If you could spend the rest of your life chasing one goal, what would it be?
You may have aspirations to reach the top of your career, become rich, famous, or build your own company. But you’re not going to do any of those things if you stay at home watching Netflix in bed.
Sure, it would be great if we could be successful while staying home and binge watching our favorite shows. However, for most of us, that’s a great way to watch our bank account quickly empty
But how do you find the motivation to do all the things on your to-do list when all you want to do is sleep?
You may think that motivation is a matter of will-power, but the science behind motivation is quite interesting. In the upcoming section we’ll look at some habits you can change to naturally increase your productivity so keep reading if you’re the type of person who likes to get stuff done.
Just Do It… Is It That Simple?
No two people have the same levels of motivation. We all have at least one high-achieving friend who seems to have 30 hours in their day.
However, it may not be as hard to become like that friend as you think.
Here’s a quick animation that shows a few interesting factors that can influence motivation:
Can you think of one day in your life when you were a productivity master?
Motivation ebbs and flows with your levels of mental freshness and other factors in your life. The key to becoming more motivated and productive in the long-term is to have more motivated days and fewer days where you spend the entire day on the couch.
Science behind Motivation
If you want to increase your motivation, you’ll have to realign your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s principally responsible for giving you feelings of reward—in particular—dopamine in a part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens.
John Salamone, a professor at the University of Connecticut examined the effect of manipulating dopamine levels in the brains of mice. In one of his studies, he presented mice with two options. In the first option, mice had to either walk down a corridor for a small pile of food. The second option was the mice could jump over a small fence for a pile of food twice as large.
The study found that mice with low levels of dopamine were less likely to jump the fence for the larger reward.
Dopamine plays a similar role in human motivation. So how can you keep your dopamine levels optimal? Eating a healthy diet, exercising, sleeping properly, and taking certain nootropic supplements (we’ll examine which ones below) can all help.
How Does Fatigue Affect Motivation?
Ask any athlete who has gone through a period of overtraining what their motivation levels were like, and they’ll probably tell you that they didn’t even want to get out of bed. Fatigue caused by overwork, physical stress, mental stress, or poor sleeping habits can all negatively affect your motivation.
In a study published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions, researchers examined the effect of mental fatigue on the motivation of ten healthy participants. The participants performed several mentally stimulating tasks for eight hours.
At the end of the eight hours, researchers measured elevated levels of sympathetic nervous system activity and mental fatigue associated with lowered self-motivation.
How Do Nootropics Affect Motivation?
Some Nootropics improve your motivation by acting as stimulants.
If you’ve ever used coffee to increase your productivity, you’re probably already familiar with how stimulants increase your motivation levels.
Research shows that stimulants like Adderall have only mild effects on actual cognitive ability but increase motivation to finish mental tasks. Some of the nootropic supplements on this list act as stimulants to lower your sleepiness and increase mental vigilance.
Some of the other nootropics on the list may improve motivation by decreasing your risk of developing symptoms of depression. It’s worth noting that they shouldn’t be used as medications to combat depression unless recommended by your doctor. However, some of these nootropics may lower your risk of developing depression.
No supplement is going to make up for poor lifestyle habits, but if you’re already sleeping well and eating right, nootropics may give you a mental edge over your competitors.
Let’s dive into the top supplements for improving your motivation and productivity.
Improve Motivation with N-Phenylacetyl-L-Prolylglycine
You might recognize this nootropic under the brand name Noopept. It’s considered to be one of the best supplements for increasing your motivation and enhancing your cognitive ability.
It’s structurally similar to another nootropic on this list, piracetam. However research shows that’s it’s 1000 times stronger, so the dosage is much lower.
It was originally created in Russia about 25 years ago to treat traumatic brain injury.
A study published in 2008 by Russian researchers found that Noopept can increase levels of the two chemicals nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in rats.
Both these chemicals play critical roles in preserving your brain health.
NGF helps repair neurons and maintains the fatty myelin sheath that wraps around the axons of neurons. Essentially, it slows the breakdown of your brain caused by age or poor habits.
Low levels of NGF is common in individuals with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity, so if you’re in one of these demographics, you may particularly benefit from taking steps to keep NGF high.
BDNF is a chemical active in your hippocampus, forebrain, and cortex. These areas help your brain play a role in memory and learning.
The usual dose of Noopept is about 20mg split into two daily dosages. It’s best to take it early in the day because some people report that it affects their sleep if taken in the evening.
Wake Up by Taking Modafinil
Modafinil is a nootropic that may improve several areas of your cognition including motivation, mood, memory, and reaction time.
It falls under the category of drugs known as eugeroics, meaning that it stimulates wakefulness.
Modafinil was originally created to combat narcolepsy, which is a condition characterized by an inability to stay awake in the daytime.
Research published in Neuropharmacology has found that 200 mg per day given to healthy young adults improved their cognitive performance and memory on an intelligence test.
In another study, researchers found that the administration of 200 mg of modafinil improved reaction time and cognition in all participants, but it had a particularly strong effect in people with methamphetamine-dependence.
Modafinil may also interact with the dopamine transporter called DAT. By blocking this transporter, Modafinil may increase the amount of dopamine that’s available in your brain.
The typical dosage is generally between 50-200 mg daily. Clinical Trials show that it appears to be safe to take for at least 40 weeks in dosages up to at least 400 mg. It also seems to be low risk for causing addiction.
Optimize Your Dopamine Levels with Tianeptine
Earlier, we talked about how dopamine in the part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens can influence your motivation. Tianeptine can improve the release of dopamine in this part of your brain.
Tianeptine has also been found to potentiate the dopamine receptors called DRD2 and DRD3. Essentially, tianeptine increases the amount of dopamine these receptors uptake.
Tianeptine may also indirectly improve motivation by decreasing symptoms of depression. It was originally developed as an antidepressant drug in the 1960s.
One study published in 2014 examined the cognitive effects of tianeptine and other supplements. They found the researchers concluded that it may have promising effects for reversing cognitive declines caused by depression.
Generally, tianeptine doses range from about 25-50 mg per day. If you’re taking a tianeptine powder, you can take a lower dose because your body absorbs it better than capsules.
Try This Stimulant Phenylpiracetam if You’re Feeling Sleepy
We already touched on how stimulants may increase your motivation by reducing sleepiness. Phenylpiracetam has similar stimulant properties to modafinil. Essentially, it’s like a powerful caffeine replacement that enhances feelings of motivation for about six hours by increasing the availability of dopamine and norepinephrine.
It increases dopamine receptors in your brain which allows more dopamine to bind to your reward centers. Research also shows that phenylpiracetam may also inhibit the reuptake of dopamine, meaning that dopamine is available in your brain longer.
The same study found that phenylpiracetam may inhibit the reuptake of the excitatory hormone/neurotransmitter called epinephrine which means that it increases your sympathetic nervous system activity (again, think the effects of caffeine).
Scientists originally created it to help Russian astronauts stay alert while on missions.
It’s banned by athletes for its stimulant and anxiety-reducing effects, so keep that in mind if you’re in the NCAA or compete professionally.
The general dose of Phenylpiracetam is between 100-250 mg. It’s not recommended that you take more than 750 mg per day.
Try Semax for its Neuroprotective Ability
Semax may help increase motivation by decreasing feelings of depression.
Semax is another nootropic that was created in Russia.
Like, Noopept, it may increase levels of BDNF in your brain, which can help signal for the creation of new neurons. BDNF may also increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus. In animal studies, Semax enhanced dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmission.
The effects of Semax are similar to tianeptine even though they act in different ways on your brain. Most of the benefits of Semax for motivation come from reducing your symptoms of depression.
Research published in CNS Spectrums has found that it may increase play a role in fighting against depression.
Semax isn’t absorbed well when taken orally. It’s generally consumed in a dosage of 100-150 mcg taken as a nasal spray one to three times a day.
The Form of Vitamin B1 Called Sulbutiamine May Enhance Motivation
Sulbutiamine is a synthetic molecule that’s made from two vitamin B1 molecules bound together. Its benefits on motivation come from reducing symptoms of fatigue.
Vitamin B1 helps maintain the health of your nervous system and plays a critical role in energy production.
In one study researchers examined the mechanism behind sulbutiamine’s fatigue relieving effects. Researchers found that it likely improves energy levels by upregulating the neurotransmitter glutamate.
In another study, researchers looked at the effect of either 400 or 600mg of sulbutiamine daily for four weeks on participants recovery from an infection. The researchers found that the participants who took sulbutiamine had a significantly lower amount of fatigue than a placebo group.
If you’re starting to take sulbutiamine, you can start with a dose around 250mg and work up to 750 mg if you tolerate it well.
Boost Mood with Aniracetam
Aniracetam has been around since the 1970s. It’s thought to increase your mood and focus. It may indirectly improve motivation by decreasing symptoms of depression.
In Canada and America, aniracetam is available as a supplement. In Europe it’s a prescription drug.
Rat studies show that aniracetam can reduce symptoms of anxiety by modifying levels of dopamine, serotonin, and choline in the brain. Research has also found that taking aniracetam can lower the desensitization rate of receptors in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps with memory formation.
Taking aniracetam may also upregulate BDNF, which we already explained helps repair neurons and maintains the myelin sheaths
Aniracetam has several mild side effects including causing irritability, insomnia, or abdominal pain.
A standard daily dosage of aniracetam is about 1500 mg per day divided into a morning and afternoon dose.
Improve Focus, Memory, and Motivation with Oxiracetam
Besides potentially improving your motivation, it’s thought that oxiracetam may also improve memory, attention, and learning capacity. It works by providing mild stimulant properties.
It’s best to take oxiracetam early in the day so that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep schedule.
In a study published the peer-reviewed journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, found that oxiracetam has the ability to increase blood flow to your brain, which may be why it helps improve your focus.
Oxiracetam may also increase the amount of the chemical called ChAT in your brain, which aids in the creation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is used in the formation of memories and for periods of concentration.
The standard dose is between 600 and 3000mg
Try Uridine to Enhance Your Mood and Motivation
Uridine plays a role in carrying genetic information in each cell in your body. Uridine crosses that blood-brain barrier when taken as a supplement and has good bioavailability.
It’s thought that taking a uridine supplement can improve your mood, boost the release of dopamine in your brain, and act as a neuroprotectant.
In one study, adolescences with symptoms of bipolar disorder took uridine for six weeks. The researchers found that the administration of uridine was well-tolerated by the participants.
In another study, elderly individuals with memory problems were given a uridine supplement for twelve weeks. The participants had improved memories when remeasured at the end of the study compared to the baseline.
Boost Your Brainpower with Omega 3s
Omega 3s have the most research to back them of any nootropic supplement. The majority of the fat in your brain is made from these fatty acids that are commonly found in fatty fish like salmon.
Omega 3 supplements don’t provide the same short-term effects as other nootropics. However, taking them long-term may support your brain health and increase your motivation by reducing your risk of developing depression.
The two types of omega 3s found in fish oil are DHA and EPA.
In a 2015 study analyzing the results of 26 studies and 1400 participants, the researchers found that omega 3 EPA is likely more beneficial than DHA for decreasing symptoms of depression.
In a review of scientific evidence for omega 3 supplements, the authors explain that a diet high in omega 6 fats (found in vegetable oils primarily) and low in omega 3s can cause inflammation in the brain.
Fish oil isn’t meant as a cure for depression, and if you are suffering from depression, you should speak to a medical professional. However, fish oil may be useful when used in a preventative way.
Using Nootropics to Increase Your Motivation
If you want to increase your motivation, you should first take steps to improve your habits. Try eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy omega 3 fats. You should also make sure your sleeping properly.
If you’re already eating healthy and sleeping well, you may want to add an omega 3 supplement to your daily routine to improve your ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids.
If you need something a little stronger than coffee to help you stay focused short-term, you may want to try modafinil. Modafinil increases wakefulness and can engage you in the task at hand.
No two people are going to respond to nootropics the same way, so you can experiment with other supplements as well. Oxiracetam and phenylpiracetam are two good choices and may improve your motivation by acting as stimulants.
Nootropics shouldn’t be used as a replacement for healthy lifestyle habits, but if you are already living a healthy lifestyle, they may be the icing on the cake.
Daniel grew up in Halifax, Canada. He completed his Honours Kinesiology degree at Dalhousie University where he received an education in topics such as nutrition, exercise physiology, strength training, and sports psychology. He graduated with his MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan in spring 2019. Through his writing career, he’s developed a particular interest in endocrine and mental health research.