We all have those days when it feels like The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars was written specifically for you. Days when your bed begs you to stay and the thought of doing anything remotely productive seems impossible. But what if your unproductive day stretches into weeks or even months?
Plenty of people experience periods of low energy and inactivity. Being in a state of inertia doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a lazy human being. In most cases, people who are labeled as ‘lazy’ are actually suffering from underlying conditions that prevent them from actively participating in life. Laziness isn’t always a sin or a character flaw, and it’s often not a choice.
Letting go of the self-defeating belief that you’re a lazy person is the first step to stop being idle. In this article, I’ll explore the concept of laziness, why it might not be your fault, and how to motivate yourself to take action.
- What is laziness, really?
- Why laziness isn’t always our fault
- Does laziness even exist?
- How to stop being ‘lazy’
- Wrapping up
What is laziness, really?
Laziness can be defined as a person’s disinclination to perform an activity in spite of the ability to do it.
The word is often used as a catch-all term for behaviors that display a lack of motivation or effort despite our capabilities. While this unwillingness to take action is sometimes deliberate, more often than not, it is caused by hidden obstacles that so-called ‘lazy’ individuals are either not aware of or failing to address.
Most people are not intrinsically lazy, but simply face invisible barriers to motivation or effort. Sometimes these barriers are situational, but other times they might be self-imposed.
Why laziness isn’t always our fault
Research shows that our brains might just be wired for lazy behaviors. This explains why in spite of knowing that exercise is beneficial for our well-being, people are actually becoming less active.
Similarly, this 2015 paper by Harvard professor, Dr. Daniel Lieberman, claims that physical laziness is not only a natural but normal part of being human.
The clinical psychologist, Dr. Nando Pelusi, suggests that humans may have inherited laziness from their ancestors. It’s possible that your reluctance to take action is actually an instinctive desire to conserve energy.
As a society, we often mistake symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety or depression for laziness.
Some of the most common symptoms of depression are loss of interest in activities, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Without context, these behaviors are often perceived as ‘lazy.’ For most people, it’s easier to blame these behaviors on laziness rather than face more difficult questions or seek professional help.
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Does laziness even exist?
There is a growing number of psychologists who argue that laziness isn’t a fault or character flaw. In fact, it doesn’t actually exist.
In his book, The Myth of Laziness, Dr. Mel Levine argues that there is no such thing as laziness after studying ‘lazy’ children. Laziness, he proposes, is simply output failure caused by a neurodevelopmental problem.
Similarly, the social psychologist, Dr. Devon Price argues that laziness is a lie to convince us that we’re not productive enough as a society. Instead of perceiving ‘lazy’ individuals as lacking or weak, it would be more helpful to question whether they have unmet needs or struggles that are being dismissed.
How to stop being ‘lazy’
Motivating yourself to take action while your mind resists is no easy feat. Here are a few tips to help you stop feeling lazy and show up for yourself even when you don’t feel like it.
1. Track your habits
Almost everything we do in our daily lives is out of habit. Humans, after all, are creatures of habit. Therefore, the formation of good habits is crucial to success and productivity. Breaking your self-destructive habits can also help you stop feeling lazy.
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear explains the power of tiny shifts in changing people’s lives for the better.
Slight improvements in behavior eventually become automatic and circumvent the need for motivation to take action. To help develop positive habits, he suggests using a habit tracker.
You can start off by tracking one habit at a time or several at once. Since it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, the longer you can continue your daily streak, the better. Tracking your habits also allows you to visualize your progress. This can provide a sense of accomplishment that proves you’re not lazy after all.
In fact, you’re highly capable of improvement. Some potential daily habits to track to help you stop feeling lazy are:
2. Use the snowball effect
Starting is often the hardest part when it comes to anything in life. If you’re tired of your own indolence, focus all of your energy on taking the first step. The important thing is to just start.
The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.Brian Tracy
It’s easier to begin with small changes rather than more drastic ones. It can be something as small as getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button on your alarm or spending the first few minutes of your day in meditation.
Over time, completing these small actions can give you the confidence to take on bigger goals and more significant changes.
Tiny, actionable steps toward improvement can eventually snowball into an entirely different lifestyle, far removed from laziness.
3. Create incentives
Incentives are a great way to persuade yourself to complete any task. Although the accomplishment of completing the task itself offers a good intrinsic reward, you can sweeten the deal with extrinsic ones.
A reward system can give you the incentive to accomplish tasks you dread and push you to overcome any feelings of reluctance that may arise.
For example, if you want to start working out and go to the gym more often, reward yourself with a delicious smoothie after your workout.
If you’re unhappy with your current job and want to start job hunting, reward yourself by watching an episode of your favorite show guilt-free after each job application you submit.
4. Ensure your environment is in line with your goals
A good strategy to beat lazy tendencies is to make sure your environment works in your favor. By making small changes to your space, you can set yourself up for success.
If you work from home and want to be more productive at work, make sure to eliminate any distractions from your office. This could mean turning off your phone while you’re working or closing the door to limit disruptions.
On the other hand, if you want to start meditating or doing yoga in the morning, try placing your yoga mat in a highly visible spot the night before. This will make it harder for you to ignore it the next day.
5. Take better care of your health
Often, a lack of energy can be mistaken for laziness, but might actually be caused by physical health issues. If you’re constantly too exhausted to perform even the simplest of tasks, your body might be trying to tell you something.
Taking better care of your physical health is not only essential to your well-being, but it could boost your energy drastically. The more energized you are, the less lazy you’ll feel. To live a healthier lifestyle, you could try to:
- Sleep for at least 7 hours every night. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep to improve your mood and energy levels the following day.
- Be mindful of the food you consume. Stay away from foods that are high in sugar to avoid spikes in energy followed by sudden crashes. Instead, aim to consume high-protein foods that can deliver more consistent energy levels throughout the day.
- Exercise daily. It might be hard to convince yourself to move your body at first especially if it’s been a while. A good tip is to find someone to hold you accountable. You can ask your partner or a friend to be your workout buddy.
6. Consider seeking professional help
Sometimes, your laziness isn’t actually laziness at all. There’s a possibility that the root cause of your inability to do anything is a lot more insidious.
Anxiety can often manifest itself as procrastination, which is frequently mistaken as laziness.
If this is the case, your unwillingness to accomplish goals might be a result of fear of failure or feelings of not being good enough. It has nothing to do with being lazy, and it’s certainly not your fault. It would be best to seek professional help to determine if you have anxiety masking itself as laziness.
If you struggle to get out of bed regularly and you lack the motivation to participate in activities that you typically enjoy, depression might be the cause of your perceived laziness. Depression is often mistaken for laziness or a lack of willpower.
There is nothing lazy or weak about someone battling depression. It takes tremendous strength and courage to cope with this disorder. I highly recommend seeking professional help if you suspect this is the case.
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Most people don’t choose to be ‘lazy’. Often, there are invisible barriers in their way of life that are mistaken for laziness. Change the narrative you tell yourself and stop identifying as a ‘lazy’ person. Instead, develop good habits, celebrate small accomplishments, and live a healthier lifestyle. If this fails, seek professional help to ensure your ‘laziness’ is not actually anxiety or depression in disguise.
What do you think? Do you think of yourself as a lazy person? Or do you find it hard to form habits that are productive? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!