24 Little Motivation Tricks for Getting Through the Day With Depression
Picture this: you’re lying in bed or sitting on the couch, devoid of energy. There’s a pile of dishes waiting for you in the sink, your dog is giving you a guilty “I need to eat” look and you have several imminent assignment deadlines going off like fire alarms in your head. But, no matter how hard you try — no matter how anxious the pile of responsibilities makes you — you just can’t do it.
If this sounds familiar, then you’ve experienced one of the most common symptoms of depression. Depression sucks the energy out of you, leaving you exhausted and unable to budge. It’s no wonder many with depression find the spoon theory to be apt to their lived experience.
We decided to ask our mental health community what little tricks they have for getting motivated when depression drags them down. Maybe depression is telling you that you’ve already tried them all, but we hope you’ll find a few unexpected gems in the answers they gave us.
Here is what they said:
1. “I convince myself all I gotta do is one thing today. But in order to do that one thing, I need to get out of bed to do it. Usually I say food or washroom, something I can’t go without. That works for me. Like a pep talk before starting the day.” — Mizheekay H.
2. “I force myself to walk my dog. She’s the one thing that can really motivate me because I know she depends totally on me. Our walk may not be very long, I may only make it to a tree or mailbox, but I force myself to take care of her and in return myself.” — Jennifer T.
3. “I make myself get up and do at least one or two things before allowing myself to sit and collect my thoughts. I can feel a little better about myself if I complete at least one or two things on my to-do list. Or if it’s a day I don’t feel like going to work and I’m tempted to call out, I just tell myself to remember I can rest after, and I will feel worse with myself if I stay home instead of working. Just reminding myself of things like that helps to get it done in the moment.” — Hailey M.
4. “Work out. When I am too depressed, I curl up in a blanket, but when I get up, I find my to-do list does not complete itself! Whether it is the dishes in the sink, lunch to be cooked or work to be done, everything is still there. At least when I exercise, I know I have done something for my body. And then, when I take a shower, I get a feeling I am kinda trying to ‘wash away my depressing thoughts.’ Most of the time, this works.” — Minaxi M.
5. “I post sticky notes around the house when I feel something isn’t quite right. I leave them up for days or weeks at a time. When the depression, anxiety or manic episode hits, I know how to take care of myself because of these reminders. Each one has a reminder of daily tasks (feed the dog, eat, bathe), a motivational quote, or chore I often neglect through hard days.” — Jaicee G.
6. “I got myself a Fitbit. It reminds me every hour to meet my 250-step goal. So, when that goes off while I’m lying in bed, I say to myself, ‘You just have to do 250 steps. If you don’t accomplish anything else today, you will at least have done your steps.’ It’s amazing how I now find myself doing other things than just steps. Worth the investment!” — Philomena R.
7. “Make a list and put on some music that motivates me to move. Otherwise, I’ll spend days just going from the bed to the couch and back.” — Suzy J.
8. “Taking care of my pets. I liken it to having a child without a husband or any help; you have to get up and take care of them even when you’re so depressed you don’t want to get out of bed. Plus, loving and spending time with them makes me feel loved, even when I don’t feel that way.” — Jen S.
9. “I’ve been doing this since I was very young. There’s a song by Diana Ross called ‘Remember Me.’ I play it over and over again until I feel better. In fact, years ago, that song saved my life. I was in a deep depression and I wanted to end my life, but I just kept playing that song countless times until the feeling passed. I keep doing so if I’m in a panic attack or depressed. Works every time. I wish there was a way to thank her for saving my life, but Ms. Ross doesn’t know how much she means to me.” — Jake E.
10. “I live alone and the dishes, cleaning and laundry won’t do themselves. Even if I take an hour break in between, I try to get things done and keep busy. It’s hard to motivate yourself, but I feel like once I get moving, I keep going.” — Gretchen O.
11. “I tell myself it is temporary. I work out, listen to music, play with my dogs or go to a comedy club or poetry club — anything to help me realize there are people going through something similar.” — Jenifer P.
12. “It’s like when you tell young children to clean their dirty room. Pick up a few things… then pick up more… then again, pick up a few. Then it’s done. Don’t look at the big pile; just do a little at a time.” — Lori B.
13. “Call someone and have their company, over the phone, as I get started with a task. It’s not so overwhelming or lonely that way.” — Tanya L.
14. “I compartmentalize. Usually, when I’m depressed, the day seems too overwhelming and too hard, so I think of one thing to do, whether it’s showering, making a cup of coffee or even just standing up out of bed. Then, I go to the next thing and it gets easier as I go. It starts out terrifying, but that’s the lie of depression: that I’m incapable and helpless.” — Jeremy S.
15. “I allow myself a coffee in bed with the deal that as soon as the cup is empty, I do my workout. It may take 45 minutes for that cup to be drunk, but honestly; once I do my workout, I am able to rationalize to myself, Well, you’re up and moving now, so you might as well do (X chore).’” — Lauren M.
16. “One thing I have a hard time with when I’m in a depressive episode is doing the dishes (the whole process of cooking anything, actually). So, my trick is to wash a dish or two any time I have something going in the microwave. I’m already in the kitchen, and I’m just waiting for my food to be done, so I pick up the sponge and wash what I can. Usually (though not always) what happens is that, just by starting, I’ll become motivated enough to wash the rest of my dishes, even after the microwave is finished.” — Rachel S.
17. “I have three cats and in the end, no matter what, they have to be feed and be given water. My cats are my everything. I love them so, so much. That’s why I call them my ‘furchildren.’ In the end, my cats need me, which helps me feel needed.” — Sarah H.
18. “I deal with depression linked to severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The bad days still outweigh the good, but what keeps me motivated and staying positive is focusing on the beauty and good in the world. I go walk in the woods or watch animal rescue videos: anything that reminds me the world isn’t this evil dark place it sometimes feels like. It helps to keep me grounded and keep things in perspective.” — Megan P.
19. “One trick that helps me get motivated is knowing that the outcome is going to be positive and even make me feel better. Something even as simple as getting a drink from a local coffee shop as my ‘reward,’ listening to some of my favorite songs or knowing I can go to sleep at an earlier time also helps so much.” — Breeana G.
20. “I write letters to myself when I’m having ‘good’ days and keep them in a special drawer with old birthday cards and other things that make me happy. On the worst days, I go through the drawer, read the letters and remind myself I’ve been happy in the past. despite depression, and I will definitely feel happiness again.” — Hayley K.
21. “I recently decided to make myself a reward box to motivate myself. So, I bought a few things I want but I make myself earn them by doing the things that are harder to do when I’m struggling with depression. Having something to work toward always motivates me.” — Megan L.
22. “When I manage to pull myself out of bed, I make the bed and reward myself mentally for completing the task.” — Jake S.
23. “I do a ‘3, 2, 1’ rule. Every time I have a hard time getting up I count down from three and get up like a rocket. On my worst days, I have to repeat this with every task I do.” — Makayla R.
24. “I have food delivered. It means I have to get out of my bed and go down to the apartment lobby to pick it up.” — Leah M.
What motivation tricks would you add? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash