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Episode 10

Make your own motivation

Street art butterfly

Motivation to work out or lose weight is like a light switch. One day you have it and the next… poof! It’s gone.

If motivation has been hard to come by lately, I’ve got some good news that I’ll share with you on this coached walk: You can create motivation.


Some people seem to just be motivated, while others are searching for that little spark (where’d you go, spark?).

If you’ve ever felt like you’d rather go to the beach than get your butt in gear (procrastination?), then this is the podcast episode for you.

I’ll show you simple ways to increase your drive towards losing weight, exercising more often, starting (or finishing) a project, and almost anything else on your list of goals for today… tomorrow… or this year.


  • How motivation is really created
  • What foods can help our “motivation chemical” get going
  • Simple things you can do to fire up your own tired motivation
  • How this one step will help you get inspired to work out again and again

This is a coached walk/podcast, so if you want some extra bang for your motivation buck, slip on your sneakers and head out for walk with me. It’s about 20 minutes long, enough of a walk to clear your head, fire your up, and burn some extra calories.  


Because we can’t remember everything… here are the foods that can help increase dopamine, which in turn can help increase motivation:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits (especially bananas)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Meats
  • Soy, legumes, and beans

Photo: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Podcast Transcript

"Oh, I wish I could get motivated to just do something. Maybe a magic spell that someone can give me. Or a magic pill. I just feel like sometimes I just can't do anything. I just can't get motivated. What's wrong with me?"

Today, we're going to talk about motivation. But we're going to talk about creating motivation, manufacturing motivation. And yes, you can do that. I learned that so I want to share it with you. Motivation is what happens when the dopamine levels in your brain spike because you anticipate that something important is about to happen. Dopamine is like the drug before the drug. If your drug is exercise, then dopamine is that little drug just before the exercise. It's the anticipation of the positive experience that is to come.

If you're doing burpees and you hate them, you're not going to get that positive experience. You're not going to get that dopamine rising up before you start to do them because you're going to be crying instead. Although crying also releases different chemicals, but that's not exactly what you're looking for.

Release this “feel-good” chemical while you're having a good time, but also in anticipation of having that good time. For example, if you love coffee like me, your body releases dopamine not just when you're drinking the coffee, but when you smell it, when you're walking past your favorite coffee shop, or even when you just see coffee. You feel that little rush, a little bit of thrill like, oh my God, it's coffee! So, that's exactly how that works. So it actually comes just before.

Our brains are really cool. They can be trained to feed off those bursts of dopamine that are sparked by rewarding experiences. So if you really like something, we can train our brain to go ahead and anticipate that even more. And then you bounce that off into other activities. Pretty awesome, right? One way that you can get these rewarding experiences is by setting goals. So dopamine will get flowing like a positive reinforcement every time you complete something and meet a challenge. When you start with those little steps and you complete them, dopamine also flows as a reward system.

When you take those little steps, you're actually going to be releasing little hits of dopamine along each of those steps. For example, if you were to go for a walk, and maybe you're not really feeling it. But maybe you can set a small goal like, I'm going to go to this post. Can I do it? Can I run? Can I run to the next post? And then maybe you run to the next post. That's your reward. Like, I did it. I ran to the next post. Tell yourself that and give yourself that reward. And then your dopamine will actually start flowing because you made a little goal and you met that goal. Isn't that cool? I think our brains are pretty awesome. 

Another way to hack your dopamine is actually with foods. Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt. Unprocessed meats like beef, chicken, turkey. So, I would say probably not the really processed lunch meats. Omega-3 rich foods like salmon and mackerel. I've always hated seafood. So I'm like scratch that off the list. And then eggs. Fruits, vegetables and particular bananas. And then almonds and walnuts. One of my favorites, of course, is macadamia nuts. But then I eat the entire container and damn. We'll talk about that later. Dark chocolate, lots of protein, and some probiotics. All of that will help work together to naturally raise your dopamine.

So it'd be really cool, but it doesn't exactly work this way. If we made banana bread, then we throw walnuts in there. But mostly they recommend to avoid alcohol, caffeine and processed sugar. But I guess you can make the banana bread with applesauce. Applesauce would be good. It does not have processed sugar in it. I wonder if banana bread with walnuts would actually increase your dopamine. Put a few dark chocolate pieces in there. We just have the perfect recipe for success. 

I'm going to link you to the different kinds of foods in the show notes for this. Think about what you could do to actually add these different foods to your diet and how many can you add at the same time. When they talk about probiotics, they also mention fermented foods like sauerkraut and different things like that. I'll give you more information on that. That way you could make a dopamine rich diet. And maybe that would give you a little bit more motivation. Who knows?

There's something called velvet beans, which has a precursor to dopamine in it. But since I don't know enough about that to recommend it, I'm going to say, look into it on your own if you want and just evaluate any risks with any benefits. Because I'm not a doctor, even though I play one here.

Motivation can be kind of elusive. It's like that movie line, 'I'll have what she's having'. You want some of that motivation, but where do you get it? Well, now we know we can get it through food. You can get it through anticipating exercise. And you can also get it by doing small milestones in your exercise--small steps, as we always say, and music. Music is really important. It's a way to increase your dopamine levels. You want to find music that you like and music that you really enjoy. Music that gets you moving gets you motivated. It doesn't matter what it is. I'm not sure if that classical piano works, but maybe it does. I haven't done enough research on that.

But if you want to get in the mood for something, blast some music that you love, even on your earphones. Sunlight is a miracle worker in more than one way. It also works really well with dopamine levels. A lot of times, we don't have sun. And I'm not sure if those UV lamps work the same. But I certainly think that it can't hurt to look into that. 

Sunlight will also help increase your dopamine levels. Even if you just get out for like two minutes-- if you're really stressed-- have you ever noticed that when you go outside for a minute or two, just stand in the sun and feel the wind on your skin and just take a deep breath in and you just suddenly feel so much calmer?

Those are the moments that your body is relaxing and it's releasing chemicals to reduce your stress and make you feel better. So, try to incorporate those moments through your day whenever you can. Increasing your dopamine is actually tied to accomplishments. When we talked about how you set little goals and then you meet those goals and accomplish them, that can work for a lot of things.

When you do something that you normally wouldn't do, or that's a little bit challenging, something you want to be motivated for next time, just tell yourself how good you feel. When you've worked on a really hard project, or when you've done something physical that was a little bit more of a challenge, really get in that moment and see how your body feels and feel that little bit of pride and accomplishment.

That's what you want to remember because that's going to help you the next time you want to do something. You go back, you remember that feeling and you get that dopamine flowing so that you’ll be ready for next time. Right now, you're thinking if there is a next time. But there will be. 

If you swim really hard and maybe you're not that fond of swimming, then you really don't want to do it. And you're not going to feel motivated to do it. But maybe you should just go out in the pool and play. You can put on some music and go up to your waist in the water. What if you just dance for 15 minutes?

If you dance, have you ever tried to dance in the water? It's pretty hard. It's not that easy. You can do that and it's really fun. Put on your favorite music in your waterproof earbuds and just dance around. Or why don't you play some games in the pool? You can throw some discs and those plastic pool toys.

You can play water polo with your kids. Just start by playing. You can play with your cat or dog outside. You can play with your kids, play ball, play hide and go seek. Start out with play. If you start out with play, then the next time you do something similar, you'll get that little dopamine hit and you'll be ready and more motivated to go. 

What about hopscotch? I know. I've had two kids. It's a little hard to do hopscotch if you know what I mean, but still hopscotch was fun. There are so many games that we can play and so many things that we used to do as kids that we can do now. And it's actually exercise. If it's something you look forward to, it's all the better. Because then you'll be motivated to do something next time. 

If you're playing in the pool with your kids or you're dancing in the pool, then next time you can do maybe 10 minutes of dancing and 10 minutes of laps. Then the next time you can do 5 minutes of dancing, 15 minutes of laps. I think you should always keep the dancing in though, if that's something you enjoy. I think you should always do something you like. Not everything has to be burpees and planks and push-ups, if you don't like them. There are so many ways that you can get exercise that are fun and yet really hard. Then your dopamine levels will rise. You'll stay more consistent and you'll be more motivated. I think that's pretty awesome. Play. We're never too old to play. So many times, we just stop playing. 

I will put all these tips together for you in the show notes so you'll know how to increase your dopamine and how to really get motivated. But feeling good about your accomplishments, making small little steps, starting with some kind of exercise that you like that doesn't even feel like exercise, eating different kinds of foods, including probiotics and lots of protein, vegetables, fruits like bananas, nuts, I'll put all this together for you.

And meditation. I haven't been big on meditation. I always felt like it had a little more of a hippie-ish vibe. Nothing wrong with hippies. But now, I try to do meditations that have more practical applications. And also, sometimes when I'm stressed, I just need to go away for a moment in my head, maybe to the beach where I'm really happy and just feeling the sand between my toes.

And you can do meditation when you're walking, too. You can maybe put on some songs that you like, where you like the beat, but maybe it doesn't have any lyrics. Or you can put on a meditation, just walk to that and clear your mind. Just try to focus inward. Because sometimes there's so much going on outward and we don't connect with our bodies inside. So in our minds, everything is just so disjointed. So, try to meditate before and during a walk. 

Earlier today I was going to do an Instagram live. And of course, I didn't really know how to end an Instagram live. So, that was awkward. I'm just standing there, looking at the screen, trying to figure out how to stop the live. And I just get out of it. Then I get back in and I guess it goes to stories. Who knew? Now I know. That was only five seconds. So that actually would work for me because they didn't have to see me looking like a dork. It was kind of funny. There's so much stuff to learn every day.

There is so much technology and this is where we need to disconnect a little bit. And that's why walking and listening to audio, especially if you can put your phone on Do Not Disturb, you'll be able to take that moment for yourself and make your walk. Not only something that makes you fitter, helps you lose weight and burn more calories, but something that is almost like a little meditation moment for you. And a moment where you can just be quiet without people always talking to you and nagging you. Take that moment for you because it just gets so hectic.

So if you try to add play to your life and play your day, you'll actually be more motivated to work out harder and to do different things.


Helen is an author, entrepreneur, certified personal trainer, and lifestyle coach. She lost over 80 pounds and kept it off for 16 years. She loves travel, chocolate, and cats.