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Motivation and Depression

Finding Motivation Despite Depression

For someone suffering with major depression, a lack of motivation can be a significant symptom to address. With depression, a person experiences feelings of lethargy in addition to the usual loss of pleasure in normal activities. This dampens motivation and creates a cycle with other symptoms of depression that is difficult to break.

Increasingly, mental health professionals accept depression as a causative factor in a lack of motivation. A recent study reported that just over 30 percent of the non-depressed patients indicated a lack of motivation. However, more than 85 percent of the depressed sample indicated significant difficulty in becoming motivated. This ennui and lethargy can overwhelm an individual already dealing with depression.

Recovering the Motivation to Get Back on Schedule

For a person in the midst of an episode of depression, finding motivation presents unique challenges. However, these challenges can be tackled with a strategy to follow. The list below provides some strategies for becoming motivated again.

  • Get out of bed upon waking. This small step at the beginning of the day can have a tremendous impact on the rest of the day. During a particularly difficult episode of depression, simply getting out of bed represents a small victory that will ultimately lead to more small victories. Head straight to the shower, then get dressed. This is the first positive step of the day.
  • Participate in some form of exercise. Exercise is a proven way to elevate a person's mood. With exercise, the body releases endorphins into the system that interact with brain receptors to reduce the perception of pain. In addition, endorphins produce a good feeling within the body that is similar to the response to morphine. Known as a runner's high, this energizing feeling follows a strenuous workout. While many individuals struggling with depression may not run a marathon, even a walk around the block at a brisk pace in the morning will produce good feelings and break through the lack of motivation.
  • Divide goals and tasks into smaller units. Breaking down a larger goal into smaller steps will allow someone with depression to reach those more achievable steps. Accomplishing a goal will provide the motivation to accomplish the next step.
  • Rely upon friends and family. Withdrawal from close relationships occurs with depression. Many people struggling with depression understand that their family and friends care for them. However, finding the motivation to ask for help can be difficult. If that person knows in advance about the depression, he or she can become a critical facilitator to rally other family and friends to provide encouragement. A strong support system will provide the safe environment necessary to work through challenging stages.
  • Build on any achievements. Becoming motivated in the middle of a depressive episode is challenging. However, one strategy is to choose to be as positive and optimistic as possible. Finding something small, such as food tasting a little better, can provide motivation to pursue that positive direction. The support system of family and friends can be helpful with this as well. If food tastes better, a friend can join in on a trip to the local coffee house for a special cappuccino and biscotti to celebrate the morning walk around the neighborhood. Small achievements are just as powerful as large achievements.

Depression is a debilitating illness. Sometimes an episode of depression requires counseling and medication from a mental health care provider. Even so, it is possible to spark the motivation needed to recover and enjoy life again.