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How to Get More Motivated When You are Depressed

How to get motivated when depressed
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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While everyone struggles with a lack of motivation to accomplish tasks from time to time, people with depression oscillate between low energy and no motivation to do anything. Even finding the motivation to complete the simplest daily tasks, such as brushing and other personal needs, becomes difficult.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects up to 280 million [1*] of the global population and is also one of the most common mental disorders in the US. Unlike the usual mood changes and transient emotional responses to life challenges, depression might have life-long effects as it adversely impacts your functioning. Below, let’s focus on how to make your life more fulfilling by improving your motivation even if you experience depression at the moment.

Depression treatment usually requires a person to implement certain lifestyle changes. Consult a therapist to know more.

Overview of Depression

Depression [2*] is a mood disorder characterized by a relentless feeling of sadness and/or loss of interest in previously exciting activities for at least two weeks. Depression can occur as a one-time episode following a traumatic event such as losing a loved one and divorce or a chronic disorder lasting months to years. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in otherwise pleasurable activities
  • Weight changes
  • Suicidal tendencies (thoughts)

The effects of depression [3*] can be debilitating, affecting your occupational, social, and cognitive functioning. To keep up with your workplace or school demands, you must learn how to get motivated when depressed.

Do you have any disturbing symptoms? Consult a depression doctor online to know if you have depression and need treatment.

Finding Motivation When Depressed

For most people with depression, even minor tasks seem overwhelming. If you’re depressed and have lost motivation [4*] to start or complete projects, you’re not alone. But effective treatments are available, and many individuals battling depression regain their motivation to lead well-balanced, productive lives.

Finding the best strategy for alleviating your depression symptoms can make all the difference in regaining motivation. Consider talking to a mental health professional for treatment advice. Depending on the disorder’s severity, the doctor might recommend medication, therapy, self-care, or a combination.

Meanwhile, here are a few things you can use to get motivated when depressed:

1. Set small, manageable goals

Completing larger projects require more cognitive or mental engagement, which makes them seem overwhelming if you’re battling depression. Instead of considering the large projects as a whole, break them down into smaller tasks with clear end goals. Then start with one and move on to the next until the set target is attained. With consistency, you’ll discover the tasks which seemed impossible are done. Consider starting with things you usually enjoy, even if you aren’t in the mood.

2. Reward yourself

Lacking motivation? For every goal you set, decide an appropriate reward for attaining it. The rewards are essential in helping [5*] you finish the task despite the potential obstacles. Whether it is a glass of your favorite juice flavor or buying new clothes, the gift should be something you look forward to. Noteworthy, the reward does not need to be big or expensive.

3. Exercise

Physical activity stimulates the release of the feel-good hormones known as endorphins. Going even for a 10-minute walk around the block can help you manage depression symptoms and bring back motivation.

4. Develop a realistic schedule

Besides reducing motivation, depression affects your cognitive control leading to difficulty concentrating. Thus, it is easy to forget some tasks, especially if you have overscheduled yourself. To keep up with the work or school demands, creating a realistic schedule of tasks and a timeline for their accomplishment is necessary. You might need to revise your schedule a few times until you determine what you can comfortably handle.

5. Cultivate positive thoughts

With depression, it might be difficult to meet deadlines or maintain relationships. This might lead to a vicious cycle of negative thoughts about self, anxiety, and even more severe depression. Instead of thinking ill about yourself, be kind and compassionate to yourself.

Consult MEDvidi doctors to know helpful techniques for managing depression symptoms.

How to get motivated

6. Develop a support network

Have a reliable network of friends or family that you can run to for encouragement when motivation runs out and you feel overwhelmed. The person in your support network should be someone you comfortably and freely talk to about different issues.

7. Get adequate sleep

Depression can be extremely physically draining if accompanied by sleep disturbances. Getting the recommended hours of sleep per night can help stabilize your mood and enhance motivation. Avoid sleeping too much or too little when depressed.


Besides the mood, appetite, and sleep changes, lack of motivation is a setback many people with depression struggle with. You will likely feel tired and lose interest in previously pleasurable activities. Treating the disorder is the best way to restore motivation in individuals feeling depressed and unmotivated. But other tricks you can use to get and stay motivated when depressed include setting small, achievable goals, rewarding yourself, and exercising. If you see that self-help tips are not enough for you to cope with depression, consider consulting a mental health professional.


5 sources
  1. Depressive disorder (depression). (2023)
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  2. Depression
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  3. Depression and Everyday Social Activity, Belonging, and Well-Being. (2009)
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  4. Motivation and Cognitive Control in Depression. (2019)
    Source link
  5. Motivation by reward jointly improves speed and accuracy, whereas task-relevance and meaningful images do not. (2023)
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.