How to get motivated when depressed

Tips and tricks to boost motivation with depression

How to get motivated when depressed? That sounds like a daunting task. When you are under the influence of depression, you rarely spontaneously develop an enthusiasm for many tasks (cleaning, exercising, studying, socializing, etc). Here is an approach I use.

Avoid all or nothing attempts

Example: When I need to exercise, if I think of the whole process of changing into workout gear, driving to the gym, working out for an hour, showering, etc, I’ll be overwhelmed.

So, as bizarre as it sounds, I break it into tiny pieces.  I mean absurdly doable pieces. Your goal is just to string a bunch of microscopic tasks in a row. Stacking these steps into the ultimate goal may take days, weeks, or years. But, you’ll be on your way and without as many setbacks.

Here’s an example. Sometimes, I’ll go to the gym (pre-COVID) and hit the sauna for just a few minutes or take a few strides on the treadmill. Then, I’ll just leave!

Either one of two things happens: 1) I end up just working out more because I’m already there or 2) it reduces the friction of “going to the gym” because I’ve now changed the definition to something much more manageable. It’s a no-lose approach. The situation shifts from being a problem (how to get motivated to exercise) to an accomplishment (I went to the gym today!).


Get specialized therapy and counseling 

Before we get to my second piece of advice for developing motivation while depressed, there’s something I need to share with you.

(This section recommends a mental health counseling service. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.)

The last couple of years have been tough. Not seeing friends and family. Ruined holidays. Loss of income. Health disasters. Arguments.

Most of us need help. Can you see me raising my hand??

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental and emotional health illness, you now have a great option: BetterHelp.

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Action before motivation

Another example: getting motivated to clean the house when depressed seems impossible. Furthermore, it becomes a vicious cycle where the less you clean, the worse your messy house makes you feel. So let’s not worry about getting motivated (who likes chores in any case?), and take it one step at a time.

For cleaning your house, you might tackle one room only. Or one countertop. Or throw away one thing. Now there is a clean little spot and you accomplished that. It doesn’t matter how small you start. Starting creates psychological and emotional momentum. (plus creates an empty space where that old pizza box was!)

You can apply this to anything you don’t feel like doing.

Keep in mind, not only do people suffering from depression face challenges with motivation. Life is one long battle of motivation.

You are not competing with anyone. You simply take the most ridiculously minuscule step. For an Olympic athlete that might be knocking off 1/10th of a second in their event. For you and me it might be throwing at that pizza box.

I should add that receiving Ketamine treatments for depression really accelerated this process for me.

p.s. I certainly didn’t invent this. This idea appears in many approaches. But, I personally didn’t really learn and apply it until a few weeks in an Intensive Outpatient Therapy program where they really encouraged me to try it. It works!

You can read more about me, The Ketamine Coach, and my personal journey battling depression.


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