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5 Minutes

How to get motivated when depressed

Explore practical tips for finding motivation during depression, including setting routines, exercising, fostering positivity, improving diet, and maintaining sleep hygiene. Unlock the power of small progress for lasting change.
Unmotivated depressed individual vector
Written by
Bloom Clinical Care Counselling and Therapy Services
February 15, 2023

Atticus Poetry once said, “Depression is being colorblind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”

Studies show that about 8.2 percent of the people in Canada may be living with depression. However, it is still one of the least understood illnesses. You may even come across people who say "Just snap out of it, it can’t be that hard." The truth is, it is that hard. Depression is not the same as feeling sad or angry. It is a feeling of numbness - the loss of a zest for life and a lack of interest in things you once enjoyed.

What are the symptoms of depression?


It is crucial to know and recognize the common symptoms of depression so you can help yourself or your loved ones. While it may manifest slightly differently in people, here are some of them -


  • Feeling sad or having a low mood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in things or anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure)
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping 
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


Finding motivation when depressed can feel like a Herculean task. Even basic daily tasks can take up a lot of energy. No one can give you a five-step checklist because it is an arduous journey that cannot be simplified like that. But what can help is to make a start. Taking baby steps - putting one foot in front of the other and then another, and so on. 

Here are some tips to finding motivation when depressed:

1. Start by setting a routine.


An article published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine brought attention to the real meaning of ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ It’s not about eating more apples, but it's about eating nutritious food, regularly. The last word is the operative one. Lifestyle changes are always challenging, but the way to start is by setting a routine. The article further recommends that you start by listing everything you do, right from when you wake up to when you go to bed. Then, make some changes that you would like to implement. And go from there.


2. Schedule at least 20-30 minutes of exercise every day.


Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Craig Miller describes the biological impact of exercise on mood. He states that regular, low-intensity exercise accelerates the growth of proteins called neurotrophic factors which aid nerve cell growth in areas that can have a positive impact on your mood. While high-intensity exercise causes a surge of endorphins that can make you feel great, it’s not always sustainable. Additionally, depression can cause you to lose the motivation to exercise. Dr. Miller recommends starting small but ensuring that you exercise every day. Whether you prefer walking, yoga, calisthenics, or a sport, the key is to find what is sustainable for you. In addition to the tangible health benefits of reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, consistent exercise can also help you stay motivated to do other things.


3. Surround yourself with positive people.


Do you ever find yourself feeling almost instantly better when you spend time with certain people? Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." While it may not be literal, there is a lot of truth behind that line. The people around you can influence your thoughts, behavior, and actions. If the people in your life constantly belittle you or exude negativity, it makes it that much harder to find motivation. Curating an inner circle of positive people who bring out the best in you is an excellent boost to a trying journey of finding motivation when depressed. James Clear, author of the best-seller, Atomic Habits said "Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior." It is far more likely to find sustained motivation when you set an environment conducive to productivity - with lots of light in your home, healthy food in your kitchen, and people who lift you.


4. Improve your diet.


Nutritional psychiatry is a branch of medicine that has garnered a lot of attention in the past few years. That is because what you put into your body can not only affect your physiology but can also have a lasting impact on your psychology. It is a no-brainer that eating healthy and avoiding junk / fast food has a positive impact on physical and psychological health. Working towards a good diet plan that covers all the food groups and is high in minerals and vitamins can be the perfect recipe for a fulfilling day. It may make sense sometimes to work with a dietician or nutritionist to get good results.


5. Ensure good sleep hygiene.


Both excessive sleeping and insomnia are common symptoms of depression. But the impact of sleep on mood and motivation is far deeper than that. “Just like our electronics need to be charged, sleep may recharge or reset the brain to optimize functioning”, says Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Blake Zakarin. Poor sleep hygiene can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression and deter recovery. Simple ways to improve sleep hygiene include - using your bed ONLY for sleep, exercising earlier in the day, avoiding long daytime naps, and avoiding caffeine post-noon. However, some people may need more help with fixing their sleep cycles. It is advisable to seek the support of a sleep clinic and / or that of a mental health professional in those circumstances.


 6. Try to avoid stressors.


Smoking and alcohol can put a lot of undue stress on your body and be a deterrent to finding motivation when depressed. Additionally, steering clear of situations that make you anxious (when you can) can help when you are on a healing journey.

However, no matter how hard you try, there will be some days when you just cannot get yourself out of bed. Be kind and forgive yourself for those days. A better day is just a sunrise away.

Just remember, a little progress each day adds up to big results.

We May be Able To Help You

At Bloom Clinical Care Counseling and Therapy Services, we are Social Workers registered with the OCSWSSW. We have  25+ years of experience in supporting people experiencing grief & bereavement, depression, anxiety, guilt, anger, low self-esteem, stress, relationship issues and other mental health challenges. We do not require any referrals and are always welcoming new clients.

If you are looking for therapists near you in Toronto, Bloom Clinical Care is located at 1200 Markham Road, Suite 306C, M1H 3C3. We also offer virtual therapy options by phone or video call across Ontario. Help is available, and we may be able to help

Struggling with you mental health? We may be able to help. Book a free consultation today.
Disclaimer: This article is solely intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as professional advice. The content of this article should not be used as a substitution to therapy, counselling, medical attention, or any kind of professional help. The author and Bloom Clinical Care Counseling and Therapy services strongly encourages readers to seek guidance from appropriate professionals if they are in need of assistance.

Let us help you, help yourself.