Over seven years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. The worst symptom of depression is a lack of motivation. It creates this never-ending cycle that only makes your depression worse. Most of us with depression know exactly what we need to do, but how do we do that when we have absolutely no motivation to do so?
Well, I figured it out, and I promise you that if you adopt this simple hack into your daily life, you’ll always be motivated. I know this because I still struggle with depression, but I get more done in a week than some people get done in a month. I don’t say this to toot my own horn; I say this to hopefully inspire you.
The Brutal Truth
In order to stay motivated, you need to realize the source of the problem: all you do is think about yourself.
Sorry to break it to you, but that’s the truth. This is part of the human condition, so don’t feel singled out by this harsh reality. By nature, we are selfish, self-centered creatures. This is why we can’t find the motivation to even get ourselves out of bed.
We’re constantly thinking about our wants and our needs.
This is especially true when we’re not doing anything, and that’s because of a few systems in our brain that create what scientists call the Default Mode Network (DMN). Whenever we hear about brain studies with the beautiful invention of fMRI machines, we hear about how they’re looking at brain regions that activate during different tasks or situations. Well, scientists wanted to see what the heck our brains do when we’re not doing anything at all.
When we’re doing nothing, which is often the case when we’re not motivated, our brain starts creating narratives that are completely about us. These brain regions light up, and we start thinking about our wants, our desires, our fears and more as we play out different scenarios in our minds. This is also why we sit there ruminating about the same nonsense over and over.
Thus, the default mode network is a group of brain regions that seem to show lower levels of activity when we are engaged in a particular task like paying attention, but higher levels of activity when we are awake and not involved in any specific mental exercise. It is during these times that we might be daydreaming, recalling memories, envisioning the future, monitoring the environment, thinking about the intentions of others, and so on — all things that we often do when we find ourselves just “thinking” without any explicit goal of thinking in mind. Additionally, recent research has begun to detect links between activity in the default mode network and mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Furthermore, therapies like meditation have received attention for influencing activity in the default mode network, suggesting this may be part of their mechanism for improving well-being.
So what’s the trick? Keep reminding yourself that it’s not about you.
Turn this into your personal mantra. Write “It’s not about me.” on post-it notes all over your house. Hell, tattoo it on your hand if you have to.
The way we find motivation is by realizing that we’re part of something bigger. There are many days that I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning because of my depression, but then I think about my son, and I get out of bed. On the days that I don’t want to go to work because I’m feeling out of it, I remember that it’s not about me, and I’d be screwing over my coworkers if I didn’t show up.
Even if you’re not a parent, and even if you’re not employed, you can think about the people in your life who love and care about you. Get out of bed for your family and friends. Take a shower as a form of self-care because people love you and want you to take care of yourself. Go to therapy because people want you to get better.
It Can Help You at Work Too
There have been numerous studies about workplace depression, and extensive research explains that people who see their job as a calling less depressed and stay motivated as well. This is partially because they aren’t just thinking about themselves.
A job is when you just go to work to collect a paycheck.
A career is more goal-focused, and you’re showing up as a means to an end (money, status, security etc.)
A calling is when you perceive your work as having a higher purpose.
The interesting part is that you don’t need work that’s perceived by society as a some great job either. They’ve found that receptionists, janitors and many others are constantly motivated and much happier because they see their job as a calling.
Do you know why? Because they aren’t only thinking about themselves.
Listen, I get that it’s hard to do things when we’re not motivated, but we’re adults here. The only people who get to live a life of only doing things they want to do are cats, and you’re not a cat. Life isn’t about doing what we want to do; it’s about doing what we need to do. So, get up and go do something because it’s not about you.
If you think you struggle with depression, I highly recommend the service I use, BetterHelp. They’re an affordable online therapy service, and by using this link, you help support The Rewired Soul.