Winter Blues? How to Stay Motivated While Working or Studying from Home

Winter Blues? How to Stay Motivated While Working or Studying from Home

I love working from home during Toronto’s oh-so-short summers. Sitting on a patio with my laptop and a cold drink (non-alcoholic, of course), or a short mid-afternoon stroll can often give me the energy boost that I long for while working through a task. However, working from home during the winter months can feel quite the opposite - dead-end, and low energy. Why? Well, there’s much less natural light and it's absolutely freezing out. Not exactly an enticing welcome to go outdoors for a quick boost of energy (unless you like the feeling of being in a walk-in freezer). 

Needless to say, as the winter months and the accompanying chill set in, so does the struggle to stay productive and motivated while working or studying from home. You may find the allure of a warm blanket and the couch a lot more enticing than pounding through that big research project or getting through those smaller administrative tasks that are mundane but necessary.  

In this blog, we'll explore why staying productive is a bit more challenging during the winter months, delve into the impacts of winter on our bodies and minds, and equip you with actionable tips to boost motivation and maintain mental wellness.

Why is staying productive harder during winter months?

Human productivity is an area of study that continues to fascinate psychologists and economists alike. While it can boil down to simple changes in our environment, motivation can also be much more deeply rooted in our human psychology. As a meal delivery company we’re not well-versed in the deeper psychological factors, so we’ll focus on environmental changes that happen during the winter season like a lack of sunlight and temperature. 

  1. Lack of sunlight: Winter's shorter days mean less exposure to natural sunlight. Sunlight plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm and boosting serotonin levels – the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter. It’s also a natural trigger for our body’s production of Vitamin D. Reduced sunlight can lead to feelings of lethargy and impact our overall mood, making it harder to find the motivation to tackle tasks. 
  2. Temperature fluctuations: The cold weather can bring about discomfort, making it tempting to huddle up under layers of blankets instead of focusing on work. Additionally, fluctuating temperatures can affect our concentration and make it challenging to create a comfortable and conducive work environment.

Sometimes the sunlight and temperature changes can lead some to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months, a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Symptoms include low energy, irritability, and difficulty concentrating – all of which can significantly impact productivity. 

Our immune system may also experience increased pressure during winter months to regulate our body’s state. A weakened immune system may bring an increase in colds and flu, which can leave us feeling drained and less inclined to tackle our to-do lists. Staying healthy becomes paramount, as illnesses can disrupt our work or study routines and impede overall productivity.

Staying productive can be challenging, especially when your environment isn’t exactly providing your body with the likely conditions for success. This is why we highly encourage you to implement practical strategies and use a bit more mental will-power to get through our tasks and projects. Being productive can enhance our feelings of accomplishment, which can help with increasing our self-confidence and self-esteem (all part and parcel of a healthy mind). 

Below we share some strategies for staying motivated and productive: 

  1. Maximize natural light exposure: Combat the winter blues by maximizing your exposure to natural light. Position your workspace near a window and take breaks outside to soak up the sun. Consider investing in a light therapy lamp to mimic natural sunlight, especially on darker days.
  2. Create a cozy and organized workspace: Make your workspace a haven that encourages productivity. Add warm lighting, invest in a comfortable chair, and keep the space organized to minimize distractions. A well-organized and inviting workspace can help combat the winter blues and create a conducive environment for focused work.
  3. Establish a routine: Establishing a routine is crucial for maintaining productivity. Set a consistent work or study schedule, including breaks, to create a sense of structure. A routine helps signal to your brain that it's time to focus, making it easier to overcome the winter-induced lethargy.
  4. Stay active: Combat the temptation to hibernate by incorporating physical activity into your routine. Whether it's a quick workout, a short walk, or stretching exercises, staying active helps boost energy levels and promotes mental well-being. 
  5. Stay socially connected: Social isolation can exacerbate feelings of winter lethargy and negatively impact mental health. Stay connected with colleagues, friends, and family through virtual meetings, messaging apps, or social media. Sharing experiences and staying socially engaged can provide a much-needed mood boost during the colder months. At the same time, be mindful of doom-scrolling and unintentionally spending hours on the screen. 
  6. Embrace winter self-care rituals: Take advantage of the winter season to establish self-care rituals. Whether it's indulging in a warm bath, practicing mindfulness meditation, or enjoying a favorite winter beverage, incorporating self-care into your routine can help alleviate stress and boost your overall well-being.
  7. Set realistic goals: Key to productivity is to set realistic expectations for what you can reasonably do any given day. Break down your tasks into manageable goals and prioritize them based on importance. Setting realistic goals prevents feelings of overwhelm and allows you to celebrate small victories along the way. Recognize that productivity might fluctuate, and that's okay – focus on progress, not perfection.
  8. Stay hydrated and nourished: Cold weather can sometimes lead to a decrease in water intake. Dehydration can negatively impact cognitive function and energy levels. Ensure you stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle handy. Additionally, maintain a balanced diet with nutritious foods to support overall health and vitality.

As the winter season settles in, staying motivated and productive while working or studying from home requires a proactive approach. By understanding the challenges posed by reduced sunlight, colder temperatures, and potential impacts on our bodies and minds, we can implement practical strategies to combat winter lethargy. Whether it's maximizing natural light exposure, creating a cozy workspace, staying active, or embracing winter self-care rituals, these tips are designed to help you navigate the winter months with resilience and focus. Remember, it's okay to adapt and find what works best for you – prioritize your well-being and productivity will follow suit. Stay warm, stay motivated, and conquer those winter blues! Mi BOWL is with you every step of the way. 

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