Motivation is the cognitive, biological, emotional, and social force that drives people to action. The source of motivation may be intrinsic, where motivation comes from within the person; or extrinsic, where it comes from outside sources.
Motivation is a good thing regardless of where it comes from. However, the lack of it is a health concern, as it is a major factor in ADHD, depression, and other mood disorders.
When children, teens, and college students lack motivation it can affect them at home and school. Many young adults who struggle with motivation often fail to launch into adulthood, which is the equivalent of parents' worst nightmare. Parents often medicate and chase down solutions in an effort to secure a good future.
One study tried to determine how the lack of motivation affects patients with clinical diagnoses. Results indicated that the lack of motivation for treatment is common among patients with more severe mental health struggles. The greater the lack of motivation, the more severe the symptoms, which makes it very difficult to treat these patients (Mulder et al., 2005).
Even if your child is far from living in your basement because they failed to launch, boosting motivation to help them go through their daily routines and do better in school without so much support is a good idea.
Giving them executive functioning skills with a lot of positive reinforcement and practice is essential. Their learning is going to be more effective when combined with natural supplements that can help improve motivation and regulate the brain.
Also referred to as nootropics, the list below includes dietary supplements known as cognitive enhancers. These nutritional supplements help increase a person's cognitive function, particularly their creativity, memory, attention span, and motivation (Suliman et al., 2016).
Magnesium is one of the best nootropics that help calm the brain. One study shows that increasing magnesium levels in the brain improves memory and learning functions (Slutsky et al., 2010).
When used with B Vitamins, it can help address neurobehavioral disorders observed in children. This effect was proven in one study that involved 40 children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD who were given magnesium and Vitamin B supplements for eight weeks.
After supplementation, their aggressiveness and hyperactivity were lowered and their attention in school also improved (Mousain-Bosc et al., 2006). This result goes to show that magnesium works on a cellular level to help the human body achieve its peak performance and really just how needed magnesium is to improve alertness.
I recall one day getting an urgent call from my client' Melissa who wanted to make sure she could get 10 containers of magnesium because she couldn't believe how calm her 12-year-old was after taking it for one week. They had spent years trying every kind of ADHD medication you could think of to no avail.
#2 Vitamin B
Aside from working well with magnesium as stated above, Vitamin B supplementation can help increase alertness while decreasing the symptoms of anxiety. Since this vitamin affects the brain cells directly, it can help boost motivation as well.
One study concluded that Vitamin B can improve cognitive performance among children. Vitamin B-12 plays an important role in early childhood nutrition to promote brain development and growth (Venkatramanan et al., 2016).
The B vitamins are also essential for energy and can help combat the mental fatigue that those with clinical issues such as ADHD, anxiety, OCD, and mood disorders face on a daily basis. B12 increases cellular energy whereas as folic acid improves cellular detoxification thereby reducing inflammation and improving mental clarity.
#3 Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient in bone health and calcium absorption. It can also helps prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases. With adequate Vitamin D levels, one can enjoy a good night's sleep, which in turn, promotes a better mood. As a result, a person has higher motivation levels, reduced stress, and a better quality of life.
Vitamin D plays many roles within the body and works synergically with magnesium to support various immune, hormone, and nervous system functions.
The effect of a lack of Vitamin D was tested among children and it was discovered that its shortage can impact brain health and damage brain structure, leading to cognitive decline and other mental health disorders. Insufficient Vitamin D may cause anxiety, depression, and social behavior issues (Moradi et al., 2018).
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that can boost one's motivation. N-acetyl L-Tyrosine plays a critical role in producing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. More specifically, the neurotransmitter can help improve one's focus, energy levels, and alertness.
One clinical researcher studied the link between amino acids and autism. A total of 36 kids with autism participated with 10 of them placed on casein and gluten-restricted while the rest followed unrestricted diets.
Results show that the kids on restricted diets are deficient in amino acids and have reduced plasma levels, particularly tryptophan and tyrosine. As both are neurotransmitter precursors, deficiencies in tyrosine and tryptophan trigger high levels of concern among subjects (Arnold et al., 2003). Without these aminos, energy and motivation can be low.
#5 Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is a nootropic supplement popular in traditional Chinese medicine for boosting mental energy and endurance. It can also help ameliorate an individual's mental health condition by elevating mood, alleviating depressive symptoms, and increasing motivation.
In one study, Rhodiola Rosea proved to have some antidepressant effects on older adults suffering from depression (Mao et al., 2015). Rhodiola Rosea contains rosavin, a biologically active substance that helps decrease mental fatigue and stress. It also helps create a significant improvement in one's cognitive ability, particularly when it comes to focus and recall. Low affect has historically been connected to low motivation.
Rhodiola Rosea can stimulate one's nervous system to put anxiety at bay and improve work performance while also relieving fatigue. Previous animal studies also reported that Rhodiola Rosea can help increase memory and improve learning (Ma et al., 2018).
#6 Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is a rich antioxidant widely used to eliminate free radicals and support the overall health of the brain. This nootropic is also quite popular in traditional Chinese medicine because it contains lots of flavonoids and other proponents and compounds that help prevent dementia. It is notable for improving energy and vitality even in older adults.
In a study conducted on test subjects, it was discovered that the continued Ginkgo Biloba administration improves motivation and spatial memory (Blecharz-Klin et al., 2009). It works by improving cerebral blood flow. The improvement of memory can have a powerful effect on motivation and alertness.
#7 Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is popularly used in ayurvedic medicine to boost brain function. It can help improve the brain's processing of visual information while enhancing learning and memory functions (Stough et al., 2001).
Bacopa Monnieri is well known to help address ADHD symptoms. It increases focus and alertness without any dangerous ADHD medication side effects.
Bacopa Monnieri may also help reduce stress and anxiety levels. This herb also lowers cortisol levels and blood pressure and has anti-cancer and anti-inflammation properties as well.
#8 Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng is more popularly known as American ginseng and it's a herb that can help mitigate cognitive impairment and memory loss. Ginseng helps in boosting a person's cognitive abilities with its potent anti-fatigue properties. One study compared its effectiveness as an antidepressant (Jin et al., 2019) with noted improvement in mood.
In a different study, 30 young adults were given Panax ginseng supplements for eight days. Results show lower moodiness symptoms along with improved calmness and mental arithmetic skills among test subjects (Reay et al., 2010). Improved cognitive functioning on mental tasks such as arithmetic is correlated with greater mental energy and motivation.
#9 Green Tea
Green tea offers a lot of health benefits, such as lowering the risk factor of heart disease and managing bad cholesterol levels. Aside from normalizing a person's heart rate, it also aids in weight loss. However, not everyone knows that green tea can also help increase one's motivation.
One study tried to assess the beneficial effects of green tea on the brain of people who suffered from an ischemic stroke. The study concluded that green tea improves overall neuroprotection. Particularly, it addresses spatial and recognition memory deficit as well as hippocampal oxidative stress (Martins et al., 2017).
Green tea can help the frontal lobes feel more alert and engaged in the task at hand. My teen son will even drink green tea when he needs an energy boost. He always remarks that “It wakes up my brain.”
#10 Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion's mane mushroom is one of the few brain supplements that promote the growth of nerve cells while relieving dementia and alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also helps improve executive functions and mental performance.
One study tried to establish the effectiveness of Lion's mane against depression in lab test samples. Researchers concluded that medium to high doses of lion's mane mushroom when combined with chlorella extract, has a positive effect on depressive behavior. They proved the combination of the two herbs has the potential to work as an antidepressant for possible use in health care (Chou et al., 2022).
#11 Mucuna Pruriens
Mucuna Pruriens supplements can help boost the brain's dopamine production. By increasing low dopamine levels, Mucuna helps improve focus and motivation levels. It also maintains healthy levels of cortisol and other brain chemicals, which is important in our stressful world.
One study performed clinical trials measuring the effect of Mucuna Pruriens in subjects because of its dopaminergic action. After 21 days of supplementation, the subjects were protected against chronic unpredictable mild stress as shown in the significant increase in sucrose intake of the stressed test subjects (Galani & Rana, 2014).
Lowering stress levels is important for those that struggle with focus and motivation, as compounded stressors can build and interfere with the structure and function of a developing brain.
Why Motivation among Children is Important
Children lacking the motivation to do certain activities from time to time is normal. However, when the condition becomes persistent and interferes with home life or learning, that's when parents should be concerned. The lack of motivation is one of the key symptoms of ADHD, depression, mood disorders, and other clinical mental health issues.
If your child or teen suffers from major depressive disorder, then their motivation decreases exponentially, even with activities they once enjoyed. Depression is just one type of mood disorder that requires immediate attention.
The first line of diagnosis for mood disorders is a clinical interview with a trusted mental health provider or physician. These health experts may use a rating scale to assess the child's depression level to accurately rule out suicidal ideation or high levels of mood issues, as well as ruling out other clinical issues is important.
A drop in motivation can also signal high-stress levels, bullying or friendship issues, relationship conflicts, or a learning issue. Any sudden change in behavior should be met with compassion and concern.
At our Ridgefield clinic, we treat mood disorders using science-backed natural solutions. We use neurofeedback, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF), psychotherapy, and magnesium supplements, among others. When these methods combine with proper nutrition, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a mindset change, recovery happens.
If you're searching for effective, science-backed solutions that don't involve the use of mind-altering drugs or medications and their side effects, we can help you. Together, let us find the best way to treat your child.
Arnold, G. L., Hyman, S. L., Mooney, R. A., & Kirby, R. S. (2003). Plasma Amino Acids Profiles in Children with Autism: Potential Risk of Nutritional Deficiencies. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(4), 449–454. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1025071014191
Blecharz-Klin, K., Piechal, A., Joniec, I., Pyrzanowska, J., & Widy-Tyszkiewicz, E. (2009). Pharmacological and biochemical effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on learning, memory consolidation and motor activity in old rats. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 69(2), 217–231. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19593336/
Chou, M.-Y., Ho, J.-H., Huang, M.-J., Chen, Y.-J., Yang, M.-D., Lin, L.-H., Chi, C.-H., Yeh, C.-H., Tsao, T.-Y., Tzeng, J.-K., Hsu, R. J., Huang, P.-H., Lu, W.-C., Li, P.-H., & Wang, M.-F. (2022). Potential antidepressant effects of a dietary supplement from the chlorella and lion's mane mushroom complex in aged SAMP8 mice. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.977287
Galani, V., & Rana, D. (2014). Dopamine mediated antidepressant effect of Mucuna pruriens seeds in various experimental models of depression. AYU (an International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda), 35(1), 90. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.141949
Jin, Y., Cui, R., Zhao, L., Fan, J., & Li, B. (2019). Mechanisms of Panax ginseng action as an antidepressant. Cell Proliferation, 52(6). https://doi.org/10.1111/cpr.12696
Ma, G.-P., Zheng, Q., Xu, M.-B., Zhou, X.-L., Lu, L., Li, Z.-X., & Zheng, G.-Q. (2018). Rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 1415. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.01415
Mao, J. J., Xie, S. X., Zee, J., Soeller, I., Li, Q. S., Rockwell, K., & Amsterdam, J. D. (2015). Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, 22(3), 394–399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2015.01.010
Martins, A., Schimidt, H. L., Garcia, A., Colletta Altermann, C. D., Santos, F. W., Carpes, F. P., da Silva, W. C., & Mello-Carpes, P. B. (2017). Supplementation with different teas from Camellia sinensis prevents memory deficits and hippocampus oxidative stress in ischemia-reperfusion. Neurochemistry International, 108, 287–295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuint.2017.04.019
Moradi, H., Sohrabi, M., Taheri, H., Khodashenas, E., & Movahedi, A. (2018). The effects of different combinations of perceptual-motor exercises, music, and vitamin D supplementation on the nerve growth factor in children with high-functioning autism. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 31, 139–145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2018.02.005
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