Putting Spring Back in Your Step

With winter’s end in sight, it is time to wipe the sleep from our eyes and put some spring back into our steps. To many, this spring is particularly optimistic with COVID19 vaccinations more commonplace, and the hope of returning to some normalcy in communities.

Loneliness and social isolation have wreaked havoc on people, young and old, during the pandemic. The impact of loneliness and isolation has long been studied in the elderly: “The lonely and socially isolated are at higher risk for a multitude of psychosocial and physical disorders including dementia, depression, physical decline, falls, hospitalization, and premature mortality” (Hwang, Wang, Siever, Del Medico, & Jones, 2019). Inclusion of group activities and incorporating group physical activities or walking not only helps older adults, but can be of help to all of us.

A perfect way to “spring clean your soul” starts with motivation, writes psychotherapist Linda Esposito (2021). She guides: “Don’t wait for motivation. Be your motivation.”

But how?

The key is finding your “inherent striving”, also known as intrinsic motivation. “An individual whose three basic psychological needs are fulfilled from engaging in a given activity will be intrinsically motivated for that activity, for the enjoyment of the activity itself” (Nielsen, Wikman, Jensen, Schmidt, Glenmann, & Anderson, 2014). A higher the level of intrinsic motivation is correlated with a lower level of anxiety combined with feelings of enjoyment. These will naturally result in the desire to reinforce or repeat the activity.

The self-determination theory posits that human beings are “organisms inherently oriented toward positive learning and growth” (Deci & Ryan, 2000). The basis of the self-determination approach lies three basic human needs that are inherent and necessary to be fulfilled for the human being to grow, learn, and be healthy.

These three needs are: autonomy, competence, and relatedness to others. These needs “appear to be essential for facilitating optimal functioning of the natural propensities for growth and integration, as well as for constructive social development and personal well-being” (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Let's review these basic human needs more closely.

Autonomy –

Intrinsic motivation allows us to fulfill a basic human need of autonomy, lasting dependence on self. More lasting change tends to happen when we find motivation within. Respect for oneself and confidence often grow, as does a sense of pride in accomplishing our goals.

Competence –

The more attention, concentration, and repetition given to an activity, sport, exergaming (exercise and gaming), or any other physical skill, the more enjoyable and intrinsically motivating feelings of competence become. With a mastery of skills, some become healthier and experience a sense of improved physical functioning resulting in enhanced well-being, mood, and higher relaxation (Nielsen et al.).

Relatedness –

Social interactions have been missing from our lives since the beginning of the pandemic. Being together and having fun together “is the essence” (Nielsen, et al.). “It also removes any pressure. You just go because you feel like it.” Being part of a group can enhance enjoyment and add healthy competition.

The amount of “enjoyment an individual gains from an activity, as well as their intrinsic motivation for the activity, depends on how well the activity satisfies the three basic needs above” according to the self-determination theory (Nielson, et al.).

As the world re-opens and you can safely engage with others, you may just want to help find that spring in your step and find a buddy to walk or jog with “making new social connections generating feelings of belonging, motivating and improving health and well-being” (Hwang, Wang, Siever, Del Medico & Jones, 2019).

Let’s spring clean the cobwebs out of isolation and get that spring back in our step.

Welcome back fresh air...

Now let’s get moving.

Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is providing solution-focused counseling Ohio adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth visits. Teresa can be reached by email, phone (513) 206-3026, or by visiting


Deci, E.L., and Ryan, R.M. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation,

social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55(1) 68-78. DOI: 10.1037//0003-66X55.1.68

Esposito, L. (2020). Spring cleaning your soul -- motivation.

Hwang, J., Wang, L., Siever, J., Del Medico, T., and Jones, C.A. (2019). Loneliness and social isolation among older adults in a community exercise program: a qualitative study. Aging & Mental Health 23(6)


Nielsen, G., Wikman, J.M, Jensen, C.J., Schmidt, J.F., Gliemann, L., and Anderson, T.R. (2014). Health

promotion: The impact of beliefs of health benefits, social relations and enjoyment on exercise


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