Many of us are pretty good at beating ourselves up when we have lost our motivation, calling ourselves lazy or worthless.
But research shows laziness, or lack of motivation, can actually be a symptom of chronic inflammation.
A natural state of health is to want to engage in life. If you don’t want to and don’t care, this is a red flag to look for an underlying health condition.
New research shows that chronic low-grade inflammation hinders the activity of areas in the brain responsible for motivation.
Called the dopaminergic signaling system, these parts of the brain rely on sufficient dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for motivation, drive, and a sense of self-worth — hence the feelings of worthlessness that often accompany low motivation or “laziness.”
The hypothesis is that when the body is suffering from chronic inflammation, this means it has an injury or illness it must heal. In order to meet the demands for healing, the brain lowers drive and motivation so that energy is freed up for healing.
Our everyday tasks and chores, or working toward our goals and dreams suddenly no longer feel worth it.
That’s because inflammation has down regulated areas of the brain that link a sense of reward to effort and work.
We can especially feel this when we are laid up with the flu or a bad injury that can make watching Netflix tiring.
However, low-grade chronic inflammation is not just about the flu or an injury anymore. It is an epidemic problem these days, as evidenced by the mushrooming incidences of chronic inflammatory disorders, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and cancer.
In fact, many brain-based disorders are often a consequence of inflammation, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, memory loss, brain development disorders in children, and even acute psychiatric conditions.
Understanding the cause of no motivation can lift shame and stigma.
Because chronic illness and inflammation causes lack of motivation and fatigue, sufferers are often stigmatized for their condition.
The majority of people with chronic illness are women, and they are commonly dismissed or disbelieved by doctors in the standard health care model or even by their own families.
What’s worse, many internalize the stigmatization and suffer in isolation and with shame around their low energy and lack of motivation.
That’s why it’s important to understand “laziness” and lack of motivation can be symptoms of a larger, underlying problem and not character flaws.
Why is modern life so inflammatory?
Compared to our ancestors and many people on the planet today, many Americans have it pretty easy in terms of ease and convenience.
Yet why are we so inflamed and chronically ill?
Here are just a few factors driving epidemic levels of chronic inflammation and illness:
Blood sugar is too high. Advertising, restaurants, grocery store aisles — everything about modern life is hellbent on making us gorge on sugar and processed carbohydrates. However, science shows high blood sugar is one of the most common and relentless sources of chronic inflammation.
Modern foods are pro-inflammatory. Gluten intolerance is responsible for more inflammation than people realize, thanks to modern hybridization, storing, and pesticide use of gluten grains and other grains. Industrialized fats such as canola oil, soybean oil, and hydrogenated fats are recognized as inflammatory and are ubiquitous in the food supply.
People eat too little produce. Americans eat about half the amount of fiber they should to be healthy. A diet rich in plant fibers creates a gut microbiome rich in healthy gut bacteria. Bad gut bacteria and an unhealthy microbiome are pro-inflammatory and pro-disease.
Modern life is sedentary. Except for workers whose jobs are physical, our ultra-convenient, screen-based lives are extremely sedentary. Lack of regular physical activity and “sitting disease” are sources of chronic inflammation.
Modern life is toxic. Numerous studies link numerous toxins to inflammatory-based conditions. Plastics, pesticides, car exhaust, scented cleaning products, chemically laden body products and foods — we live in a sea of environmental toxins and heavy metals the body was not designed to manage. We are also exposed to too much artificial light, which confuses our biological rhythms and triggers inflammation.
People are stressed out. Despite our many comforts and conveniences, rates of depression, anxiety, and stress are high and afflicting younger and younger people. These negative emotions are known triggers of inflammation. When you experience them all the time, it can lead to inflammatory-based health disorders.
How functional medicine can help you restore your natural motivation
Although we are up against many daunting assaults on our physiology, functional medicine recognizes this and has strategies and protocols to help you.
One of the most common rewards of a functional medicine dietary, lifestyle, and nutritional game plan is the return of energy, motivation, and ambition.
“Laziness” and lack of motivation are red flags.