Overcoming Depression and Low Motivation

Depressed woman

Depression and low motivation often go hand-in-hand. When you’re depressed, it can seem impossible to find the drive to do much of anything. Even simple tasks like getting out of bed, showering, and making yourself a meal require a significant amount of mental effort that you just don’t have. However, there are some strategies and mindset shifts that can help get you moving again, even in the face of lingering depressed feelings or lack of motivation.

Accept What You’re Experiencing

The first step to overcoming depression and motivation issues is to accept where you’re at. Don’t judge yourself or feel guilty for struggling with basic things. Depression is a real illness that makes it physically hard to complete tasks, no matter how small they seem. Tell yourself “This is temporary. I accept where I’m at right now, and know that with self-care I will improve in time.”

Set Small, Achievable Goals

When setting goals with depression or low motivation, keep them very small to start. Goals like “clean the whole house” or “work out for an hour” are unrealistic and will just set you up for failure. Instead, try something like “take a shower today,” “eat one healthy meal,” or “go for a 10-minute walk.” As you achieve these small wins, it will help you feel more motivated to keep moving forward one step at a time.

List Your Tasks

Depression and lack of motivation can make it very hard to keep track of basic daily tasks. Make lists and reminders for key things you want to get done that day. This could include showering, eating meals, taking medication, exercising for 10 minutes, etc. Checking things off your list as you go will give you a sense of accomplishment and order amidst the depressive chaos.

Try The 5-Minute Trick

The five minute trick is perfect for when you feel totally unable to start or complete a task. Simply set a timer for 5 minutes and work on the task just for those 5 minutes. Chances are that once you get started, you’ll keep going past the timer. And even if you don’t, at least you did something positive for 5 whole minutes! Accomplishing small chunks at a time will boost motivation gradually.

Rewards And Accountability

It can be immensely helpful to build in rewards and accountability while working through depression. After completing a daily goal or task, give yourself a small treat like a piece of chocolate, a favorite TV episode, or quality time with a pet. Having someone check in on your progress daily can also keep you focused when inner motivation is low. Sharing both your successes and struggles with trusted friends and family makes the journey much more manageable.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Above all, the path out of depression and low motivation must be paved with self-compassion. Some days you’ll have lots of energy and get everything done on your list. Other days just getting out of bed will feel like an achievement. Appreciate whatever you manage to do, rather than judging yourself for what you didn’t. With consistent yet gentle effort, the motivation will return, bit by bit. Celebrate every small step forward.

Practicing Mindfulness

Living with depression can feel like being stuck in a never-ending storm of negativity and sadness. Practicing mindfulness can provide a break in the clouds and allow rays of light to shine through. Mindfulness is the simple act of bringing non-judgmental awareness to your moment-by-moment experience. Rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, you intentionally bring your focus to the present.

Try incorporating basic mindfulness practices like paying attention to your breathing, going on mindful walks to observe nature without analysis, or doing body scans to check in with physical sensations. Yoga and meditation also cultivate mindfulness. The goal isn’t to suddenly feel joyful and serene, it’s to notice and accept however you’re feeling in each passing moment. This short circuits the endless rumination and self-criticism that often accompany depression. Start with just 5-10 minutes per day. Consistency matters more than quantity.

Reaching Out For Support

Part of depression’s cruel nature is how isolating it can become. You withdraw from friends and family, they often don’t know how to help, and before you know it you feel completely alone. Making an effort to stay connected and also explicitly asking for support prevents this downward spiral. Let people know what you’re going through instead of hiding it. Whether you need someone to listen without judgement, keep you accountable to meet up, or help with basic tasks when motivation runs low, don’t be afraid to request assistance.

You may need to clearly spell out how friends and family can support you best. And know that some may still struggle to fully understand depression. In those cases, finding communities who’ve dealt with similar issues can provide solidarity and compassion. Consider joining local support groups, looking into peer counseling, or connecting with others recovering from mental health challenges online. There are always people willing to lift you up.

Celebrating Small Victories

When in the trenches of depression, progress can feel non-existent. Focus narrows to an endless slog through darkness and tasks that once seemed minor now require Herculean effort. That’s why consciously keeping track of small victories and milestones matters tremendously. Write down or share with loved ones any tiny step forward, no matter how trivial it may appear. Showered for the first time in a week? That’s worth genuinely celebrating. Got out of bed before noon? Drank a smoothie to nourish your body? Left the house even briefly? Log it as important progress.

Accumulating these small wins provides tangible proof you can make positive strides. Look back on the list when you feel especially hopeless. It offers visible evidence that though the road is long, you are indeed still plodding along. Reward yourself periodically for achieving a certain number of mini-milestones. Slowly but surely, you’ll find the light ahead glowing brighter.

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