MANY PEOPLE experience a post-holiday slump this time of year. The excitement and fun of decorating, celebrating, spending time with family and enjoying contact with friends from long ago could leave one feeling somewhat drained. Add the fewer daylight hours, bitter cold, and sleet and ice storms, and you have a recipe for glum.

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A dip in enthusiasm can permeate even the fittest minds and homes. Many call it the January Blues. Some cases are more severe, even categorized as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

If we examine the psychological dynamics behind the winter doldrums, however, ideas for countering these negative propensities come to mind. These techniques can be applied to ourselves as well as to people over whom we have influence, including as a manager, a friend or a parent.

One way to address this state of being is to recognize that we have certain psychological needs that must be satisfied in order for us to remain self-motivated. Self (intrinsic) motivation has been associated with positive outcomes such as happiness, enthusiasm, creativity, vitality and productivity. A key to evoking intrinsic motivation is to ensure we are connecting with people, engaging in interesting activities and allowing ourselves to make some new choices in how we organize our life priorities.

You are in charge of your calendar, and each day has 24 hours in it: Leave room in it for things that you enjoy, such as initiating conversations with friends, listening to your favorite music, going to a café to engage with people. Connecting is essential to the engagement of intrinsic motivation. We can counter those things in our lives that are energy killers by doing such things as programming more relaxation activities into our weeks. Increasing exercise is also an antidote to sadness.

Realize that your circumstances are not beyond your control. A storm certainly will have a limiting effect on the options before you, but not entirely.

It provides a great opportunity to enjoy that book you’ve been intending to read. To the degree that we can allow ourselves to have some “me” time can go a long way to bringing us around. Doing something significant and positive can make a mindset difference. This does not necessarily mean one needs to travel to the Caribbean or to Florida, as nice as that might be; it might just involve a change of scenery, such as a weekend drive or hike — and taking a friend and a picnic basket with you (maybe for the car, given the temperature).

As a manager, there are many things you can do to help people fight off the winter doldrums. Perhaps bring in some colorful, inspiring artwork or improve the lighting during this bleak period, even exploring “natural” lighting systems, which have been shown to alter moods. Consider supporting a gym membership. Or ask employees for ideas on how your workforce might be able to help the community and have some time together volunteering.

When we examine our motivational systems, we can see how important it is to reclaim control of those facets of our psychological needs that draw us into an intrinsically motivated state. The idea is to take control of our emotions and tackle this as a job to be done.

Optimism often follows reflection and gratitude. A winter lull can be an opportunity to regain perspective on what really matters.

Dr. Paul P. Baard is an organizational psychologist, specializing in motivation. Formerly a full-time professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business and a senior line executive in the television industry, he is the lead author of a book on leadership and motivation, and has been published broadly, including in Harvard Business Review. He and Veronica Baard, a former managing director responsible for HR at a major international investment banking firm, head up Baard Consulting LLC, a firm in the greater Boston area, focusing on motivation, conflict reduction, and team building. Questions are welcomed at pbaard@baardconsulting.com.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Tuesday, February 18, 2020