A woman, hand on brow, in a ray of morning light, captures the struggle of finding motivation when you're depressed.

10 Tips for Finding Motivation When You’re Depressed

by | Jan 17, 2024 | Blog

We all feel unmotivated from time to time, but if it’s happening on a daily basis it can be a struggle to live your life and achieve personal goals. Even the simplest tasks can feel like major hurdles, and as much as you may want to feel motivated, it can be difficult to find the energy to do anything. Over time, motivation can start to feel unattainable and elusive.

If you find it difficult to feel motivated when you’re depressed, know that you’re not alone. More than 21 million adults in the United States – that’s around 8% of the population – experience depression. With low motivation being one of the most common depression symptoms, it’s safe to say that many of these people are sharing the same struggles. 

Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to restore your motivation when you have depression. In this article, we’ll share what low motivation feels like and 10 tips to help you find motivation when you’re depressed. 

What is low motivation?

Low motivation refers to the lack of interest, energy, and enthusiasm for activities that you once enjoyed or found easy to complete. 

Symptoms of low motivation can include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by simple tasks: Small tasks like washing the dishes or styling your hair can feel like an enormous effort. 
  • Indifference towards goals: You might lose interest in setting goals or achieving great things in your life. 
  • Difficulty making decisions: It can be hard to make decisions, no matter how big or small, and you might not understand what it is you actually want. 
    • Procrastination: While everyone procrastinates from time to time, you might find yourself delaying essential tasks constantly, making it difficult to carry on with everyday life. 
  • Poor physical health: In the long term, low motivation can affect your physical health due to unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and other choices that stem from an inability to take action. 

Depression and motivation are closely connected, however, there are other reasons why someone might not feel motivated. For example, people tend to lose motivation when they’re under a lot of stress or have low self-esteem. 

If you’re experiencing low motivation levels, it can be helpful to recognize the difference between the normal ebb and flow of motivation versus the persistent lack of drive that comes with depression motivation. This can help you find the right support and recovery strategies.

10 tips to get motivated when you’re depressed 

If you believe your low motivation is linked with depression, know that there is a way out. There are various treatments available and simple steps you can take to both increase your motivation and ease depressive symptoms. 

The best starting point is to speak to a licensed mental health professional who can create a customized treatment plan tailored specifically to you and your symptoms. With expert care, you can try different approaches to find the best strategy for you and what you’re experiencing, whether that’s medication, TMS therapy, or self-care practices.

Not ready to speak to an expert? If that option isn’t for you, there are still many things you can try right now to restore your motivation. Below, we explore ten tips for finding motivation when you’re depressed. You can even start some of these today!

1. Get up and ready for your day

When you experience depression, it can be a struggle just to get out of bed. Starting your morning by getting up and ready – even if it’s just changing into clean clothes or brushing your teeth – can help set a positive tone for the rest of the day. You’ve gotten moving, you’re feeling fresh, and that’s already a step forward from where you were before.

Think it sounds a little too simple? Remember, finding motivation isn’t about tackling huge tasks. It’s about slowly building a sense of accomplishment by acknowledging all of your small victories throughout the day. The simple act of getting up and ready can signal to your mind that you’re taking steps forward, no matter how small they might seem. Recognizing the accomplishment for what it feels rewarding can encourage you to slowly achieve more each day. 

2. Turn big tasks into lots of small tasks

The idea of finishing a big task can feel overwhelming when you lack motivation. You can struggle to know where to start and the result can feel like miles away. So you decide to put it off, over and over again. 

To get through this feeling, try breaking big tasks down into smaller, manageable steps that feel easier to accomplish. Start by focusing on the first small task only. Once that’s done, you can look at the second, third, and so on. It’s like putting together a puzzle: put down one piece at a time and eventually, you’ll have completed the bigger picture.  

Let’s say you want to find a new job, for example. It can feel impossible to imagine yourself in a new role and so you don’t know where to begin. Try breaking that big goal down into smaller pieces: 

  • Write your resume
  • Speak to a recruiter
  • Look for vacancies
  • Apply for 1-2 positions a day
  • Follow up on an application. 

Focus on just one step at a time and celebrate each accomplishment as you go. Doing this can make big tasks feel less daunting while also creating a sense of progress that boosts motivation. 

3. Take short walks 

Never underestimate the power of movement, even in small doses! Taking short walks is an excellent way to boost your mood and energy and restore lost motivation. Whether you want to walk around your neighborhood, in a park, or just around your home, it doesn’t matter. The goal is to simply walk. 

While walking, focus on connecting with your body and the world around you. Listen to the sounds and feel each step you’re taking. Try not to focus on speed or duration and just be in the moment. You can start with a short five-minute walk, and if you feel like continuing, then go for it!  

4.  Create a daily routine

Two common struggles for people living with depression are forgetting to do important daily tasks and not knowing which activities to focus their attention on. This can make it difficult to know where to start, leading to decreased motivation. To help you know where to focus your efforts, consider creating a daily routine that you can follow. This removes the guesswork and mental energy required to make these decisions as you go, while also creating a comforting sense of predictability that can be helpful during periods of low motivation. 

It’s important to keep your daily routine simple and achievable. You can include everything from waking up in the morning to getting dressed, making your bed, eating breakfast, and any other tasks you need to complete that day. Note down your essential tasks but keep the structure loose to allow for flexibility. 

Once you’re finished, write your list down in a journal or a post-it note and cross off each task as you complete it. At the end of the day, you can look back at the tasks you finished and feel a sense of accomplishment. This can give you a real motivation boost and you might even try to complete even more tasks the next day! 

5. Don’t overschedule

While having a daily routine can be helpful, be mindful not to overload yourself with tasks. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in one day and try not to set yourself too many goals. Doing so will only increase feelings of overwhelm, reduce motivation further, and make it even harder to get going.

Instead, try to prioritize just one or two essential tasks each day and allow yourself the flexibility to take breaks when you need to. After you finish a task, congratulate yourself and acknowledge your accomplishment, no matter how small it might seem. This can give you a confidence boost and help build your motivation in the long run. 

Remember, feeling motivated can be hard when you have depression. Every task you complete is an achievement and should be seen as such. 

6. Reward yourself 

When you’re writing down your goals and daily task lists, make sure to include a reward for each item you cross off your list. These rewards don’t have to be anything major, but they should still be something to look forward to. Think of things like: 

  • Making a cup of coffee
  • Eating a yummy snack
  • Watching an episode of a show you like
  • Taking a relaxing bath
  • Checking the messages on your phone
  • Playing with your pet. 

Giving yourself rewards, even for finishing basic everyday tasks, can be huge for boosting motivation. You’ll have something to look forward to, making it easier to get started on a task, and you’ll also give yourself a chance to celebrate your wins. 

7. Be kind to yourself 

Having self-compassion and being kind to yourself is important when trying to find motivation. While it can be easy to have negative feelings about yourself when you’re depressed, this can be physically draining and lead to reduced motivation, low self-worth, and anxiety.

So: remember to be kind to yourself. Even if you don’t finish the tasks you intended to do in a day. Even if you didn’t get out of bed in the morning. Even if you didn’t cross off a single item on your list. Try to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you’d offer a friend facing similar struggles. 

The way you speak to yourself in your mind can make all the difference in either fuelling your motivation or feeling too afraid to set goals in case you don’t meet them. 

8. Go outdoors 

Being out in nature, even if it’s just sitting in your backyard, can offer a change of scenery and perspective that revives motivation. In fact, being in the sun for as little as 20 minutes has been proven to boost a person’s mood and overall well-being. With a little time outside, you can re-enter your space feeling inspired and ready to take on whatever tasks need doing. 

If you’re drawn to the power of the outdoors, why not try another proven mood-booster – gardening? Research shows that contact with soil and soil bacteria can trigger the release of serotonin, giving your brain a much-needed boost. On top of that, gardening – even if it’s just pulling weeds – can make you feel productive and increase your motivation to complete other tasks. 

9. Avoid negativity 

With news and social media available at the click of a button, it can be easy to find yourself scrolling through content that brings on negative thoughts. Whether that’s reading depressing news or talking to people who make you feel drained, being exposed to negativity can impact your mood and motivation. Without knowing why, you might find yourself feeling low energy and down. 

Try to be mindful of the content you consume and pay attention to the things that make you feel bad. Do your best to limit your exposure to these things, or if you can, cut them out completely. Instead, try to surround yourself with uplifting news, inspiring content, and positive relationships that put you in a good mood.  

10. Find a support network

Finally, seeking support when you’re experiencing depression and low motivation can be a helpful way to guide yourself back to a place of energy and enthusiasm. Whether it’s friends, family, or a licensed professional, sharing your struggles and receiving guidance can be transformative. 

A professional who understands mental illness can provide you with expert advice, therapies, or medication that eases your particular symptoms. It’s also worth finding a group of friends or family members who you can rely on when your therapist isn’t available. Try to choose positive people who are good listeners and you feel comfortable around. 

Next steps

Most of us will experience lack of motivation from time to time, but when it’s coupled with depression we can feel stuck and unable to move forward in our lives. If you’re struggling to find the energy for daily tasks, know that you’re not alone and help is available.

Depression is highly treatable and there are various depression treatment options available, including medication and TMS therapy. Not every treatment will work for every person, so it’s important to speak to a licensed professional who can find the right treatment for you and your symptoms.  

If you’re ready to get help for depression and start finding motivation again, we offer in-person mental health services in Colorado and Oregon, as well as telehealth services online. Contact us to learn more and schedule an appointment online.