It’s hard to get motivated when you are depressed.
When you’re feeling those dark feelings, it’s a challenge to even know where to begin.
Not to worry, I can help you with that.
This article shares various ways to get motivated when you’re depressed. It covers short-term ideas and long-term plans to reduce depression symptoms so that you can feel more enthusiasm and passion for things in your life.
1. Get out of bed and make it.
When you are depressed, you often feel inconsolable fatigue that won’t leave. Staying in bed might be the answer, and sometimes it could be exactly what you need. After all, self-care is good.
However, if you’re struggling to find the motivation to live your life, the first thing to do is get out of bed.
Committing to getting out of bed might feel like something you can’t do. Depression can often leave a person with sleep disturbances which mean they lay awake at night feeling even more tired than before they went to bed. When living with depression, you’re constantly fighting with your own mind, which is tiring.
It’s essential to recognize when your body needs rest and when to push yourself a little harder to get out of bed. Since this article is designed to help you to find motivation when you are depressed, giving yourself that push to get out of bed is essential in this case.
The night before.
It’s important to get a good night’s sleep. It’s important for anyone, but it’s imperative if you’re someone with depression. The previous night’s sleep is what sets the tone for the next day. A night of solid sleep helps a person to maintain a healthy weight and cope with stress better. It also lowers the risk of other serious health concerns and improves a person’s mood.
Getting a healthy sleep is the first step in finding the motivation to get out of bed. So, how can you do that?
- Stick to a healthy sleep schedule and aim for at least 8 hours per night.
- Create a calm and restful bedroom environment.
- Limit daytime naps. Cut them out altogether if possible.
- Notice what you’re eating and drinking before bed – avoid caffeine, too much sugar, alcohol, or other drugs.
The morning after.
Once you’ve got yourself a beautiful eight hours of restful shuteye, use a gentle wake-up alarm to begin your day. On a day when you’re struggling more with the symptoms of depression, this is much nicer than being jolted out of sleep by the traditional BEEP BEEP BEEP alarm that ignites a lousy mood.
Take your time waking up. Maybe slowly open one eyelid at a time, stretch, and gently roll up to a sitting position. Your body will thank you and possibly reward you for your gentle movements. The goal here is not to wake up and rush out of bed and into the day but rather to wake up, be present, and listen to what your body needs.
Once you’re up and out of bed, make your movements slow and purposeful. You don’t need to rush to get dressed but rather purposefully choose your outfit. If you find this is difficult (sometimes I find it overwhelming trying to choose, and then I go into a spiral), choose your clothing the night before. Then, upon getting out of bed, your outfit is waiting for you, ready for your day.
For the long haul.
A side note to help with the long haul of finding motivation when you’re depressed: Create a beautiful morning routine that you love. Maybe it includes music, meditation, yoga, and coffee. This will help you find the motivation to get out of bed.
Maybe your morning routine includes drinking your favorite tea while you sit outside for ten minutes before getting dressed. Anything goes when you’re creating your routine.
The goal here is to create a morning that you actually want to wake up to and participate in. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t already know these things. It takes time. Explore different options and see how you feel during the morning.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few morning routine ideas you can test out and see how they work for you.
- Start your day with a quick walk around the block.
- Try a morning meditation.
- Drink a tall glass of cold lemon water.
- Listen to a morning mood playlist.
- Take a shower.
The second part of the aforementioned tip was to make your bed. That might seem meaningless, but I challenge you to try. Here are a couple reasons why:
- Making your bed will leave you feeling productive. (It’s an instant mood booster!)
- Making your bed will give you a feeling of accomplishment and achievement.
So both making the bed and getting out of it are important, and they’ll help you find motivation when you are depressed. Remember that a good sleep begins the night before. And although making your bed might seem meaningless, it’s not. You’ll feel great when you see you made your bed all nice and neat!
2. Change your clothes.
I recommend getting dressed for the day, but sometimes that takes too much energy, and in those cases, I’d still encourage that you change your clothes. Even if you’re putting on something loose and cozy and sort of pajama-like, still change your clothes.
Changing your clothes each morning also helps to stay on top of your hygiene, which is sometimes challenging if you’re in the thick of depression.
You can even put on your favorite outfit if you like. Whether you’re going out or not, put it on and rock it. Whatever it is. This can be a huge mood booster! If you have the energy, I’d say go all out and do your hair and complete the outfit, but if you lack energy, just put the clothes on. You’ll feel a difference.
For the long haul.
A few pointers for turning this into a daily habit to help maintain your motivation are to set your clothes out the night before, make sure your wardrobe reflects you, and have items that make you feel terrific. Consider visiting your local thrift store if you need to update your wardrobe. You never know what you’ll find!
Getting dressed would be your third victory, by the way. You’ve already gotten up and made your bed. Look at you go! Sometimes you have to focus on the small things to find motivation, and that’s precisely why I’ve written this article.
Depression is an evil mental illness that robs you of energy and the desire to live. These tangible tips will help you stay motivated even on the worst day, though it might take more willpower on those days.
3. Showcase positive messages with sticky notes.
Using sticky notes, spread the love and kindness for yourself. For example, stick a message on your mirror saying, “I’m proud of you for getting out of bed this morning,” and then on the bathroom mirror, you could leave a message saying, “You can do this. Good for you for getting this far.”
There’s nothing wrong with being our own cheerleader; I think we should do it loudly! Telling yourself that you’re fantastic, working hard, and deserving, helps to change your inner narrative—that little voice inside each of us.
When you are depressed, it fuels negative self-talk and self-hatred, and it strips you of any motivation or desire you may have had. Putting up sticky notes in places you see often serves as a little reminder to yourself that you got this. You can do it.
Motivational quotes to inspire:
- “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler
- “You define your own life. Don’t let other people write your script.” – Oprah Winfrey
- “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Aristotle
4. Practice joyful movement.
There are enormous benefits to practicing exercise every day, and if you’re someone with depression, you’ve probably heard the lecture. The stigma of exercise being the fix for depression is undeniably annoying to those who struggle. What I’m suggesting, however, is to practice joyful movement.
Joyful movement is some type of physical movement that brings you joy. It could be a mid-afternoon dance party; a few yoga poses, horseback riding, swimming, anything goes.
The goal is to move the body gently and lovingly, bringing you happiness. If you don’t have anything in mind, consider exploring and looking for some ideas. For example, when you’re feeling depressed, a brisk walk, a fun dance party, or jump rope might cheer you up.
Examples of joyful movement to explore:
- Take your dog for a walk.
- Go shopping.
- Go for a run.
- Go for a hike.
- Try an outdoor yoga class.
- Rent a kayak.
- Try tennis.
5. Get messy gardening.
Gardening is fantastic and is the perfect thing to do when you need motivation. What you do in the garden can vary depending on your energy level. Maybe on certain days, you have a lot of energy so you do some trimming, planting, and weeding, or on other days you simply sit beside your garden admiring your handiwork.
Being in a garden allows you to connect with nature and is a natural stress reliever. It typically brings a peaceful feeling and increases the ability to relax and focus. In addition, planting and taking care of plants is a natural pride boost when you get to watch them grow. Having and maintaining a garden is a great thing to add to your routine. It can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you like.
If you don’t have a garden, see if you can get involved in a community garden or allotment, or even just buy some house plants if you can.
6. Reach out to a support person.
This tip assumes that you have a support person; if you don’t, creating a support network needs to be a priority.
You can text someone if calling might feel out of your grasp. Maintaining a connection with loved ones can be very motivating and helpful when living with depression.
Reaching out to a loved one can look different for everyone. For some, it might be a phone call and visit; for others, it could be a text message or video call. There aren’t any rules to reaching out, but the simple act of doing it and continuously staying in touch with loved ones can help.
What if I have no support people?
I’ve been there; I get it. So, it’s a little harder for you, but not impossible. On better days, search for support groups and a therapist (try BetterHelp.com for online therapy), and take up a hobby that sounds interesting.
For example, if you enjoy playing soccer, you might want to check out an adult drop-in soccer game, or if you like yoga, then maybe check out a yoga class. Spend time on your hobbies, and you’ll find your support people. It might feel uncomfortable, but it’s 100% okay!
7. Set small and attainable goals.
Setting small and attainable goals is a great way to find motivation. When I say small goals, I really mean tiny. For example, brushing your hair or eating breakfast might be a goal. (But, when you’re in the depths of depression, those two things might be too challenging.) Other small goals might be to spend time outside, brush your teeth, read for 10 minutes, and have a healthy snack.
Small goals help you stay focused and on track. It’s a great way to keep motivation flowing from one event to the next. Small goals also decrease procrastination and increase satisfaction in oneself.
Write a list of your small goals so you can make the satisfying check mark upon achieving them! That checkmark is an instant mood boost. It means you did it! You achieved it!
Why do you need to set small goals?
- Small goals are a great confidence booster. Every time you achieve one, you get to make your checkmark and celebrate it.
- Setting small attainable goals is a great tool to help with positive time management skills. This can help ensure that your day is still flowing and not stagnant. When living with depression, the day can feel somewhat never-ending, and with small, attainable goals, you can see how far you’ve come and feel a sense of clarity and purpose.
- Gives visual representation to measure progress. So when depression is telling you that you haven’t done anything today, you can visually prove it wrong.
- Generate motivation through momentum. Once you complete one small goal, you’ll be excited and want to achieve another.
A few examples of small goals when you are depressed:
- Get out of bed.
- Change your clothes.
- Brush your teeth.
- Eat a meal.
- Spend a few minutes outside.
Setting small goals helps you feel like you have a sense of purpose and that you know what you’re supposed to do. It reduces the lost feeling that depression typically brings. This is a terrific way to stay motivated and find motivation when feeling down.
Write your short-term and long-term goals and put them on your fridge or another spot where you can always see them. Then, in a moment of negative thinking, you can refer to this list you’re working through to find motivation.
You’ll likely find joy in the checkmarks and become inspired to continue. You can use a notebook, list, poster, or calendar. You could also write directly on the bathroom mirror. Just make sure you write them down. It will help to keep you focused.
8. Spend time outdoors.
It doesn’t matter the time of day; spending time outdoors is always a good idea. It can lessen anxiety and naturally decrease symptoms of depression.
These mental health benefits can look different for everyone. For example, on a bad depression day, it might simply be stepping outside and feeling the grass on your toes, but on a brighter day, you might want to walk through a forest, enjoy a hike, or spend time by the water.
If you’re facing a dark, heavy depression day, you can experience a lift in your mood by just going outside. First, take time to sit in the grass or stare at the clouds. Then, slow down and see how beautiful everything is. You might be impressed with how motivated you feel.
9. Change the inner narrative.
On a bad depression day, it can feel very heavy. Depression fuels the mind with awful thoughts, and you’re bound to believe it after a certain amount of time. Changing the inner narrative involves consistent work; all you really have to do is challenge the thoughts depression tells you.
So, if depression is saying you’re lazy, ask for evidence. If it’s telling you that your life is meaningless, challenge it—you know that no life is meaningless.
Over time, I think we learn to trust our inner narrative, but it’s not always something to be trusted if you’re living with a mental illness. Some people’s inner narratives can cause them to think and even see terrible things. So, if you’re dealing with bad depression, I would challenge you to talk to yourself like you would if your best friend told you the same thing.
If your best friend came to you and said, “I feel so sad. I have no energy and just want to sleep all the time.” You wouldn’t reply with “Well, that’s because you’re lazy,” right? Of course not. You would provide compassion, warmth, and empathy. You would reassure your best friend that everything will be okay, that you’re there for them, and that you’ll help them figure it out.
Change the inner dialogue you’re having with yourself. When depression is feeding you dark thoughts and you’re riddled with anxiety, tell yourself, “I can make it through this hard moment, just like I’ve made it through every other one.” Change the conversation that is going on in your mind. This takes practice and somewhat of a commitment, so don’t get discouraged. However, I promise it IS possible and worth the effort.
Speak to yourself with kindness and compassion. Love yourself. Tell yourself that you’re doing great. Acknowledge when you’ve achieved your small goals. Talk to yourself like you would your best friend. Spend time believing and showing yourself that you’re worth self-compassion and empathy. Changing how you talk to yourself can help with depression symptoms.
10. Use positive affirmations.
Positive affirmations can be an effective way of coping when you’re feeling down and having a bad depression day.
A positive affirmation is a statement, typically starting with “I am” and then followed by something empowering. It puts you in charge of the internal narrative, and it’s a way to show yourself compassion.
Much like when negative thoughts are repeated, we believe them; when positive affirmations are repeated, we start to internalize their meaning.
How that looks in real life can be different for everyone. Some people might have a series of three or four affirmation statements that they repeat a few times when they are having a hard time finding motivation. Tell yourself: “I am capable of doing this task. I am strong. I can do this.” Affirmations can be so helpful when you’re depressed.
For others, writing out positive affirmations might be more helpful. In that case, a notebook and pen nearby for easy access would be beneficial. Finally, some people find positive affirmations in the form of wall art or on various items such as water bottles or journals. They’re a way to spark motivation and, with continued use, maintain motivation.
Try these affirmations when you’re depressed:
- “I am much more than I think I am.”
- “I have made it this far, and I won’t stop now.”
- “It’s in my head. But, it won’t last forever, and I will come out stronger.”
A few other ways to incorporate affirmations are on sticky notes placed around your environment. This can help you stay motivated and focused. Place one on the bathroom mirror so you can practice speaking to yourself with love and compassion. You can also add a notecard to your nightstand; that way, the loving affirmation will be the last thing you think about before falling asleep.
11. Stick to a routine.
The significance of maintaining a daily routine is enormous, especially if you have depression or any other mood disorder. A routine is great because it tells us what’s coming next. There are fewer things to become anxious about, and it’s easy to understand the expectation.
Having a routine can also make you feel accomplished once you’ve completed it, which is a great feeling to help fight heavy depression symptoms. One thing to consider is ensuring that the routine is achievable and makes sense for you.
If you are not a morning person, scheduling a morning run might not be a great place to start. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Set small goals so that you feel terrific when you crush them. That’s basically what a routine is. A stack of tiny goals one after another in an ordered sequence.
Commit to creating a routine that helps you. We’re all individuals and entirely unique. The routine that works for one might not be the same as what works for another.
Examples of positive things to include in your routine:
- Drinking enough water
- Daily movement
- Getting outside
- Reading through personal development books
- Going to therapy
Long-term strategies to find motivation when depressed.
You can do several things to find motivation when you’re feeling particularly depressed. As I mentioned above, practicing some form of joyful movement, spending time outdoors, and setting small and attainable goals are just a handful.
These things can act as an immediate mood boost and generate a momentum of motivation; hopefully, enough to get you to your next activity.
But what about things that help you get motivated in the longer term? Well, there are plenty of those too. They include:
Don’t overbook yourself.
In the go-go world that we live in, it can be easy to fill our calendars with tasks that we don’t particularly enjoy, and before you know it, we have several miserable days ahead of ourselves. That can trigger depression symptoms and intensify them. So make sure to stay in control of your calendar and what is being put in it. Rather than overbook yourself, I challenge you to leave the room. You can always add something to your day on the fly.
It’s difficult to find motivation if you’re constantly consuming negativity. Negativity can come from people, content, conversations, and more. Be aware of how you feel when you’re with people and when you leave. Notice the accounts you’re following and how you feel when you view their content. Avoid toxicity and negativity. Use the unfollow and mute buttons. It’s not mean. Avoid spending too much time with toxic people (if any at all).
Always be kind to yourself.
Give yourself a day off more frequently. Speak more kindly to yourself when you’re checking out your final outfit. Practice more compassion for yourself. Say kind words to yourself and consistently try to change negative and sabotaging thoughts.
Examine your environment.
Just as the people we spend time with can affect our mental health, so can the environment that we spend time in.
If your home is typically cluttered and messy, it might make you feel anxious and increase the intensity of the depression symptoms. If the environment is loud, it can increase anxiety, and if the walls are too busy, it can also bring negative emotions.
Make sure your environment is a safe space that provides a calm landing spot. Notice the environment’s light, esthetics, textures, scent, and color.
Surround yourself with positivity.
Whether it’s the music you’re listening to, the books you’re reading, or the people you’re hanging out with, be aware of the energy you’re around, because it directly impacts your mood.
Surround yourself with inspiring and motivating things. Read books that open your mind and give you hope. Follow accounts that bring joy to your day and connect you with people who build you up.
You may also like:
- Am I Depressed or Lazy? How To Tell The Difference
- How To Deal With The Inappropriate Guilt Of Depression: 8 Effective Tips!
- How To Care Again When You Just Don’t Care About Anything Anymore
- I’m Depressed, So Why Don’t I Want To Get Better?
- 4 Things To Do When You Don’t Care About Yourself
- Coming Out Of Depression: How To Bounce Back Using 10 Simple Tips
- Existential Depression: How To Defeat Your Feelings Of Meaninglessness