to work out, stick to a nutritious eating plan, and simply get out of bed when it’s sunny and warm out.
“Historically and evolutionarily, winter was a time when people hibernated, huddled together, and had limited movement,” says Lora Park, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo.
And even if it’s not born into us, winter often presents challenges in getting out of the house and doing things that expend energy, she adds, whether that ice storm is preventing you from getting in five miles or meeting friends for a small get-together.
But whatever is sapping your momentum, you can change the script.
Here’s how to stay motivated and stay on track when it’s cold outside.
How to Stay Motivated to Work Out
1. Dress the part
If the weather affects your motivation, invest in cold weather exercise gear that will help push you through the elements, says Cody Braun, CPT.
2. Add joy to movement
Do something you enjoy either during your workout or right after, Park suggests.
For example, you could watch Netflix while on the treadmill, listen to podcasts while walking, or call a friend after your home HIIT session.
This way you’ll look forward to exercising.
“Research shows that when people receive a small reward for engaging in healthy behaviors, it leads to greater motivation,” Park explains.
3. Build in accountability
“Try signing up for some sort of physical event such as a race, obstacle course, or sports league,” Braun suggests. “By planning an event, you are giving yourself a timeline to be physically and mentally prepared, which can help motivate you each day to stay active.”
And if you run, try these other running motivation tips to keep racking up your miles.
4. Identify what you’re missing
The three fundamental human needs are autonomy (feeling like we have a choice, rather than feeling pressured), competency, and relatedness, Park says.
“If you’re burned out with a particular type of exercise, you may lack one or all of these,” she adds.
For autonomy, make sure you’re choosing workouts you want to do, rather than those you feel you should do.
For competency, choose workouts that challenge you (so you’ll grow) but aren’t too far above your fitness level.
How to Stay Motivated to Eat Healthy
1. Try new recipes
Park suggests bookmarking recipes online or finding them on Pinterest (or in magazines and cookbooks).
When you meal plan each week, pick healthy recipes that you would really like to make and that match your cooking skills.
This trick gets to autonomy and competency, and when you actually want to eat a meal, you’ll be more likely to stay on the healthy eating track, Park says.
Be sure to choose recipes that utilize a variety of veggies and lean protein choices.
Opt for whole-grain or whole-wheat bread or pasta when possible for added fiber. You can also choose bean-based pasta for extra protein and fiber.
2. Make it easy on yourself
Chop and cook vegetables on the weekend to toss into meals during the week, so you have no excuse not to eat them.
Or buy pre-washed, pre-cut produce. “Research shows that if you spend money on saving time, it makes you happier,” Park says.
Choose a variety of easier meals for Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, you can practice making harder recipes.
And don’t forget snacks can be simplified (i.e., cut-up fruit and protein, like an apple and a hard-boiled egg).
3. Cook with others
Meal time is often family time. Why not make the prep work quality family time, too? Braun suggests cooking with loved ones.
You may even teach each other new skills or help push each other to try new flavors and recipes.
How to Stay Motivated to Get Out of Bed
Note: If you find that it’s a struggle to get out of bed most days and you also have any other symptoms of depression, talk to a doctor or mental health professional, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.
1. Be compassionate
Especially these days, remember that most people are inside and under a lot of stress and demands, Park says.
“Treat yourself with the kindness that you would treat a friend,” she adds.
Rather than saying you’re a slob for eating an extra cupcake or that you’re going to lose muscle because you didn’t work out the last two days, tell yourself what you would tell a friend if they were in your shoes.
It may seem cheesy at first, but keep doing this until you believe it.
2. See every day as a new day
If you had a big purchase in your future, like a car or house, you would save up money and make sacrifices in the here and now.
Any big goal is similar: You take small actions — and make possible sacrifices — now to be a better you down the road.
So think little and long-term.
“Each day is a chance to move slowly but surely in the direction you want to. There will be days when you veer off that path, but all you have to do is start steering toward that general direction, and you will get back on there,” Park says.