Motivation and mental health – How to motivate yourself in difficult moments


Motivation is a key ingredient of our mental health. Its direction and intensity, to be precise. In depression, motivation is either very diminished and diffused or directed toward self destruction. In anxiety, motivation can be elevated but in direction of preoccupation with worry and self-absorption.

Focused and sustained attention is possible if we set concrete and achievable goals with measurable and satisfactory feedback. Long-term motivation can be endured if we, a side from the short-term goals, set up long-term goals which are valuable for us and contribute to our overall well being.

Motivation is simply put, effort-full action oriented towards future with the expectation of positive results.

When our energy is not focused in a certain direction due to multiple different reasons, our motivation becomes diffused or completely blocked. Different reasons might be: self-doubt, low self-esteem, physical and health problems, bad quality of sleep, external conditions, etc.

Chronically diffused motivation can lead to poorer mental health and increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Although, the causal connection can go in both ways, underlying psychological issues can decrease energy levels and motivational forces which consequently lead to more pronounced symptoms . This is why it is difficult to advice a person with mental health issues to simply put more effort into her or his activities or to be more physically active. Even though these can help, if the causal problem is a psychological issue it is more difficult to create the initial momentum for action. This is sometimes done with medication which can help a person to start changing her or his behavioral and thinking patterns.

However, certain things can be done independently from what is the cause of our problems to motivate ourselves in doing something we consider we should be doing.

First of all, observe your thoughts, their constant repetition, their power to absorb your attention completely from reality, their usual negative and critical tone.

Second, evaluate whether your thoughts are useful for you and your well-being. If they are not useful and beneficial, try to refocus your attention to more useful ones or simply to some small external action, such as cleaning your room, taking a shower…

Third, create a somewhat stubborn declaration to yourself that no matter how you feel right now, you will endure in your path, you will defeat the odds and you will succeed. 

These three little steps might give you an initial impetus for action, which in turn should elevate your energy levels and step by step, you will feel more energized and ready to work. You will remember your forgotten goals, and create new ones. The best remedy for the lack of action is action, which might sound contradictory, however it is true. Even the smallest action can create a momentum of activity, which will build on to more complex activity without unnecessary self-questioning and rumination. This will eventually lift your mood as well which is motivation’s best friend.

So, what are you waiting for?


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