• Dr. Heather Violante, PsyD

5 Ways to Get Motivated When You Have Depression


At the beginning of each new year there’s a lot of buzz around making resolutions, setting new goals, and becoming your best self. But when you are struggling with depression, even the smallest tasks can feel overwhelming. It may be difficult to face your day and set goals for yourself. Here are some tips on how to set and achieve goals when you have depression.

Set Small Goals

People often feel intimidated by the amount of things they have to get done on their “to-do” list. If you’re in this boat, start off small - really small. For example, set a goal like taking a shower, changing out of your pajamas, eating a piece of fruit, or going for a 5-minute walk. Don’t even think about other tasks until you’re ready to get to them. Once you’ve taken this first step, feel proud of your accomplishment and of yourself. This feeling will help motivate you for your next task. Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself by setting too many goals at one time or goals that are too extreme or daunting. If you set a goal and it feels too overwhelming, change your goal to something more achievable or simply break it down into simpler steps.

Set a Theme

Setting a theme will help you achieve a larger goal by carrying out small, realistic tasks that guide you in a particular direction. Is there something you want to be better at? Do you want to learn something new? Have better relationships? Set small tasks that will help you achieve this. Make sure your larger goal isn’t too vague. For example, rather than setting your goal as “general wellness,” you could say, “I want to treat myself with respect and care” or “I want to try new things outside of my comfort zone.” The tasks that you set to help you achieve this goal should be well-defined. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to be more mindful,” set the task of practicing guided meditation for 5 minutes. If you want to have better relationships in general, then instead of saying you’re going to call loved ones more often, set the task of calling one person starting today.

Take Things One Day at a Time

Don’t look that far into the future. Set your goals on a day-to-day basis. If you start setting goals for tomorrow or next week, you may end up feeling overwhelmed. Set at least one goal for today, no matter how small it is, and when you accomplish it, feel good about yourself and set the next goal. If you are feeling more motivated, you can set two or three goals for today. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, because if you don’t end up completing the tasks you set for yourself, it can backfire and lead to self-criticism.

Don’t Go it Alone

Everyone, whether you have depression or not, needs a support system. When you’re struggling with depression, it’s even more important that you seek out support. Ask a friend or someone you trust to help motivate you and hold you accountable. Tell them what your goals are so they can help motivate you and make sure you’re not making excuses for yourself. If you know someone who is in a similar situation and whom you trust, you can set goals together, keep track of each other’s progress, and hold each other accountable.

Be Kind to Yourself

One of the most important things you can do is be kind to yourself. If you are having a hard day and unable to carry out the tasks you set, don’t beat yourself up. Be gentle and positive and actively challenge yourself by saying things like, “I can do this,” “this is worth it,” and “I am worthy.” Be mindful of negative self-talk and thoughts, self-criticism, shame, guilt, etc. If you are continuously hard on yourself, it can turn into a pattern or habit, and eventually become more difficult to think positively or even become motivated.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in America and often goes untreated. If you or someone you know is suffering from it, it’s important to seek out help. Dr. Heather Violante, Psy.D., President and Founder of Serenity Lane Psychological Services, specializes in supporting those who have depression, as well as their loved ones. Contact her today to learn how she can help you find inner peace and happiness. Dr. Heather Violante provides depression treatment and depression therapy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for adults and their loved ones.

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