9 Strategies for Boosting Motivation When You’re Depressed

Set small, manageable goals

Setting small, manageable goals is a crucial first step in boosting motivation, especially when dealing with depression. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or lacking motivation, even the simplest tasks can seem insurmountable. By breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable goals, you make them feel less daunting and more achievable.

Research suggests that setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals can significantly increase motivation and productivity. Instead of setting a vague goal like “get in shape,” break it down into smaller, concrete objectives such as “go for a 20-minute walk three times a week” or “cook a healthy dinner tonight.

These smaller goals not only provide a sense of accomplishment but also help build momentum. Each time you achieve a goal, no matter how small, you reinforce a sense of progress and competence, which can be especially beneficial when struggling with depression.

Additionally, setting small goals allows you to focus on what you can control in the present moment, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the future or past. This sense of agency can help counteract feelings of helplessness often associated with depression.

Furthermore, breaking tasks into smaller steps can make them more manageable during periods of low energy or motivation. Instead of feeling paralyzed by the enormity of a task, you can focus on completing one small step at a time, gradually building momentum and confidence.

Overall, setting small, manageable goals is a powerful strategy for boosting motivation when you’re depressed. It provides a roadmap for progress, fosters a sense of accomplishment, and empowers you to take control of your actions and mindset.

Get out of bed and out of pajamas

Getting out of bed and out of pajamas might seem like small, insignificant tasks, but they can have a significant impact on your motivation and overall well-being, especially when you’re struggling with depression.

When you’re feeling depressed, it’s not uncommon to want to stay in bed all day, withdrawing from the world and avoiding responsibilities. However, giving in to this urge can perpetuate feelings of lethargy, hopelessness, and isolation.

Getting out of bed signals to your brain that it’s time to start the day and engage with the world around you. It can help disrupt negative thought patterns and create a sense of momentum, setting the stage for a more productive and fulfilling day.

Similarly, changing out of your pajamas and into regular clothes can have a powerful psychological effect. Pajamas are often associated with relaxation and sleep, so staying in them all day can reinforce a passive, lethargic mindset. Putting on real clothes, even if they’re just casual and comfortable, can signal to your brain that it’s time to be active and engaged.

Additionally, getting dressed can improve your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. When you take the time to groom yourself and put on clean clothes, you’re sending yourself the message that you deserve care and attention, which can help combat feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem often experienced during depression.

Getting out of bed and out of pajamas doesn’t have to be a monumental task. Start by setting a simple goal, such as getting out of bed at a specific time each morning and changing into fresh clothes. Celebrate each small victory and gradually build upon them over time.

By making these small changes to your daily routine, you can begin to break free from the grip of depression, regain a sense of control over your life, and start moving forward with renewed motivation and purpose.

Go for a walk

Going for a walk might seem like a simple activity, but it can be incredibly beneficial for boosting motivation, especially when you’re struggling with depression.

Physical activity, such as walking, has been shown to have numerous positive effects on mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. This can lead to an immediate improvement in mood and overall well-being, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Walking also provides an opportunity to get out of the house and into nature, which can have additional therapeutic benefits. Spending time outdoors has been linked to reduced stress levels, improved mood, and increased feelings of vitality and energy. The simple act of being surrounded by nature and breathing in fresh air can help clear your mind and lift your spirits.

Moreover, going for a walk allows you to engage in a low-pressure, low-stakes activity that requires minimal effort and planning. Unlike more intense forms of exercise, such as going to the gym or participating in a workout class, walking is accessible to almost everyone and doesn’t require any special equipment or skills.

Additionally, walking can serve as a form of mindfulness practice, allowing you to be fully present in the moment and focus on the sights, sounds, and sensations around you. This can help quiet the mind, reduce rumination, and promote a sense of calm and clarity.

If the thought of going for a walk feels overwhelming, start small. Set a realistic goal, such as walking around the block or to a nearby park. Break the activity down into smaller steps if needed, and celebrate each milestone along the way.

Even a short walk can have a powerful impact on your mood and motivation, so don’t underestimate the power of this simple yet effective strategy for boosting motivation when you’re depressed.

Immerse yourself in nature

Immersing yourself in nature can be a powerful strategy for boosting motivation when you’re feeling depressed. Spending time outdoors surrounded by the beauty of the natural world can have numerous mental health benefits and help alleviate symptoms of depression.

Research has shown that exposure to nature can have a calming effect on the mind and body, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation. Natural environments, such as parks, forests, beaches, and mountains, offer a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, allowing you to escape from the pressures and stressors that may be contributing to your depression.

Moreover, being in nature can stimulate the senses and evoke a sense of wonder and awe, which can help shift your perspective and elevate your mood. The sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors can awaken your senses and bring you into the present moment, allowing you to let go of negative thoughts and worries and focus on the beauty and tranquility of the natural world.

Engaging in activities such as hiking, birdwatching, gardening, or simply sitting quietly and observing your surroundings can all provide opportunities to connect with nature and reap its therapeutic benefits. Even if you live in a busy urban area, finding a local park or green space where you can spend time outdoors can still have a positive impact on your mood and well-being.

Additionally, immersing yourself in nature can help foster a sense of connection and belonging. Many people find solace and comfort in the natural world, feeling a deep sense of awe and reverence for its beauty and complexity. This sense of connection to something larger than yourself can provide a source of inspiration and motivation, helping you to overcome feelings of isolation and despair.

Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through a park, a hike in the mountains, or a day spent at the beach, taking the time to immerse yourself in nature can be a powerful antidote to depression. So, the next time you’re feeling down, consider stepping outside and letting the healing power of nature work its magic.

Don’t overschedule

When you’re struggling with depression, it’s essential to be mindful of your schedule and avoid overscheduling yourself. While staying busy may seem like a good way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and emotions, overcommitting can actually exacerbate feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, ultimately leading to a decrease in motivation.

Overscheduling can leave you feeling exhausted and depleted, making it even more challenging to find the energy and motivation to engage in activities that are important to you. It can also lead to feelings of guilt and self-criticism if you’re unable to keep up with your commitments, further contributing to a sense of inadequacy and hopelessness.

Instead of trying to cram as much as possible into your schedule, prioritize activities that are essential for your well-being and bring you joy and fulfillment. Focus on quality over quantity, and be realistic about what you can reasonably accomplish in a given day or week.

It’s okay to say no to additional commitments or obligations if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if they don’t align with your priorities and values. Setting boundaries and protecting your time and energy is essential for preserving your mental health and preventing burnout.

Instead of filling every moment of your day with activities, allow yourself time for rest, relaxation, and self-care. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and decompress, and don’t underestimate the importance of downtime for your overall well-being.

By avoiding overscheduling and prioritizing self-care, you can preserve your energy and motivation, making it easier to stay engaged and motivated in the activities that matter most to you. Remember that it’s okay to take things slow and pace yourself, especially when you’re struggling with depression. Your well-being should always come first.

Avoid negativity

Avoiding negativity is crucial for maintaining motivation, particularly when you’re battling depression. Negative thoughts, attitudes, and influences can drain your energy and erode your sense of optimism, making it difficult to stay motivated and focused on your goals.

One of the most effective ways to avoid negativity is to limit your exposure to negative people, environments, and media. Surround yourself with positive influences that uplift and inspire you, whether it’s supportive friends and family members, motivational books and podcasts, or uplifting music and movies.

Be mindful of the content you consume, especially on social media and news websites. Consider unfollowing or muting accounts that consistently post negative or triggering content, and be selective about the news stories you choose to read or watch. While it’s essential to stay informed about current events, consuming too much negative news can take a toll on your mental health and well-being.

In addition to limiting external sources of negativity, it’s essential to cultivate a positive mindset and attitude. Practice gratitude and focus on the things in your life that you’re thankful for, no matter how small. Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive and empowering beliefs.

Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you, and avoid those who bring you down or undermine your confidence. Set boundaries with negative individuals, and don’t be afraid to distance yourself from toxic relationships that are draining your energy and happiness.

Finally, prioritize self-care and activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Engage in hobbies and interests that make you feel good about yourself, and spend time with people who uplift and inspire you. Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is essential for maintaining motivation and resilience, especially when you’re facing challenges like depression.

By avoiding negativity and cultivating a positive mindset, you can protect your motivation and well-being, even in the face of adversity. Remember that you have the power to choose the influences and attitudes that shape your outlook on life, so choose wisely and prioritize what brings you joy and fulfillment.

Stick to a routine

Sticking to a routine can be a powerful tool for boosting motivation, especially when you’re struggling with depression. Establishing and maintaining a daily schedule provides structure, stability, and predictability, which can help counteract feelings of chaos, overwhelm, and indecision.

When you’re depressed, even simple tasks like getting out of bed or preparing a meal can feel overwhelming. Having a routine in place can make these tasks feel more manageable by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps and providing a sense of order and stability.

A routine can also help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, which is often disrupted by depression. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can improve the quality and duration of your sleep, leading to increased energy, focus, and overall well-being.

Moreover, sticking to a routine can help you stay on track with your goals and responsibilities, even when you’re feeling unmotivated or fatigued. By scheduling specific times for work, exercise, self-care, and leisure activities, you ensure that these important tasks don’t fall by the wayside, even on days when you’re struggling.

When establishing a routine, it’s essential to be realistic and flexible. Start by identifying your priorities and setting aside time for activities that are important to you, such as work, exercise, self-care, and time with loved ones. Be sure to build in breaks and downtime to rest and recharge, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re unable to stick to your schedule perfectly.

It’s also essential to listen to your body and mind and adjust your routine as needed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, don’t be afraid to scale back on your commitments or delegate tasks to others. Remember that self-care is essential for maintaining your overall well-being, so be sure to prioritize activities that nourish and replenish you.

By sticking to a routine, you can create a sense of stability and predictability in your life, which can help alleviate symptoms of depression and boost motivation. Whether it’s starting your day with a morning meditation, taking regular breaks throughout the day to stretch and move your body, or winding down with a relaxing bedtime routine, find a schedule that works for you and stick to it as best you can.

Socialize

Socializing is often one of the last things you might feel like doing when you’re depressed, but it’s also one of the most important strategies for boosting motivation and improving your mood.

Human connection is essential for our mental health and well-being. Spending time with friends, family, and other supportive individuals can provide a sense of belonging, validation, and comfort, helping to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation that often accompany depression.

When you’re feeling depressed, it’s common to withdraw from social interactions and isolate yourself from others. However, this can exacerbate feelings of depression and make it even more challenging to find motivation to engage in activities that you once enjoyed.

Making an effort to socialize, even when you don’t feel like it, can help break the cycle of isolation and provide a much-needed boost to your mood and motivation. Start by reaching out to a trusted friend or family member and scheduling a time to connect, whether it’s for a coffee date, a phone call, or a walk in the park.

If the thought of socializing feels overwhelming, consider starting small. Invite a friend over for a low-key hangout at your place, or join a support group or community organization where you can connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Even if you’re not feeling up to socializing in person, there are still plenty of ways to stay connected with others. Reach out to friends and family members via phone, text, or video chat, or participate in online forums and support groups where you can connect with others who share similar experiences.

Remember that socializing doesn’t have to be a big production or involve elaborate plans. The simple act of spending time with others, sharing a laugh, or offering and receiving support can have a profound impact on your mood and motivation, helping you feel more connected, supported, and understood.

So, the next time you’re feeling depressed and lacking motivation, consider reaching out to a friend or loved one and making plans to connect. You may be surprised at how much better you feel after spending time with someone who cares about you.

Create a support network

Creating a support network is a vital strategy for boosting motivation and coping with depression. Building a strong support system of friends, family, and other trusted individuals can provide invaluable emotional support, encouragement, and practical assistance during difficult times.

Start by identifying people in your life whom you trust and feel comfortable confiding in. This might include close friends, family members, colleagues, or mental health professionals. Reach out to these individuals and let them know that you’re struggling with depression and could use their support. Most people will be more than willing to help in any way they can.

In addition to seeking support from existing relationships, consider joining a support group or community organization for individuals with depression or other mental health challenges. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where you can share your experiences, learn from others, and receive encouragement and validation from people who understand what you’re going through.

When building your support network, it’s essential to be proactive and intentional about nurturing these relationships. Make an effort to stay in touch with friends and family members, even if it’s just a quick check-in via text or phone call. Be open and honest about your feelings and needs, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

It’s also important to remember that support can come in many forms. While emotional support is essential, practical assistance can also be incredibly helpful, especially when you’re struggling with depression. Don’t hesitate to ask for help with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, or household chores if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Finally, don’t forget to support yourself as well. Practice self-compassion and self-care, and be gentle with yourself on bad days. Set boundaries with negative influences and prioritize activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Taking care of yourself is essential for maintaining your overall well-being and resilience, so be sure to make it a priority.

By creating a strong support network and leaning on others for help and encouragement, you can boost your motivation and resilience, even in the face of depression. Remember that you’re not alone, and there are people who care about you and want to help you through this difficult time.

Improve your gut health

Improving your gut health is an emerging area of research that shows promising connections to mental well-being, including mood and motivation. The gut, often referred to as the “second brain,” plays a crucial role in producing neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are closely linked to mood regulation.

When your gut microbiome is out of balance, it can negatively impact your mental health, contributing to symptoms of depression and low motivation. Therefore, taking steps to improve your gut health may help alleviate these symptoms and boost your overall well-being.

One way to improve gut health is by consuming a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods. These foods nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi can also help support a diverse and resilient gut microbiome.

In addition to dietary changes, managing stress is crucial for gut health and mental well-being. Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut and impair gut function, leading to inflammation and other negative effects. Practicing stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can help support a healthy gut and improve mood and motivation.

Regular exercise is another important factor in maintaining gut health and supporting mental well-being. Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on gut microbiota composition, reducing inflammation and promoting a healthy gut-brain axis. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week to reap these benefits.

Finally, getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential for both gut health and mental health. Poor sleep quality or insufficient sleep can disrupt gut microbiota balance and exacerbate symptoms of depression and low motivation. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night and practice good sleep hygiene habits to support a healthy gut and overall well-being.

Improving your gut health through diet, stress management, exercise, and sleep can have a profound impact on your mood, motivation, and overall quality of life. By taking proactive steps to support your gut microbiome, you can help alleviate symptoms of depression and boost your resilience and motivation to overcome challenges.

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining motivation, especially when you’re dealing with depression. Sleep plays a vital role in regulating mood, cognitive function, and overall well-being, so prioritizing quality sleep is essential for managing symptoms of depression and boosting motivation.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain doesn’t function optimally, leading to decreased focus, attention, and memory. This can make it difficult to stay motivated and engaged in tasks, leading to feelings of frustration and discouragement.

Moreover, sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on mood regulation, increasing the risk of developing symptoms of depression and exacerbating existing mental health conditions. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings, and emotional instability, making it even more challenging to stay motivated and positive.

To ensure you’re getting enough sleep, aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule, where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This might include activities like reading, taking a warm bath, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, or listening to soothing music.

Avoid stimulating activities, such as watching TV or using electronic devices, close to bedtime, as these can interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, opt for calming activities that promote relaxation and restful sleep.

Create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, and investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, as these substances can disrupt sleep patterns and interfere with sleep quality.

If you’re struggling with insomnia or other sleep-related issues, consider speaking with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and support. Addressing sleep problems can have a significant impact on your mood, motivation, and overall quality of life, so prioritize getting the rest you need to thrive.

When to seek help

Knowing when to seek help is crucial, especially when you’re struggling with depression and experiencing difficulty maintaining motivation. While self-care strategies and lifestyle changes can be helpful, they may not always be sufficient to address the underlying issues contributing to your symptoms. Here are some signs that it may be time to seek professional help:

  1. Persistent Symptoms: If your symptoms of depression, such as low mood, lack of motivation, changes in sleep or appetite, and feelings of hopelessness, persist for more than a few weeks and significantly interfere with your daily functioning, it’s essential to seek help.
  2. Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors: If you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s crucial to seek immediate help from a mental health professional, emergency services, or a trusted individual. Never ignore or minimize these thoughts, as they require urgent attention and support.
  3. Difficulty Coping: If you’re having difficulty coping with the challenges of daily life, such as work or school obligations, relationships, or self-care tasks, it may be beneficial to speak with a therapist or counselor who can provide guidance and support.
  4. Impact on Relationships: If your symptoms of depression are affecting your relationships with friends, family members, or colleagues, and you’re finding it challenging to maintain meaningful connections or fulfill social obligations, it may be time to seek help.
  5. Decline in Physical Health: Depression can have a significant impact on physical health, leading to changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and other physical symptoms. If you’re experiencing a decline in physical health or have concerns about your well-being, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional.
  6. Substance Use: If you’re using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with your symptoms of depression or if you’re experiencing difficulties with substance abuse or addiction, it’s crucial to seek help from a qualified professional who can provide specialized treatment and support.
  7. Lack of Improvement: If you’ve been trying self-help strategies or lifestyle changes to improve your mood and motivation, but you’re not seeing any significant improvement in your symptoms, it may be time to consider seeking professional help.

Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. A mental health professional, such as a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist, can provide you with the support, guidance, and resources you need to overcome depression and regain a sense of motivation and well-being. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re struggling – you don’t have to face depression alone.

Summary

In this article, we’ve explored nine strategies for boosting motivation when you’re struggling with depression. These strategies include:

  1. Setting small, manageable goals to create a sense of progress and accomplishment.
  2. Getting out of bed and out of pajamas to signal to your brain that it’s time to start the day.
  3. Going for a walk to improve mood and overall well-being.
  4. Immersing yourself in nature to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  5. Avoiding negativity by limiting exposure to negative influences and cultivating a positive mindset.
  6. Sticking to a routine to provide structure and stability in your daily life.
  7. Socializing with friends, family, and supportive individuals to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  8. Creating a support network of trusted individuals who can provide emotional support and encouragement.
  9. Improving gut health through diet, stress management, exercise, and sleep to support overall well-being and mental health.

Recognizing when to seek professional help is also essential, especially if you’re experiencing persistent symptoms of depression, difficulty coping with daily life, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

By implementing these strategies and seeking appropriate support when needed, you can improve your mood, regain a sense of motivation, and take steps toward overcoming depression and living a fulfilling life. Remember that you’re not alone, and there are people and resources available to help you on your journey to recovery.