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 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 a 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?
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:
- Destroy your motivation;
- 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
We hope you found this free journal excerpt helpful, our friend, and that moving forwards, these alternative thinking patterns we've talked about help you to overcome "depression lack-of-motivation".
All our love,
The Depression Project Team.
P.S. If you found this excerpt helpful and would like more guidance on how to overcome "depression lack-of-motivation", then click the button below to learn more about our "Depression Lack-Of-Motivation" Journal!