The Science of Motivation

The Science of Motivation2

Scientists have looked at motivation through neuroscience; quite literally studying brain imagery to determine exactly what drives, maintains, and inspires motivation. We even know where motivation lives in the brain, and it probably comes as no surprise that motivation for things like food, sex, and substances are rooted in some of the more ancient, animalistic structure like our amygdala (the part that organizes external stimulus we receive, including threatening and exciting things) and the hypothalamus (part of our reward circuits).  On the flip side, motivations for goals, purpose, wellbeing, and satisfaction are rooted in the higher brain structures like the prefrontal cortex (planning, decision making) and the insula (intuition or “gut feeling”).


From the research about the mechanics of motivation, we’ve learned that on the whole, motivation is an adaptive experience. (Meaning it is helpful for us.) This probably makes sense—we almost inherently know that we feel good when we feel motivated, and we feel bad when we feel unmotivated (or avoidance, or uninspired).


As we continue to work on our relationship with alcohol (and by this point, you’re well past the beginning stages when initial motivation is often high), we learn how to connect the dots with the way our brain works and how it reacts to external stimuli. When we understand that it’s all connected, we gain the tools to use it to our advantage.