I know exercise is supposed to help me fight depression, but how can I find the motivation to work out when I’m depressed?
Depression definitely can make it hard to find the motivation for exercise (among other things) because a loss of interest in normal activities, along with the ability to enjoy them, is often one of the main symptoms of depression. But what does that mean in practical terms?
It definitely doesn’t mean that you’ll have to wait until your depression has cleared up before you’ll be able to start building up a regular exercise routine. In fact, it probably means just the opposite. You might need to stop looking for your motivation or waiting for it to appear before you start working out. Instead, recognize that feeling unmotivated is part of the illness and that starting a regular exercise routine is an important part of the cure. It’s a lot like getting out of bed in the morning on a low day—you might not feel like it; but you know that if you don’t do it, things are only going to go downhill from there.
The good news is that actually starting an effective exercise routine isn’t as unpleasant or difficult as it seems. Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean you’ll to have to spend weeks or months forcing yourself to do something you don’t feel like doing; you just have to start by taking the first few steps on faith. That’s because motivation is actually a mental muscle that works a lot like your other muscles—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And just like there are good (and bad) ways to train your other muscles effectively, there are good ways to train your motivation so it gets stronger as you go along, and makes it easier for you to establish and maintain a good exercise habit. Here are a few good motivation muscle training tips to get you started.
Focus on just a few things at a time.
We often create a big list of things that we want to do and achieve. Focusing on two or three things at a time will allow you to feel less overwhelmed. Instead, you will feel motivated, as your goals will now seem so much more achievable.
Out of the two sets of six-month goals below, which set gets you more motivated?
Learn to play guitar, do well at work, and get fit.
Learn to play guitar, do well at work, get fit, build big muscles, get better at singing, get top marks at school, learn how to draw better, and write a book.
When I see the second list, I feel overwhelmed. When my life looks a bit like this, I usually don’t know where to start or if I can succeed at anything I’ve set out to do.
People feel motivated when they feel they have a good chance of success.
This has been a big learning curve for me. When success seems like it is just around the corner, suddenly I get an amazing rush of energy where I feel liberated and excited to achieve bigger things.
Set yourself two or three easy to achieve goals at a time and you will notice that you will naturally gain inspiration and motivation.
Exercise is the simplest way to overcome laziness. A lot of the time, we feel lazy because completing a task seems too difficult. With exercising, you don’t have to figure anything out. You just have to make that one big decision to literally start moving your body (jump up and down, go for a run, or start doing lunges in your living room).
This has been a big revelation for me. Sometimes I get so fed up with feeling lazy and lethargic that I literally just start running. I have learned that if you can overcome physical laziness, your mind will naturally follow.
You will find that you will become more willing to think about complicated things, such as working on a project or doing something that you have been avoiding. Exercise will help you break through that barrier of inertia and will help you feel motivated and more willing to put in an effort.
Allow yourself time to relax and do the things you enjoy.
Sound’s ironic, doesn’t it? Overcoming laziness by relaxing! But it works.
Often, we become lazy because a task seems too difficult. By relaxing and doing the things we enjoy, we allow ourselves to feel satisfied. When we are satisfied, we are more willing to take on bigger tasks and achieve bigger things.
By relaxing and enjoying yourself, you also allow yourself to think about things, reflect, and feel inspired.
For example, I often feel uninspired to write articles. I get a mental block. Writing and researching becomes an overwhelming task, so I retreat to laziness. I completely block out anything that requires hard work.
I have learned that as I relax and do things I enjoy, my mind is encouraged to reflect again. It is not scared of becoming overwhelmed because it knows that I am not going to push it to do something productive if it does not want to.
This is how I gain inspiration again. When I relax, I suddenly find myself thinking of all these great ideas and I regain inspiration and motivation.
Your physical surroundings have a big impact on how you feel. If your house is a mess, you are likely to feel even more overwhelmed—both because clutter creates a sense of chaos and because having to clean your house adds to your giant list of things to do in a ridiculously short amount of time.
Clean your house and organize your physical surroundings and you will naturally feel motivated to be more productive and active.
You will be making life simpler and easier to manage.
Once you’ve organized your home, you may feel motivated to get organized in other areas of your life and tackle tasks you’ve neglected.
As I mentioned earlier, laziness is often our attempt to avoid difficult or unpleasant tasks. Ironically, once you start tackling them, it will all feel less difficult and overwhelming and you’ll likely feel a lot less tense.
Be aware of and monitor your internal dialogue.
Our internal dialogue (the way we speak to ourselves) has such a big impact on how we feel and what we do.
Anthony Robins, a world-famous motivational speaker, explains that if we want to feel ecstatic, all we need to do is adopt a point of view that creates that emotion.
For example, picturing in your mind the things that make you feel that way, change the tone and content of your internal dialogue and change your posture and breathing to create that state in your body.
This has become my personal motto, and I am genuinely amazed at how much more positive I feel just by choosing to have a positive outlook.
Every time I have a negative thought, such as “today is going to be a long, hard day at work,” I immediately challenge that thought by telling myself something like this: “I have so much to be grateful for and today is going to be fun and enjoyable!”
I then make a choice to get rid of my slouchy posture and tell myself that I have lots of energy.
Just thinking that way makes me feel excited and gives me a big boost of energy.
I once learned that we have over 50,000 thoughts a day. Even if only 10 percent of them are negative, it equals a total of 5,000 negative thoughts a day. When I heard this, I realized that we have way too many negative thoughts and it helped make sense of why so many of us struggle to feel motivated.
Being aware of and monitoring your internal dialogue is so important, and will inevitably impact on how lazy you feel and how easy it will be for you to overcome that laziness.
These methods have helped me incredibly and continue to help me every day. I am sure that if you apply them too, you will experience a big boost of energy and motivation in your daily life