How to motivate yourself when you’re depressed: 10 effective tips

Do you lack motivation? Do you suffer from depression or feelings of hopelessness? 

Personally, I’ve been depressed many times in my life. Hang in there, you definitely aren’t alone. To weather the storm and become more productive took some real dedication on my part.

It won’t happen instantly but with constant effort, getting yourself motivated will become easier. Here are some of the steps that helped me transform from depressed to motivated. I’m confident you’ll get there too. Let’s get it! 

1) Get out of bed 

This may sound obvious but getting out of bed in the morning is actually an important step in getting motivated. 

When we lie in bed in the morning, it’s counterproductive–we tend to let our negative and intrusive thoughts fester recklessly, making us even more depressed and less motivated. 

So like a snap of the finger, will yourself out of bed and start your day at a reasonable hour. The benefits of this basic habit will go a long way.   

When you suffer from depression, getting out of bed should be considered your first win of the day. Give yourself credit and maybe you can eventually start making your bed too.

Keeping your space organized and neat will give you a decent sense of accomplishment and pride and set the tone for greater things in life. 

When you’re up, jump in the shower, choose a stylish outfit, perform a skincare routine or put on makeup. When you look good, you tend to feel even better.  

Self-care to start the day off will give you a self-esteem boost. Own it.

2) Remember: You are what you eat

You feel better already so sustain that by making the correct dietary choices. There’s a lot of truth to the old saying “you are what you eat.” When we eat junk, we tend to feel like junk too. 

Binging on McDonald’s isn’t really doing you any favors–physically or mentally.  Fortunately, the opposite is also true: eat a well-balanced diet full of key nutrients and your body and mind will thank you for it. 

There are significant links between nutritional deficiencies and depression that have been well established in the medical world. It’s no coincidence that after a massive junk food or sugar binge we often feel lethargic for hours, sometimes even days.  

Once you decide to make smarter decisions about your food intake, don’t be surprised if you experience improved motivation levels.

Growing up, I had frequent bouts of depression. My family life wasn’t great and to cope, I’d overeat and make some really lousy dietary choices. 

I became bloated, hyperacidic and generally unhealthy which only enhanced my depression and lack of self-worth. It was a toxic cycle. 

Eventually, I made the firm decision one day to start eating clean. I taught myself to not just eat less but consume nutritious foods. In other words, less takeaway pizza, more nourishing ingredients. 

My mindset towards food gradually shifted. Food became less of a crutch and a hedonistic escape. I ate for sustenance and good health. I lost weight, my anxieties lessened and my overall health was in exponentially better shape. 

Making the effort to eat clean and avoid the trap of binge eating (though an occasional cheat day is acceptable!) has had a profound effect on me and my well being. If you’re easily tempted, perhaps it’s wise to unfollow a few food porn accounts on social media. 

3) Avoid doom scrolling

For better or worse, we live in a world where social media rules. 

Non-stop reels on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc; the constant barrage of clickbait and fake news; fighting with strangers in the comments section over literally anything and everything; seeing your peers travel the world or get engaged while you’re struggling to get through the day–the list of negative effects of social media and smartphone addiction are endless and frankly can be really overwhelming. 

And since we tend to mindlessly “doom” scroll, we don’t realize the toll it takes on our mental health. 

Social media can be an incredibly useful tool but at the same time it can frustrate, stress and depress, leaving you feeling emotionally drained and unmotivated. 

The negative energy from social media affects motivation and mood. But since social media is essentially unavoidable in this day and age, try to moderate your intake per day.

Also when you do log on, try to focus on uplifting content that will motivate and inspire you and filter out all the other noise.

4) Routine is key!

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A routine provides structure and having structure gives us the thrill of achievement. Start small. For instance, make yourself breakfast consistently every morning. You can give yourself a little pat on the back after each completed task. 

Don’t underestimate small wins–seemingly minor acts when repeated will lead to confidence and a greater sense of self-sufficiency. 

Your daily routine should involve everything from waking up in the morning to taking a shower to making breakfast to exercising and whatever other work you have to accomplish for the day. 

To organize your thoughts, jot your routine down in a notebook or diary. Tick off accomplishments as you finish them. 

Seeing your achievements on paper will magnify your sense of achievement. Schedule your time in advance. 

Don’t be surprised if having a regular routine leads to a better overall quality of life. 

5) Get some steps in 

Add physical activities like walking to your routine. The basic act of getting outdoors and going for a walk can have some pretty amazing and lasting effects on your mental wellbeing. 

Meanwhile, living a sedentary life is a ripe breeding ground for depression and lack of motivation. Make it a point to go on a long walk daily (and try to break a sweat.)

The change of scenery, the dopamine and endorphin high and vitamin D can have tremendous effects on your motivation levels.

In the pandemic, I was in a dark place. Trying to keep my business afloat and pay off debts; stress, anxiety and depression were a way of life for me. There were times when I came very close to giving up. 

To escape the toxic monotony of pandemic life, I eventually decided to go for lengthy walks outside everyday. I tracked my steps and had a daily goal. I’d return home far more clear headed and ready to tackle my challenges, which I eventually did.   

6) If you snooze, you don’t always lose 

Not getting enough sleep will have a major impact on your mood, as will oversleeping. In the evenings, have a cutoff time for your gadgets or social media, instead read a compelling novel and get ready for bed. 

Put your phone and/or tablet out of reach and on silent mode. 

Having eight hours of sleep a night is an integral aspect of day-to-day functioning. 

Proper sleep patterns are vital for good health and staying motivated.

People who already suffer from depression tend to also have issues with irregular sleeping patterns.

So make a concerted effort to get in those seven or eight hours a night. It’ll pay off in the long run. 

7) Set daily goals 

Once well rested, you can achieve anything. Set daily goals to give you a sense of purpose. 

Don’t expect the world to change overnight. You won’t lose 50 lbs in a month or become a successful entrepreneur in a week. 

Unrealistic expectations are a common recipe for disappointment. 

Have smaller goals you can accomplish daily, this will help build momentum and self-confidence for when you want to achieve bigger things. Realize that the cliche “you can do anything you set your mind to” is actually mostly true. 

Once you develop the habit of creating goals and working daily towards achieving those goals, you will notice some drastic changes.

Give yourself a loose deadline for achieving a certain goal. Having a deadline internally, will give you a sense of purpose and time management. 

Say you want to get a decent-paying job, shift your energy towards making this a reality. Start by working on your resume, LinkedIn profile, portfolio and cover letter.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Put the work in daily and methodically. Remember that every day, as long as there is some effort, you are getting much closer to achieving your goal.

It’s important to be realistic about the tasks you can achieve per day. If you try to do too much, your efforts might backfire, potentially leaving you even more discouraged or depressed than before. 

Everything starts in small steps and when you accomplish tasks daily, you’ll feel proud of yourself, conscious of the fact that you’re making progress. 

Celebrate the small victories and before you know it, your habits and outlook will transform dramatically.  

8) Break a sweat 

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Getting exercise should definitely be on the list of goals. It’s basic science, vigorous exercise can decrease depression and improve your mood, thereby improving motivation levels too. 

Having a regular fitness regimen is a fantastic way of both preventing and treating depression.

Find a yoga studio, enroll in the neighborhood gym or even start jogging. Inputting some regular exercise into your weekly routine should be non-negotiable. 

Try to exercise three to five times a week and expect to reap the countless mental, physical, emotional and perhaps even spiritual benefits. 

Exercise is a great antidote to intrusive and negative thoughts and an equally great motivator. Through exercise you can even make connections with people who have similar fitness aspirations, which brings me to my next point…

9) No person is an island

Having access to solitude is healthy but living in regular isolation isn’t, particularly if you’re prone to depression and mental illness. 

Make it a point to spend time with friends, family, like-minded people or support groups. 

Doing so will reinforce the fact that you aren’t alone and if you’re around the right crowd, you’ll be uplifted and motivated to do constructive things with your life. 

Even the mere thought of having a support group you can turn to in troubled times is in itself very comforting. 

This doesn’t have to necessarily involve getting drunk at a bar. Exercise with a friend, do volunteer work, have picnic lunches at the park or potluck dinners together or bond over a simple cup of coffee. 

Being around others in an environment where you can share your hopes and dreams and exchange feedback is ultimately very rewarding. 

It’s crucial that you wisely select good people to surround yourself with–individuals you not only click with but have shared common values and most importantly those that motivate you to be your best self. 

Soon, their energy will rub off, and perhaps you can even help those in the situation you were once in. 

When I found myself lost in the pandemic, I was in a proper rut. I became aware that changing that mindset would require both willpower and guidance.

One of the better resources I stumbled across is the free core values exercise by Jeanette Brown of Life Journal. 

And although skeptical at first, I found myself gaining tremendous clarity, insight and purpose through her free checklist. 

I no longer wallow in self-pity, I own my life with conviction, in large part thanks to her personal development programs. Feel free to check it out here.  

10) Wax on-wax off 

Being around others is important but when alone consider it an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Whenever I go through high stress and anxiety, people often say to meditate or become mindful. In the past, I mostly brushed this off, allowing my negative thoughts to spiral. 

When I embraced mindfulness and having a brief meditation routine, I noticed some wonderful benefits. 

I was focusing on the present more, instead of worrying about worst-case-scenario outcomes or dwelling on past blunders.  

Beginning a mindfulness meditation practice will help clear the mind. Set aside a bit of time every morning to focus on deep breaths and relaxing your muscles, focus intensely on what you’re feeling at that particular moment.

Practicing mindfulness will help relax and calm your mind, reducing feelings of anxiety, depression and panic. Mindfulness can even take effect during mundane activities like eating, exercising or doing household chores. 

If you commit to it, you’ll walk away feeling a greater sense of clarity and motivation–I guarantee this much. 

In addition, take time each day to think about the aspects you’re grateful for in life. Seeing the glass as half full might be difficult but in time your perspective and outlook can change. 

Be patient and tolerant of yourself. Have some self-compassion, if you make a careless mistake, realize that sometimes it happens and move on. Consider failure a necessary teacher in life. 

Like anything, mindfulness is something that takes commitment to develop effectively. Be patient with yourself and keep that momentum strong. 

There are countless resources online to help motivate you–from YouTube tutorials to support groups to intensive online courses such as my previously mentioned recommendation

Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to living your best life: highly motivated, happy and empowered. 

Picture of Daniel Mabanta

Daniel Mabanta

Daniel Mabanta is a freelance writer and editor, entrepreneur and an avid traveler, adventurer and eater. He lives a nomadic life, constantly on the move. He is currently in Manila, Philippines and deciding where his next destination will be.

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