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How can I get motivated when I'm so depressed?

Depression is a very common mental disorder, affecting millions of Americans every year. And if you have depression, that might bring you comfort, knowing that many people all over this country are feeling the way you’re feeling – but it doesn’t make what you’re going through any easier.

A common question people who struggle with depression ask is, “How can I get motivated when I’m so depressed?”

Listen: we’re not talking about moving mountains. We don’t have to discuss running marathons, or completing two degrees, or building a house.

When you’re depressed, we know that sometimes, all you’re looking for is motivation to get up in the morning. Maybe to go to work. Maybe to take a shower. Maybe to open a window.

Those “little” things? Not so little for those who have depression. So those things require just as much motivation and deserve just as much celebration.

So then just how we find motivation when we’re depressed?

We start small.

By setting small goals that are manageable, we’re setting ourselves up for success. Each goal we meet is a doorway to the next. And each and every goal begins to feel like a win.

Here are some small, manageable goals to meet and celebrate.

1. Get up.

For those with severe depression, sometimes just getting up and out of bed is a wondrous thing. If you can get up, even for just ten minutes, put your feet on the ground and take a deep breath, consider that a great start.

2. Make the bed.

Even the healthiest people get so much out of making the bed – books have even been written about the value of a made bed in the morning. Making the bed gets you started for the day, and when you crawl back into your bedroom at the end of it, you’ll see proof of the very first thing you did to start your day.

3. Get some exercise.

No, you don’t need to go to SoulCycle or hop on a Pelaton or even turn on a 30-minute yoga video on YouTube. You can just go for a 20-minute walk (or less if that’s all you can do). You can go up and down a flight of stairs once. Exercise releases those feel-good hormones that have been scientifically proven to improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression, but have also alleviated severe forms, too. If you can do a little bit of exercise today, try to do a bit more tomorrow. Before you know it, your body will be asking for it, and it will become a healthy, happy habit.

4. Feed your mind good things.

Surround yourself with positive people. Turn off the news. Shut off your social media. Anything negative or sad or traumatic will impact your mood and may tamper with your motivation. Instead, turn on music that brings you joy, or put on a show that makes you laugh. Get on the phone with a friend who brings a smile to your face and your heart.

5. Sleep well.

Those with depression either sleep too much or sleep too little; try to sleep for eight solid hours. Turn off all the lights in your room, keep your phone away from you (that little light from your phone keeps you up in more ways than one!) and set your alarm to help you wake at the same time each and every day.

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