8 Ways to Find Motivation When You are Depressed | Finding Solutions Counseling Centers

8 Ways to Find Motivation When You are Depressed

Juan Kim, LCSW and Craig Moorman, Ph.D.


Everyone knows what it is like to feel depressed. There will be times where your inner fires are burning lower than usual, and the motivation you once had is not as strong as it was before. When you are depressed, it is like there is a cloud hanging over you, keeping you from achieving anything. You might be angry at the world, or just down in the dumps. This is absolutely normal. You can't feel motivated and energized all the time. However, it feels terrible to stay stuck in such a gloomy place. Luckily there are many ways to find motivation when you need it most.


1. Consider your irreplaceable worth and believe in yourself

NO ONE CAN REPLACE YOU! There is a certain version of goodness that can only come from someone with your specific mind, body, and life experiences.  No one but you can bring forth your particular version of goodness.  This means that it is up to you whether or not to materialize the great things that can only come from you.

For example, consider your well-being: Your effort towards becoming a healthier, stronger, more invigorating, more available, or more capable version of you is a source of potential goodness that no one else can replicate.  Since the person who would be strengthened by such an effort is you, the potential goodness stemming from such strength would display your unique qualities.  Someone else might be able to put effort towards taking care of themselves in a way that shines forth their version of goodness but only you can offer to our world your irreplaceable version. 

Our mutual interdependence as fellow human beings means that all of us have a significant effect on each other.  And when you shine forth your irreplaceable value by manifesting our own version of goodness and beauty, you are prevailing against the negative!

Get your value back. Give yourself positive affirmations daily and notice the value that you bring to others and the world around.  Make efforts to be stronger, to be healthier, to grow, to learn something new, and give yourself value.


2. Avoid Perfectionism in All Things

When we feel hopeless or depressed, it is easy to fall into the nasty trap of perfectionism. However, nitpicking actually feeds on these feelings, making them worse, especially when things are not going well.

Perfectionism is one of the most common mental health issues facing millennials today. People often compare themselves to others or put unrealistic expectations on themselves and their actions, which causes unnecessary stress that leads us down the path of obsessive-compulsive disorder or, even worse, depression.

When we feel down because of our mistakes or inadequacies, it is easy to get caught up in obsessing over them and focusing on the negative aspects of our lives. At times like these, it is important to focus on what is worth working for when feeling this way so that we can push ourselves through these periods without getting so bogged down in negativity.

When perfectionism feels impossible, it can be tempting to stay stuck in negative thoughts that are sapping your energy levels. So, next time the bout of perfectionism attacks again, instead of looking for the ideal, focus on progress - small wins make it easier to build momentum for future success and rebuild your self-confidence.



3. Boost Yourself with Positive Self-Talk

There are many ways to find motivation, but one of the most popular and effective is to use positive self-talk. As humans, we tend to be negative and voice our thoughts in a way that reflects negatively on ourselves.

However, when you find yourself in a slump, it is essential that you try to talk positively about your abilities rather than speaking negatively. You can cultivate your self-talk by repeating phrases that remind you of your strengths, values, and goals.

For example, start the statement with something like "This is hard, but I'm..." Then add a positive word such as "strong," "determined," "smart," "successful," or something else that you think will work better in your case. Repeat the phrase several times with conviction before moving on.

Think about your past accomplishments. Think about how far you have come and how much you have achieved. Remind yourself of all the hard work that has led you to where you are now. Positive self-talk is key here, as it will help boost your motivation for future behavior change.

Self-talk can affect our moods and behavior in important ways. When we are feeling gloomy, we might not want to go out for lunch or even get out of bed. But when you speak positively about your abilities and what you are trying to achieve, it can help motivate yourself into action. 

Keep in mind that this is not a substitute for action, but rather an aid for staying on track even in tough moments of your life.


4. Do Some Exercise

As it turns out, getting physical can help you get motivated in the face of depression.

A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that participants who exercised for two hours a week experienced fewer symptoms of depression than those who did not exercise at all over a six-month period. Moreover, the benefits were sustained for up to six months after the initial intervention period, suggesting that physical activity can be an effective treatment for mild depression.

The thing about exercising is that it can be done anywhere, even at home. You don't have to spend time and money on going to the gym or working out in a park, or slogging away on a treadmill at home. All you need is 10-30 minutes of your time every day and something you enjoy doing - perhaps walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, or dancing!

Exercise has also been shown to be a great way to improve cognitive function, memory, and mood in people who have depression or mild-to-moderate cognitive impairment.


5. Make a To-do List

You will be surprised by how many things you can accomplish before your list fully runs out. Maybe your favorite TV show is not on this week, or maybe the weather outside really is too good to stay inside and work. A to-do list can help you curb any change of motivation. It is just a matter of prioritizing what needs to get done at all costs.

First, start with something small. This will boost your energy. Finishing this small task is the spark for the bigger fire. Now set clear goals. Determine what it is you want to accomplish and how long it will take for you to do so. Schedule each of these goals into your planner or calendar.

Next, break down the steps needed to achieve that goal into smaller milestones and plans out what needs to be done, when, by whom, etc. Lastly, put these steps in order from the beginning of accomplishing one goal all the way through until you have achieved your final aim with a written plan or checklist.

Making a list is an easy way to see what is standing in your way and how far away you are from achieving your goals. But the trick is in sticking with it. Aim for small victories that make achieving your goals easier rather than trying to tackle everything at once.


6. Talk to Someone

People who are depressed tend to isolate themselves because they don't want anyone around them. They feel like no one will understand what they are going through or the challenges they are facing. However, socializing can help with this issue. If you keep yourself occupied and interacting with people, then chances are that you won't feel as lonely anymore and may experience a boost in motivation as well.

So, when you find yourself feeling unmotivated, you can try talking about what is bothering you with other people. Even if they don't have any advice for your specific situation, just talking about what bothers you can help clear your head. It works because it can provide perspective on the subject that you may not have had before and reduce some of that stress.

The research supports this. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study in 2009 that found that people who talked with other people about their problems were less likely to be depressed than those who didn't share their issues and concerns. The same research also found that talking with a friend or family member about your problems could work even better if the listener pushed you on the "why" of your difficulties. 

Plus, having someone listen to your concerns can make it feel less like the world is against you and more like you are working together to find the right solutions.


7. Reward Yourself

We all know that the feeling of accomplishment is a great motivator. But how do we actually get ourselves to work hard to get that feeling? One way is to reward yourself for your accomplishments.

It is important to recognize your achievements throughout the day and treat yourself for your hard work. Give yourself a pat on the back every time you accomplish something by doing something fun or rewarding for you.

Let's take a look at some of the most common ways that people reward themselves:

- Doing something they enjoy, such as watching their favorite TV show or playing a game

- Doing something that makes them feel good about themselves, such as taking a walk or going to the gym

- Buying new clothes for themselves or new decorations for their home

- Having fun with family and friends 

In any situation, be sure to reward yourself at the end of each day with something that can make you feel good again - even if it is just one episode of your favorite TV show or a phone call from a loved one.

Not only will rewarding yourself help inspire you to continue doing the things that make you happy, but it also helps keep you from losing sight of your goals.


8. Just Do It

Sometimes, the best way to get started is simply to jump right in.

There is a common misconception that needs to be eradicated, and it is the idea that you must be motivated before action can happen. However, the truth is quite the opposite - you should take action first before you decide if you really want to do something or not.

Sometimes it takes going through the motions before your desire to pursue something becomes clear. Just understand that you will most likely struggle at first, but don't give up - you will soon see that what seemed like an unending task is surprisingly easy once the right momentum kicks in. If we wait for the right mood or feeling, we will end up waiting forever. Instead, push yourself despite the initial reluctance and see how things turn out at the end of the day.

If you feel like giving up, try setting smaller goals and then working towards them one by one. You might find that by focusing on each individual step, the task becomes easier than you expected and eventually doesn't seem so daunting anymore.

To put it simply, don't wait for motivation to work. Just get started and get it done. It might just give you enough momentum to keep going. The secret to success is not usually found in motivation, but rather in action.


The Bottom Line

When you are depressed, the thought of doing something to change your situation can be overwhelming. It is easy to give up and give in to the thoughts that it can't be done, or that the effort will be pointless.

Thankfully, there are always some actions you can take to give yourself a boost of motivation and inspiration and change the situation for the better.



If you need help with depression or finding motivation, please contact Juan Kim at jkim@findingyoursolution.com or 703-636-2888, ext. 11.

Juan will be glad to get you in the schedule and help you.