Tips for finding motivation with depression
More than just a temporary case of the blues, depression can be long-lasting. It may affect a person's ability to perform daily activities, and can lead to thoughts of suicide.
One of the hallmark symptoms associated with depression is persistent lack of motivation. Without the desire or willingness to complete regular tasks, a person can sink more deeply into their depression.
The underlying issues that accompany depression need to be addressed first and then lifestyle and wellness measures can be used to help an individual with depression live a more motivated life.
Small exercises through the day, such as a 10-minute walk, may help to increase mood-boosting chemicals.
According to a study published in the journal Psychology, physical activity can help people cope better and improve motivation in those with depression.
Exercise is a natural way to increase mood-boosting chemicals that may reduce some of the effects of depression.
Instead of focusing on a big exercise session, a person can break up exercise into small opportunities throughout the day.
- taking a 10-minute walk around the block
- stretching during television commercials
- listening to music and dancing for 10 minutes at a time
- creating fitness "stations" where a person does five different exercises for 2 minutes at a time
By setting realistic goals for physical activity and focusing on short, easy exercise options, people with depression may be better able to complete an exercise program.
Once a person has started to engage in exercise, they may wish to branch out to new exercise options they enjoy. Taking an exercise class or starting a strength-training routine may be some future goals that could expand their physical activity and overall wellness.
Seeking the support of others can help a person with depression feel better and more motivated in life. Knowing they have a social network who cares about their life and health can have a deep impact on motivation.
Going to a large party or other social gathering may be overwhelming for a person struggling with depression. Seeing people in smaller groups, such as going to a movie, out for coffee, or visiting a museum can help a person feel less anxious and isolated.
A person does not have to make many friends to feel better, but instead should focus on strengthening existing friendships with loved ones. Spending time with friends and family and "catching up" may help a person feel more engaged with the world.
Just as there are ways to enhance motivation with depression, there are some behaviors that can worsen depression and decrease motivation.
Drugs and alcohol
While each may offer a temporary "high" sensation, abuse of drugs or alcohol may be followed by a deep low that can worsen symptoms.
Drugs and alcohol can also negatively interact with medications a person may be taking for depression. This makes depression even harder to treat.
While small-scale socializing can help a person feel better, large gatherings involving alcohol and recreational drugs are not recommended.
Lack of sleep
Because energy levels are often affected when a person has depression, maintaining energy whenever possible can be very important. Not getting enough sleep is a factor that can affect energy levels. The "right" amount of sleep can vary from person to person and their age. However, trying to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night is a good goal for getting enough rest.
Ways to enhance sleep include:
- Refraining from napping for more than 30 minutes during the day. Napping may keep a person from going to bed and prevent them getting enough deep sleep for the brain.
- Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time. These patterns help "train" a person's body when it's time to go to sleep. Maintaining a sleep routine can also ensure a person gets enough sleep.
- Starting a relaxing, regular bedtime routine. Examples can include taking a bath or reading a book before going to sleep. Helping the brain and body wind down can enhance sleep.
- Using light cues to increase alertness during the day and promote sleep at night. If a person makes an effort to see natural sunlight during the day, this can increase alertness. At night, making the room cool and dark can help promote sleep and cue the brain that it is time to rest.
Stress can weigh heavily on a person with depression. Those with depression often desire to control all situations in their lives or attempt to maintain perfection. When neither goal occurs, depression can take over.
Reducing stress and creating realistic expectations can help to enhance motivation. Examples of ways to reduce stress include:
- Practicing relaxation techniques that help to soothe the mind. Examples include listening to soothing music, meditating, deep breathing, or practicing yoga.
- Counting to 10 when periods of overwhelming stress and anxiety occur. If counting to 10 does not subside these feelings, continue to 20.
- Identifying negative thoughts and trying to find the positives in a situation. Choosing a positive mantra or saying can help to replace these negative thoughts.
- Volunteering in the community can help a person feel they are doing good in the world. They may meet new people and find work they enjoy.
- Talking to friends and loved ones who earnestly care about the person and seeing them feel better. Avoiding those who are negative or create stressful situations may also help.
Reflecting on a day and trying to find good things or opportunities to be grateful is another option. Some examples could include noting three "good" things for the week or three "funny" things. According to an article in the Journal of Happiness Studies, seeing days in this way enhanced happiness in those with depression.
Whenever possible, taking care of one's self and health can enhance motivation when a person struggles with depression.
Seeing a doctor
The first and most important tip is to treat underlying depression. Depression is a condition that affects the balance of neurotransmitters, or chemicals that control mood in the brain.
Depression is a medical condition and should be treated by a healthcare professional.
This means that fighting depression involves more than simply "wanting" to feel better or more motivated. There are treatments for the condition that can help regulate neurotransmitters, which may make a person feel better and therefore enhance motivation.
Some people will see their primary care professional who can treat their depression.
Others may ask their primary care doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist, a doctor who specializes in mental health. These doctors can evaluate a person's depression symptoms and prescribe medications that may reduce symptoms.
Examples of these medicines include:
- Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs): These medications increase the amounts of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. An example of this medication type is bupropion (Wellbutrin).
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These medications increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. Examples include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): These medications reduce the amount of an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase in the body. This increases the amounts of several neurotransmitters. Examples include tranylcypromine (Parnate) and phenelzine (Nardil).
MAOIs are associated with greater side effects than some other medications and people who are prescribed this type of medication may also need to adhere to a strict diet.
These are just a few examples of medications available to treat depression. Doctors may prescribe more than one medication in an attempt to find the right combination for an individual.
When to seek emergency treatment
Despite a person's best efforts to manage depression, harmful and dangerous thoughts can sometimes take over. When this is the case, a person should seek emergency medical attention.
Examples of times when a person should call 911 include:
- if a person has thoughts of hurting themselves
- if a person hears voices or sees things that aren't there
- if a person feels as if they would be better off dead and has thoughts of committing suicide
If a person shares these thoughts with a loved one, they should take the loved one to the nearest emergency room or call 911. The person should not be left alone until they are in a safe place where medical professionals can care for them.