Depression is a common mental disorder. It’s estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or about 6.7 percent, experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2016.
Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe. They can be chronic, or they can occur as one-time episodes caused by traumatic life events such as a death or illness in the family, the ending of a marriage, or financial difficulty.
Symptoms of depression include:
- reduced interest in activities that are normally pleasurable
- insomnia or increased need for sleep
- lack of appetite or an increased need to eat, leading to either weight loss or gain
- restlessness, irritability, or lack of energy and fatigue
- trouble concentrating and attending to usual tasks
- poor self-image
- suicidal thoughts
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should seek help right away. Contact your doctor or call 911.
Set small, manageable goals.
If the thought of doing anything seems overwhelming, start small. Set small, manageable goals. As you meet these goals, you can start adding more on top of them until you ultimately achieve all of your goals. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
1. Get out of bed and out of pajamas
The simple act of getting up is a good first victory of the day. Leave a few sticky notes with positive affirmations where you can see them, such as: “Yes, you can do it,” “Every long journey starts with one step,” or “Never give up!” Your brain digests whatever thoughts you create, so feed it positive ones.
2. Go for a walk
Exercise helps your body release endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Exercising for at least 35 minutes a day, five days a week, can improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. It may also help treat more severe forms of depression.
In another study, four weeks of aerobic training were found to improve symptoms of depression.
3. Get your hands dirty to get a mood lift
According to a study with mice, a certain type of bacteria found in dirt (Mycobacterium vaccae) may enhance the production of serotonin. Serotonin in turn helps decrease the symptoms of depression.
Bacteria found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, can also enhance moods by reducing anxiety and potentially improving symptoms of depression.
4. Don’t overschedule
Congratulate yourself for every task or goal you complete, no matter how small.
If you can only accomplish one or two tasks, that’s fine. Congratulate yourself for every task or goal you complete, no matter how small. That will help improve your confidence and sense of motivation.
5. Avoid negativity
Your brain digests whatever thoughts you create, so feed it positive ones.
Reading the news or surfing the internet, talking to people who leave you feeling drained and negative, or revisiting sad topics —these activities can all have an impact on your mood and motivation. Instead, focus on feelings of gratitude. Read uplifting content and surround yourself with positive people.
6. Stick to a routine
The sense of having accomplished daily tasks will promote a sense of well-being.
Write down your routine, stick it on the wall or somewhere you will see it, and use check marks when you’ve completed tasks. The sense of having accomplished daily tasks will promote a sense of well-being and inspire you to aim higher each day.
You could also keep a journal as part of your routine. Journals are a good place to dispose of negative thoughts and make room for the positive.
Choose positive relationships, encourage people to socialize with you when you feel up for it, and give volunteering a chance. Helping someone in need will improve your mood and increase your motivation to get out of bed the next day.
8. Create a support network
Have a support network on standby for when your motivation runs out and you feel overwhelmed. Choose people you feel comfortable talking to and who can help provide encouragement.
9. Get enough sleep
Depression can be physically draining. Sleeping too much or too little affects your mood. Aim for eight hours a day.
Lack of motivation is a symptom of depression, but it may be caused by something else. For example, you may lack motivation if you’re having difficulties coping with an issue in your life or experiencing something that affects your self-confidence.
If depression is responsible for your lack of motivation, you may find that your level of motivation is directly related to how depressed you’re feeling. If you or a loved one is feeling a lack of motivation due to depression, there are ways to help improve the situation.
It may seem hard at first, but persistence will help feed the growing sense of motivation, and you will find that over time it becomes easier to get up and do things.
If your mood and motivation don’t improve, talk to your doctor. If you’re already taking medication, your doctor may reassess your treatment.
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)
- tricyclic antidepressants
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Some antidepressants might increase your risk of suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 right away and get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.
- If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- • Stay with the person until help arrives.
- • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
- If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, you may have difficulty feeling motivated. Psychotherapy and medication may help. You can also practice some self-help techniques:
- Celebrate small victories.
- Do your best to think positively.
- Establish routines — they can help you feel motivated.
- Take things one step at a time, and don’t try to do more than you’re able to.
If your lack of motivation is affecting your daily life and your attempts to increase your motivation haven’t worked, contact your doctor. They are there to help.