One of the worst effects of depression is that it robs you of your motivation. You don’t feel any energy or gumption to go to work, engage in your favorite hobbies, or even practice important daily habits like showering or brushing your teeth. In especially bad cases, this can trap you in a loop, since your demotivation can make depression worse; your demotivation causes you to engage less with the world around you, which then makes you even sadder and more detached.
So how do you break out?
There Is Hope
First, understand that there are ways to overcome depression-based demotivation – and depression itself, too. In this article, we’ll introduce several actionable, realistically achievable strategies you can practice right now to lessen your negative feelings. In time, you can fight back against depression and feel natural motivation again. The first step is acknowledging that this is true. There is hope. There is a bright future for you. There is a path forward.
Identify and Acknowledge Your Depression
Next, work to understand where these feelings are coming from. It’s common for people in this position to blame themselves or feel like they’re a failure. But this isn’t usually the case. Depression is an illness, and one capable of distorting your thoughts and feelings in ways you can’t totally control. Just as you wouldn’t blame someone for missing work due to a physical illness, you shouldn’t blame yourself for lapsing on some of your responsibilities because of a mental illness.
Your depression is real. It’s not your fault. And many of your feelings and actions have arisen because of this illness. Obviously, that doesn’t mean you can afford to absolve yourself of responsibility for all your actions, but this context is critically important.
Notice the Feeling Without Dwelling In It
When you feel unable to move, unwilling to take action, or otherwise demotivated because of your depression, practice mindfulness and notice the feeling. Acknowledge that the feeling exists. Try to understand where this feeling is coming from. And resist the temptation to dwell in this feeling. In a way, this is like trying to observe your brain from the perspective of a total outsider; it helps you to separate yourself from your emotions so you can better respond to them.
Be Kind to Yourself
Negative self-talk can make depression worse, so don’t beat yourself up because of something you neglected to do or something you did that you regret. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would give to a dear friend. Forgive yourself and remember all of the positive qualities you have.
Take Pride in Any Activity You Can Muster
You don’t need to set a world record or change the world to make a positive change in your own life. In fact, in the worst cases of depression, even the smallest activities are worth celebrating. When you’re feeling strong enough, set small, easily achievable goals for yourself, and try your best to reach them. These are some of the most important categories of goals to consider:
· Basic tasks. Maybe you don’t feel like getting out of bed, but could you muster the energy to brush your teeth and get a glass of water? Though it may seem small, this is still an accomplishment.
· Physical exercise. Exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress and combat depression, but it’s also incredibly hard to exercise while you’re depressed. Instead of getting a new gym membership, move your body any way you realistically can, even if it’s just walking around the block or stretching in your bedroom.
· Socialization. Depression leads to social isolation, and in turn, further social isolation leads to depression. Reach out to someone close to you for a conversation, even if it’s simple and brief, or warmly introduce yourself to a new stranger.
Gradually Reach for Bigger Goals
As you start accomplishing these small goals, you’ll begin to build more confidence in yourself and more motivation. Use that momentum to gradually reach for bigger goals. You felt motivated enough to brush your teeth, so can you now start taking showers more regularly? Can you start cleaning the house? The exact goals don’t matter; what matters is that you slowly and steadily push yourself.
Seek Professional Help
All these strategies can help you, but some instances of depression are so severe or difficult to manage that they won’t be enough to help you break through. Remain open to seeking professional help in the form of therapy, medication, or both.
Depression can kill your motivation in its entirety, but that doesn’t mean you’re trapped in that terrible place. As long as you’re willing to make at least some tiny effort to improve your life, there will always be a way forward for you.