Depression Motivation: A Brief Guide

Ashley Cardwell

Lack of motivation, when depressed, can be a terrible problem. As much as you want to feel motivated, you can’t seem to muster up any energy, making it almost impossible to get things done.

The link between depression and low motivation is a common occurrence. As is feeling tired, fed up, and lacking interest in activities that you know will do you good. If you lack motivation and are experiencing a consistently low mood, you’re not alone. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected by some form of depression or anxiety every year, equating to 18.1% of the population.

Fear not; in this article, we’re going to teach you how to get motivated when depressed. However, before we provide some professional tips, let’s look at some of the common symptoms of low motivation.

What is Low Motivation?

Depression and low motivation go hand-in-hand. That said, while a lack of motivation is one of depression’s most common symptoms, it can be caused by other factors, too. For instance, you could lack motivation if you are under a lot of stress at work or experiencing something that impacts your self-esteem and overall confidence.

8 Symptoms of Low Motivation:

  1. You’re easily overwhelmed.
    Sometimes, just looking at a sink full of dishes or thinking about tomorrow’s calendar can make you want to go back to bed and turn off the lights.
  2. You have no idea what you want.
    Decision-making can become a real chore when you are feeling unmotivated on a consistent basis.
  3. You lose control of your physical health.
    Weight gain and weight loss can be attributed to states of anxiety and depression. As people lose control over their physiology, they lose motivation, creating a vicious circle of despair.
  4. Lacking motivation has become part of your identity.
    Sometimes, people get so used to having no ‘get up and go’ that a lack of motivation becomes part of their identity.
  5. You procrastinate all the time.
    While procrastination is part of human nature, depression and anxiety can make it impossible to undertake essential tasks.
  6. You lack ambition.
    Do you feel as though you no longer set goals or aim to achieve great things in life? A distinct lack of ambition is a common symptom of low motivation.
  7. You favor motivation over habits.
    Habits can be the building blocks to recovery when you lack motivation. Favoring feelings of motivation instead of healthy routines can lead to more intense anxiety and low moods.
  8. You feel lost.
    The world can be a scary place, even to the most motivated of people. Feeling lost and confused is part and parcel of depression, but these feelings are not forever.

Why Am I Not Motivated?

Mental health and motivation are interlinked. If you’ve been feeling wiped out and unmotivated for a significant period, you are likely living with some form of depression. Depression is one of the leading causes of a lack of motivation, and here’s why:

Motivation & Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow signaling to occur between nerves and brain cells. They are chemical messengers, each with overlapping and cooperative functions. Neurotransmitters influence certain actions in our bodies and minds, including:

  • Sleep
  • Reward/addiction
  • Mood
  • Muscle function
  • Focus
  • Alertness levels
  • Movements/motor behavior
  • Learning & memory

Some neurotransmitters slow down brain synapses while others make signals faster. When neurotransmitters fire too frequently or not enough, they can cause depression and low motivation.

Dopamine and Serotonin
Serotonin is the essential hormone that stabilizes our happiness, mood, and feelings of well-being. When your serotonin levels become imbalanced, the way you perceive joy and motivation changes, leading to a state of depression in many cases.

Dopamine is the chemical in our brains responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. When we become stressed, dopamine signaling is temporarily increased. This increase is followed by a sharp decrease in dopamine activity in which parts of the brain dedicated to reward-response are downregulated, resulting in decreased motivation.

If depression is leaving you unmotivated, dopamine regulation could be vital to your overall treatment plan. Moreover, if depression prevents you from living your fullest life, regulating your dopamine levels may be a viable solution.

There’s only so much that one person can do, but still, millions of us experience burnout by taking on too much and leaving little time for rest. Burnout is a condition that can cause depression and low motivation; when you feel stressed, your levels of cortisol (the body’s natural stress hormone) increase.

Constant changes in cortisol levels can lead to the body overproducing this hormone on some occasions and underproducing it on others. This leads to feelings of exhaustion, making everyday tasks seem like enormous undertakings. This is one of the main reasons that chronic stress has a significant impact on our mental health, and of course, our levels of motivation.

Depression and a Lack of Motivation: Explained

Although depression can result from a chemical imbalance in the brain, the disease is complex and can have multiple contributing factors. Research suggests that depression isn’t just caused by having too little or too much of a specific brain chemical.

Instead, there is a range of possible causes, including genetic vulnerability, medications, medical problems, lifestyle factors, and faulty mood regulation in the brain. When several of these forces interact, feelings of depression start to surface.

Here are two of the most significant factors that can combine to induce states of depression and low motivation:

The Brain
Although emotions are often linked to feelings of the heart, science proves that your emotions reside in your brain. There are certain areas inside the brain responsible for mood regulation. Scientists believe that nerve cell connections and the functioning of nerve circuits all have a significant impact on depression. That said, our understanding of the precise neurological underpinnings of mood remains incomplete.

Our entire bodies, including our brains, are controlled by genes. Genes make all the proteins involved in our biological processes. As we live our lives, genes switch on and off, which means, in the best case scenario, they create the right proteins at the right time.

However, if our genes make a mistake, our biology can be altered, causing instability in our mood. If you are genetically vulnerable to depression, any stress (such as family or work pressures) can push your entire system off balance.

How to Motivate Yourself When You’re Depressed

It’s time to look at some small changes in habit that can help alleviate depression and increase motivation. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we recommend starting with small manageable goals, which can be increased as you begin to feel better.

  1. Get up and dress in the morning.
    Just getting out of bed is a small victory and an excellent start to the day. If you can get up, get dressed, and make your bed, you’ll start to develop positive habits at the very beginning of each new day. This can be very rewarding and lead to higher levels of motivation.
  2. Take a walk.
    Gentle exercise can influence the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones) in your body. Research has proven that exercising for 35 minutes a day, five times a week, can work to improve symptoms of moderate depression, thus increasing motivation.
  3. Reduce your schedule.
    Tackling too many tasks may increase your feelings of depression and anxiety. Reduce your schedule and try to accomplish just one or two essential tasks a day. Reward yourself for every job that you complete. This will help to increase your confidence and improve your sense of motivation.
  4. Eliminate negativity.
    Constantly reading the news or scrolling through social media pages can leave you feeling emotionally drained and unmotivated. These activities can have a significant impact on your motivation and mood. Try to focus on uplifting content and surround yourself with positive people. You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time, so choose wisely.
  5. Socialize and give back.
    Favor positive relationships and encourage people to interact in social activities when you feel ready to face the world. If you’re not working, you may want to try volunteering. Helping others can have a positive impact on your mood, rapidly increasing levels of motivation.
  6. Get enough sleep.
    Depression and anxiety can be mentally and physically draining. Oversleeping or sleeping too little will impact your mood. Therefore, we recommend setting the alarm to ensure that you sleep for roughly eight hours each evening.
  7. Improve your diet.
    You are what you eat. There are strong links between nutritional deficiencies and diagnoses of depression throughout the medical world. We’ve all experienced that sluggish feeling that comes from a colossal sugar binge and the crash that soon follows. Try to eat a healthy and balanced diet to keep low mood at bay and increase motivation levels.

Citron Hennessey Therapy Can Help

Our depression NYC counseling services are tailor-made to help reduce symptoms of depression while increasing motivation. Are you ready to start making healthy decisions and learning wholesome routines? Contact us to find local therapists for depression in NYC today.

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