Depression Lack-Of-Motivation: Causes & How To Get Motivated

10 Reasons People With Depression Struggle With Lack Of Motivation 10 Reasons People With Depression Struggle With Lack Of Motivation

As we at The Depression Project hear from members of our 3,000,000+ person social media community every single day, it's extremely, extremely common to struggle with lack of motivation when you have depression. And, for this reason, in this blog post, we'd like to share with you:

  1. Quotes from members of The Depression Project's community about what "depression lack-of-motivation" feels like, looks like and sounds like - in order to help you feel understood and that you are not alone;
  2. The reasons why it's so common for people with depression to struggle with lack of motivation;
  3. How to get motivated when you feel depressed by breaking out of the thinking patterns that commonly fuel lack-of-motivation;
  4. How to get motivated when you feel depressed by weighing the pros and the cons of not taking action;
  5. How to get motivated when you feel depressed by rewarding yourself when you do something that you'd felt unmotivated to do.

As soon as you're ready, let's get started!

Quotes About What "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Feels Like, Looks Like & Sounds Like

In order to share with you what "depression lack-of-motivation" feels like, looks like and sounds like according to members of The Depression Project's community, below, we've included a free excerpt from our cognitive behavioural therapy-based "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Journal.

The

Free excerpt

Quotes About What Lack Of Motivation Feels Like When You Have Depression
  • “No desire to do anything. Lack of hope for the future. An empty numbness. Neglecting everything as well as yourself.”
  • “A sense of not knowing where life is going … and not even caring.”
  • “Feeling like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
  • “A constant state of exhaustion.”
  • “Stagnant energy, decreased self-respect and esteem. Poor focus. No creativity.”
  • “Frustration at knowing I have a long list of things that need to get done, but no ability – no matter how badly I want to – to actually get up and do those things, or even one thing. And then being mad at myself for not doing anything. And then not having the mental capacity to push past the ‘invisible brick wall’ and do even a little thing. And then being even more mad at myself for not getting even a little thing done. On and on.”
Quotes About What Lack Of Motivation Looks Like When You Have Depression
  • “Staring at the wall for just five minutes, only to barely move your eyes and see that it has been four hours.”
  • “Putting off doing even the simple things. I shop once a month. I never bother to turn off the TV. I don’t clean. I only eat when I can’t stand the pain!”
  • “Sleeping a lot. Stop talking to friends and family. Isolation.”
  • “Procrastinating. Hoping that you get that spur of energy and productivity, but then you get distracted by something else, and then you’re overwhelmed and you’re back to procrastinating.”
  • “It looks like not washing your hair or body for long periods of time; it looks like laundry untouched in a pile or strewn all about; it looks like dirty dishes piled in the sink; it looks like missed doctor’s appointments; it looks like undone paperwork of different types; it looks like never changing clothes, wearing pj's all day, not cooking and eating just junk to get by; it looks like crazy sleep patterns. It looks like many things. It looks like crying over any and everything all day long; it looks like old friends you don’t see any more or even call; it looks like letting your home rot all around you without any idea or plan to fix it.”
  • “Constantly lying in bed, half playing the 6 out of 60 phone games you have that spark the tiniest amount of interest to try to feel like you’re accomplishing something.”
  • “Sitting in one spot for hours, thinking of all the things you should or could be doing but don’t because it’s too overwhelming.”
  • “Not caring about your body, sleeping all the time, eating junk food. I’m going down the bad hole again and it’s so hard getting out.”
  • Doing nothing for yourself. Making a list of daily tasks like brushing my hair or my teeth but I can’t even accomplish those small things. Dirty dishes for weeks and weeks. Start to do them and about a third of the way through have to go back to bed.”
  • “Sitting on the sofa internally arguing with yourself, torn between knowing you need to do things but physically being unable to bring yourself to do them. Trying to verbally motivate yourself with no success.”
  • “Being surrounded by interesting things to do, but not finding the motivation to do any of them.”
  • “Don’t want to talk to friends, prefer to be alone, no energy. Want to do something, but the thought of actually doing it is overwhelming.”
  • “It ‘looks like’: you bought tickets to a concert three months ago (paying hundreds of dollars for them), but on the night of the event, you seriously consider blowing it off because you ‘just can’t’.”
  • “My home care goes down the drain and I don’t have the energy to cook. I just eat cereal or always buy takeaway food. It’s exhausting to physically care for myself, let alone interact with people. I withdraw. It’s too tiring to stay awake.”
  • “For me, it is getting ready for a day of tasks, then sitting on the couch with no energy to do them.”
  • “Spending two hours putting on a sock because you can’t convince yourself to get out of bed.”
  • “Not wanting to do anything, no visiting, not wanting to work and just not wanting to do the things you used to love.”
  • “My plants are dead, I’m tripping over dirty clothes and my room is a disaster.”
  • “Knowing things should matter to you but not actually feeling it. You could go without starting tasks that are important on paper for ages because you have lost sight of how those things can make your situation better. Or, even if you do know, you think it’s just going to take too much energy that you don’t have anymore and that you won’t be able to do a good job anyway.”
  • “It’s pulling out all of the projects I want to do, setting them next to me, and then just staring at them until I decide to either move them or just leave them there.”
  • “When your ‘get up and go’ has ‘got up and gone’!”
  • “Sitting and staring at videos, knowing that there are so many things you need to get done, but not even being able to start anything. I know what I have to do, but I just can’t.”
Quotes About What Lack Of Motivation Sounds Like When You Have Depression
  • “Why bother? It won’t make a difference. No-one cares anyway.”
  • “It’s all too much.”
  • “Everything is such an effort.”
  • “This is too overwhelming.”
  • “What’s the point?”
  • “Nothing’s ever going to change.”
  • “I’m not going to do this well, so why even try?”
  • “I’m so useless and worthless for never getting anything done.”
  • “Why can’t I just get up and do things like everyone else can?”
  • “I’m a failure.”

End of free excerpt

10 Reasons People With Depression Often Struggle With Motivation

Now that we've shared with you a variety of quotes about what "depression lack-of-motivation" feels like, looks like and sounds like, let's now have a look at 10 reasons why it's so common for people with depression to feel unmotivated - as often told to us by members of The Depression Project's community.

  1. When you're deep in a depressive episode, it's very, very common to feel extremely "depression tired" - and when this is the case, it can make absolutely everything feel completely and utterly overwhelming (even the "little things" like getting out of bed and having a shower, for example).
  2. When you have depression, it's common to have concentration difficulties that can make it really hard to engage with the world around you, and therefore want to do the things that you would otherwise do.
  3. It can be really difficult to see any hope for the future - and if this is the case, then it's common to feel as if you have nothing to work towards and that there's no point in doing anything.
  4. When you have depression, it's also common to feel worthless, to lack confidence, and to feel incapable of achieving the goals you desire to achieve - which can zap your motivation to even try.
  5. If you are trying to work towards achieving a goal, then any obstacle that gets in the way (whether big or small), has the potential to trigger your depression and therefore diminish your motivation to want to continue.
  6. When you're deep in a depressive episode and are being bombarded with negative thoughts, consumed by painful emotions, and feeling so exhausted that it's a struggle to even get out of bed, for example, then it can be really difficult to be able to see anything- and/or think about anything beyond your symptoms.
  7. Depression can make you ruminate about experiences in the past that you perceive to be a "failure" - and if this is the case, then it can sabotage your motivation to pursue your goals because you may feel as if you won't be able to handle another such "failure".
  8. You may find that you're struggling to perform as well as you otherwise would at work, at school, and/or in other facets of your life - which can make you feel as if "depression is winning", and that no matter what you do, it will continue to keep winning - so why bother trying?
  9. Depression can result in you feeling numb - which can prevent you from experiencing any joy or pleasure in anything that you used to enjoy, and consequently sabotage your desire to want to do those things.
  10. When you have depression, it's also common to struggle with existential thoughts such as "surely there's more to life than all of this suffering?" and/or "what's the point in anything if we're all going to die?" And, if this is the case, then it's likely to contribute to you feeling less motivated as well.

NOTE: If existential thoughts, feeling numb and/or feeling like a failure is contributing to your "depression lack-of-motivation", then we have three cognitive behavioural therapy-based journals that we think you'll find helpful:

How To Get Motivated When You Feel Depressed By Breaking Out Of The Thinking Patterns That Commonly Fuel Lack-Of-Motivation

When you’re struggling with lack of motivation in the midst of a depressive episode, you may experience thoughts like:

“This is ridiculous! Why can’t I just get up and do things? Everyone else seems to be able to, so why can’t I?”

(And, if you’re like many people with depression, then you may have also experienced friends, work colleagues and/or family members say something along these lines to you, too).

However, when you have depression, there are a variety of factors at play which can make it extremely difficult for you to “just get up and do things”. Most notably, these factors include:

  • Distorted thinking patterns which fuel lack of motivation;
  • Difficult, painful, uncomfortable emotions (such as overwhelm);
  • Physical factors (such as exhaustion).

On that note, we'd now like to share with you another free excerpt from our "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Journal which identifies what two of these distorted thinking patterns which fuel "depression lack-of-motivation" are, and also shares some alternative ways of looking at things that can increase your motivation.

Are you ready?

The

Free excerpt

Cognitive Distortion #1 That Fuels "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation": “All-Or-Nothing” Thinking1

“All-or-nothing” thinking involves thinking in “extremes”, instead of having a more “balanced” perspective. In particular, all-or-nothing thinking contributes to keeping you trapped in an unmotivated mindset and holds you back from getting things done by, most notably, causing your default thought process to be along the lines of:

“I really should complete ALL of this particularly task … but, because completing ALL of this particular task feels like such a monumental mountain to climb, and because I can’t work up enough motivation right now to climb such a monumental mountain, I’m not going to complete ANY of it.”

In practice, some specific examples of “all-or-nothing” thinking which you may be able to relate to include:

  • Thinking that cleaning all of your home (one extreme) is too unmanageable for today, and consequently, cleaning none of it (the other extreme).
  • Thinking that you’re too exhausted to go to the gym and exercise for an hour today (one extreme), so you might as well spend the whole day in bed instead (the other extreme).
  • Thinking that your to-do list is too long for you to be able to catch up on everything today (one extreme), and therefore putting off all of the tasks on it until tomorrow (the other extreme).

However, what if instead of thinking in such an “all-or-nothing” way, you instead adopted a more flexible, balanced perspective that was somewhere in between?

To see how this could work in practice, let’s return to each of our examples.

Example #1: A More Flexible, Balanced Perspective When It Comes To Cleaning Your Home When You Feel Depressed And Lack Motivation

If cleaning all of your home (one extreme) feels unmanageable and you can’t work up the motivation to do it, then instead of cleaning none of it (the other extreme), what if you instead tried to clean just part of it – such as by:

  • Only cleaning one room;
  • Only picking up the clothes off the floor;
  • Only taking out the trash;
  • Only doing the dishes.

Cleaning only part of your home like so will feel much more manageable than cleaning all of your home, and as a result, it will be easier for you to work up the motivation to do it. Additionally, because cleaning part of your home – regardless of how small a part of your home you clean – is an actionable, positive step in the right direction, then after doing so, you’ll likely also find that:

  • You feel a little bit more confident in your abilities, and a little bit better about yourself than you would have if you’d instead cleaned none of your home;
  • You’ll likely feel a little bit less overwhelmed than you would have if you’d instead cleaned none of your home;
  • You’ll likely feel a little bit more hopeful that eventually, your entire home will be clean;
  • As a result of feeling a little bit more confident in your abilities, a little bit better about yourself, a little bit less overwhelmed and a little bit more hopeful, you’ll also likely experience a little boost in energy and motivation (as we’ll talk more about throughout this journal, taking action contributes to you feeling more motivated2);
  • Furthermore, as a result of experiencing a little boost in energy and motivation, cleaning an additional part of your home may also suddenly feel manageable – and for this reason, you may end up cleaning more of your home that day than you’d originally thought you could.
Example #2: A More Flexible, Balanced Perspective To Movement And Exercise When You Feel Depressed And Lack Motivation

Similarly, if going to the gym and exercising for an hour (one extreme) seems impossible and you can’t work up the motivation to do it, then instead of staying in bed all day (the other extreme), what if you just tried to do whatever you could manage in between these two extremes? For example:

  • Going for a walk around the block;
  • Walking outside to get the mail;
  • Getting out of bed and moving a bit around your home.

These milder forms of exercise / movement will feel much more manageable than going to the gym for an hour, and as in our previous example, they’ll consequently be easier for you to work up the motivation to do. And, as a result of engaging in these milder forms of exercise as opposed to staying in bed all day:

  • You’ll likely reap at least some of the benefits of exercising – since research shows that even minimal amounts of exercise and movement are better than not doing any at all2;
  • You’ll likely feel a little bit better about yourself than you would have if you’d stayed in bed all day;
  • Like we’ve mentioned, as a result of taking action (even if it’s only a relatively small action), and consequently feeling a little bit better about yourself, you’re likely going to feel a little bit more energetic and motivated moving forwards than you would have if you’d instead not taken any action at all.
Example #3: A More Flexible, Balanced Perspective When It Comes To Your To-Do List

In the same vein, if you don’t have enough motivation to catch up on all of the tasks on your to-do list today, then instead of putting all of those tasks off until tomorrow (when you’ll probably feel similarly unmotivated), what if you just completed half of the tasks today? Or a quarter? Or only one task? Again, this will be much easier for you to work up the motivation to do, and as compared to completing none of the tasks on your to-do list, will result in you feeling:

  • A little bit better about yourself;
  • A little bit more confident in your abilities;
  • A little bit less overwhelmed;
  • A little bit more hopeful that you’ll eventually be able to catch up on all of the tasks on your to-do list;
  • A little bit more energetic and motivated moving forwards as a result of taking action.

Cognitive Distortion #2 That Fuels "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation": “Fortune Telling1

In addition to “all-or-nothing” thinking, “fortune telling” is another cognitive distortion that can significantly contribute to lack of motivation when you have depression. In this context, “fortune telling” involves making a (usually negative) prediction about the future, and then assuming it to be true. And, when it comes to "depression-lack-of-motivation", some common examples include:

  • Thinking: “I’m never going to _________.” For example, “I’m never going to overcome depression.”
  • Thinking: “Nothing’s ever going to change.”

However, what happens in the future is yet to be determined, and the major, major problem with these distorted thinking patterns is that they:

  1. Destroy your motivation;
  2. As a result of destroying your motivation, they become a self-fulfilling prophecy by setting into motion a vicious, vicious cycle.

To see how this happens in practice, let’s look at the example of the negative thought “I’m never going to overcome depression”. In this case, if you predict “I’m never going to overcome depression” and assume this prediction to be true, then moving forwards, you’ll likely be much less motivated than you otherwise would be to take the actions that can ultimately lead to you overcoming depression – such as, for example:

  • Going to therapy;
  • Reading self-help books written by mental health experts;
  • Breaking out of unhealthy habits and replacing them with healthy habits;
  • Practicing self-care;
  • Making positive lifestyle changes.

This is because if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re never going to overcome depression anyway, then you likely won’t see the point in taking any of these actions. And – this is the self-fulfilling prophecy part – as a result of not taking any of these actions to overcome depression, then it’s highly, highly likely that you will remain embroiled in depression. Of course, this will only entrench the negative thought “I’m never going to overcome depression” even deeper into your psyche … which will cause you to feel even more unmotivated to take the actions that can help you to overcome depression … which will prolong you remaining trapped in depression … which will continue to intensify the negative thought “I’m never going to overcome depression” … and so the vicious cycle continues and continues.

However, let’s say that rather than making the definitive, all-conclusive future prediction “I’m never going to overcome depression”, you instead had a more open-minded view of the future, such as:

  • “While I don’t know what the future will hold, I will do everything in my power to overcome depression.”
  • “I’m going to set myself the goal of overcoming depression, and do my best to continually take little steps closer towards achieving this goal. And, the more and more little such steps that I take, the more and more my mental health will improve over time.”

In each of these cases, because you have more optimism about the future and believe that it’s yet to be determined as opposed to a fait accompli, then you’re much, much more likely to feel motivated to take the actions that can ultimately lead to you overcoming depression. And, as a result of then taking these actions to overcome depression, you’re of course much, much more likely to actually do so!

End of free excerpt

How To Get Motivated When You Feel Depressed By Weighing The Pros And The Cons Of Not Taking Action

Weighing the pros and cons of a particular action is a common distress tolerance strategy in dialectical behaviour therapy3. And, to see how it can be applied to help motivate you when you feel depressed, we'd once again like to share with you a free excerpt from our "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Journal.

The

Free excerpt

When you lack motivation to take action when you have depression, yet another strategy you can turn to in order to boost your motivation is to weigh the pros and the cons of not taking action. After all, when you choose not to take a particular course of action due to lack of motivation, you’re likely often only focusing on the short-term benefits of this decision – such as:

  • How it will be more comfortable to stay in your bed than to pull yourself out of it and start cleaning your home;
  • How watching television will be more enjoyable and less taxing than doing something on your to-do list, for example.

However, what if you also considered the long-term costs of not taking action?

For example, when it comes to you staying in bed all day instead of getting up and cleaning (at least a little bit) of your home, these long-term costs could include:

  • Spending all day in bed is likely to make you feel worse about yourself, less confident in your abilities, and more hopeless and defeated than you would if you had instead pulled yourself out of bed and made a little bit of progress cleaning your home.
  • If you stay in bed all day today, then your home will be just as messy (or perhaps even more messy) tomorrow. And, because tomorrow you’ll likely feel worse about yourself than you do today, less confident in your abilities, more hopeless and defeated, and consequently even more unmotivated and lacking in energy, then taking the first step towards cleaning your home will likely feel even more overwhelming, burdensome and/or scary than it does today.

In this way, if you bring awareness to the costs of not taking action, then there’s a good chance you’ll feel a surge of motivation to avoid these consequences, and therefore take the action that deep down, you likely know it’s in your best overall interests to take.

End of free excerpt

How To Get Motivated When You Feel Depressed By Rewarding Yourself

This is the final strategy we're going to share with you in this blog post in order to help you get motivated when you feel depressed. And, on that note, you'll once again find a free excerpt of our "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Journal below.

The

Free excerpt

Yet another way to increase your motivation to do something which you don’t feel motivated to do is to reward yourself for doing it. In practice, this could take the form of, for example:

  • After doing something which you don’t feel motivated to do, rewarding yourself by doing something that you enjoy – such as watching an episode of your favourite television show.
  • Additionally, a motivating reward could be something soothing, comforting and sensory in nature – such as taking a warm bubble bath, for example4.

Now, to make your rewards as motivating as possible, we encourage you to choose rewards which:

  • You genuinely find motivating and emotionally worthwhile4;
  • Are easily accessible to you4;
  • Reward you for both short-term behaviour (such as doing the dishes, having a shower, booking a therapy appointment, paying your bills, etcetera); and also longer-term patterns of behaviour as well4 (such as, for example, going for a walk each day of the week, reading a self-help book every week for a month, etcetera).

End of free excerpt

Final Words & The Biggest Two Takeaways About "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" From This Blog Post

In this blog post, we've covered a lot of ground concerning "depression lack-of-motivation". And, before we bring it to a close, we'd just like to reiterate two of the most important points that we have covered:

  1. For a variety of different reasons, feeling unmotivated is extremely, extremely common when you have depression, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
  2. "Depression lack-of-motivation" can be coped with - and in many cases overcome - by implementing proven, evidenced-based strategies - which we encourage you to continue learning about and practicing. On that note, if you'd like to learn a lot more strategies to help you cope with and overcome "depression lack-of-motivation", then we encourage you to get yourself a copy of our "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Journal - which you can learn more about by clicking the button below.

From the bottom of our hearts, we really hope that you've found this blog post helpful!

All our love,

The Depression Project Team.

References