Winter is coming…keeping motivated in the darker months

by Leah Burton, Consultant Psychologist at 10x Psychology.

As we are fast approaching the clocks going back (yes, it is the good one!) and our evenings getting darker, we thought we would take a look at how the bleaker months can impact our motivation at work.

During winter when the sun rises after 7.30am and sets before 5pm, a lot of 9 to 5 workers will be leaving their house in the dark and arriving back home in more darkness. This lack of light and sunshine can have an unwelcome effect on our wellbeing and motivation, resulting in a lot of people feeling tired and sluggish. Many of us struggle to have the energy and inclination to make plans and this can have an impact on our exercise levels, eating habits, sleep, and performance at work. When these feelings and effects are so severe, this can often lead to a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder or ‘SAD’.

A research study from the University of Southampton found that at least 90% of adults experience subtle changes in mood, energy and sleep in line with the seasonal change. Additionally, an estimated one million working hours are lost over the winter months due to the winter blues (BBC News, 2011).

Therefore, remaining motivated at work is important as it can help you have a sense of purpose if you find the winter harder, and it also acts as a reason to get out of bed in the morning, even if you don’t feel like it.

Some of the best ways that we have found to combat these changes in motivation and mood are as follows:

1) Remember that the autumn and winter are not necessarily all bad. When we look at nature during these months, they are a time for rest and rejuvenation. Therefore, it is important to take stock, ensure that you are prioritising time for you and getting enough sleep. This will then help you during the day to perform at your best and be motivated. If necessary, plan a great holiday in order to freshen up with a proper break.

2) Reflect on any goals and/or targets you may have set yourself throughout the year. This is a perfect time to review how far you have come and what is still achievable over the coming months.

3) Create a mantra to tell yourself! This may sound very corny, but on those cold dark days when you want to stubbornly remain tucked up in bed, you will need a reason to get up. Why are your targets, goals, and work important to you and who you are?

4) Keep active at work and eat well. You can take a stroll on your lunch break or run some errands just to move about and, although the carb crave is unavoidable, make sure that it doesn’t become a staple.

5) Declutter your workspace. Being indoors more frequently shouldn’t feel like a punishment. If your desk and workspace is a mess it can act as a demotivator and setting yourself a goal of decluttering and organising it can feel quite inspiring.

6) Take vitamin D supplements. These will act to replenish the vitamin which is often deficient from October to March in the UK population. If you love utilising technology, then you might prefer to try using a sunlight lamp to imitate the sun during the darker days.

BBC NEWS, 2011. Does too little sunlight give us all the winter blues? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15692180 [22 October 2018].

Ultimately, winter is a necessary part of our lives in the UK and it will come every year. Hopefully, however, if you find this season hard to handle you can take solace in the fact that you are not alone (even the Starks find the winters enduring), and there are always things you can do to combat it to stay motivated.


Published by Leah Burton, Consultant Psychologist at 10x Psychology. (Originally published at medium.com on October 24, 2018)

10x Psychology provides modern assessment tools, predictive analytics and innovative solutions, spanning the entire employee lifecycle from hiring and leadership to employee wellbeing.