Turn depression into motivation

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

  • Suggested Resources

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    For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.

Last Updated: 08/30/2022

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How to restore motivation in case of depression? — Knife

Jennifer sat at home alone, unable to force herself to do anything. Since becoming depressed, she has been spending more and more time in her apartment, often staying in bed for a couple more hours after waking up. She didn't have any strength. When she got home from work, she just wanted to hibernate, stay at home and eat junk food. Nothing else interested her more. Before the depression, she went to the fitness club three times a week, met with friends, rode her bike along the river. But none of this interested her anymore.

When Jennifer was sitting in my office talking about how bad she felt, even her voice sounded sluggish: “I can't bring myself to do anything. I have no motivation." She looked doomed.

Being depressed makes it difficult to take action. You're waiting for motivation that never seems to come. You, like a bear in hibernation, are sitting in your "lair" waiting for better times. You think about doing different things, but none of them seem exciting enough. “Too difficult,” you decide. This causes you to distance yourself from your friends even more, and doing nothing drastically reduces the amount of rewarding activities you can do. You feel helpless, like you can't do anything at all. You end up criticizing yourself for inaction. And this drives you into even more depression. The circle is closed. It's time to break out of it. Let's get to work. Let's start by taking a closer look at the idea of ​​motivation.

The myth of motivation

Jennifer believed that she couldn't do anything without motivation. As she sank into despondency, she became less active and obsessed over how bad she felt. She was waiting for a return of motivation - waiting for a change in mood, waiting for her life to get better. The wait can be quite long.

I decided to offer an alternative. I asked her:

- If you saw me walking up and down 57th Street like I was looking for someone, would you come up to me and say, "Bob, who are you looking for?" And I would answer: “I’m waiting for motivation to appear. I think she'll be here any minute." What would you think?
- I would have thought you were crazy.
- Let's imagine that you stopped waiting for motivation to appear. Let's say you decide to go to a fitness club even without motivation. You just made a decision and went. What will happen next?
- Surely I would feel better, because I would do something to help myself. — Well, what if this is how it gets better? You can be productive even without motivation, even if you feel tired or out of sorts. You can act in any case.
- You're right. Sometimes I went to a fitness club even without motivation.

- What if motivation comes later? Do you suddenly feel the urge to continue studying? Suddenly action creates motivation? Have you ever noticed this?

“I think so,” Jennifer said.
- Sometimes after training, I noticed that I had more strength for other things.
- Let's turn motivation on its head. Imagine that you have decided from today to do things that do not arouse your enthusiasm. You would make a list of things that will make you feel better, and you would do them anyway, even without motivation. You would not wait for a desire, but just do it. Let's see what happens to your level of motivation in one week. Every day you will do something for which you feel no desire.

If you are like Jennifer, say to yourself, "I need to feel the urge to do this." But this is a myth. Behavior creates motivation for someone who decides to do what needs to be done. And he gains motivation afterwards.

Willingness to do what you don't want to do

Speaking of lack of motivation, we are really just saying, "I don't want to do this." We can formulate such a thought in a different way: "It's too difficult", or " I'm not ready ", but the basic meaning is the same: we do not want to do this.

But didn't you do a lot of things in the past that you really didn't feel like doing? For example, preparing for exams, going to work, taking out the trash, or putting up with someone's behavior? The reality is that you don't have to wait for a desire to do something. Just willingness is enough. And this is different from being motivated, confident, or agreeable.

So how to go from desire to readiness ? I decided to explore this issue with Jennifer.

— Have you ever had the thought, “This may well be a good thing to do, but I really don’t feel like doing it”?
- Yes. For example, training, dieting, calling friends, doing my job...
- Then you understand what I mean. We all have this problem. We just don't want to do what we don't want to do. (It’s like we went back to childhood, when mom or dad told us to do something, and we whined: “I don’t want to.”) But what if we decided that we would not listen to this inner voice and that we ready to do things that didn't want like playing sports, dieting, studying, doing your job? We just decided that. We wanted and we did.

“I have done that from time to time,” Jennifer said. - That was hard.
- Okay, Jennifer, let's think about it. What things that you really did not want to do, did you do in the past and do now?
- Let's see. Two years ago, I lost four and a half kilograms. I just decided that I needed to get back in shape and didn't give up. When I was in college, I studied for exams - and many times overcame what I thought I could not finish. I also decided to break up with my boyfriend even though part of me really didn't want to.
- Was it good for you to do something that you didn't want to?
- Yes, it was useful.
— You seemed to think better of yourself by doing something you didn't want to.

Think of it this way. How did you force yourself to do what you didn't want to do? You explained to yourself that this is important. You didn't have to know that something would come of it, but you did it anyway. You did it even when you were tired, unprepared or had a headache. You put on your "mental Nikes" and just did it.

What happened when you did something you didn't want to do? You have been successful. They felt confident in their abilities. You realized that lack of strength and motivation cannot keep you from choosing to do what needs to be done. You called on self-discipline to help.

Think of things that would be good for you but that you really don't feel like doing. Ask yourself: Am I ready to do this ?

Structural discomfort

Changes in all areas of our lives are associated with certain discomfort. Losing weight requires exercise, building relationships requires patience, decision making requires the ability to act sometimes in the face of uncertainty. Facing your fears causes anxiety. So discomfort is inevitable.

We just learned the importance of doing things you don't feel like doing, but now you can focus even more on your ability to put up with discomfort. I see this as a constructive discomfort. We have just examined your willingness to do whatever is necessary to achieve improvement, now let's focus on your attitude towards discomfort. Do you consider discomfort something debilitating, exhausting, too long? Or do you see it as a temporary inconvenience, as a challenge to overcome obstacles, and as an inevitable part of real life? Do you see discomfort as destructive or constructive?

What is constructive discomfort? It is the ability to do unpleasant things in order to achieve one's goals. Think of discomfort as a means to an end. This is a tool.

Here are some simple exercises that you can do to develop a tolerance for discomfort.

  1. Write your history of discomfort : What were some things you did that were unpleasant but you did them anyway?
  2. Match discomfort with pride : what are you proud of? Is it related to some kind of discomfort?
  3. Find out the degree of discomfort : Watch for unpleasant things. See if the discomfort is related to their implementation.
  4. Realize that discomfort is temporary . He won't kill you. Moreover, it will make you stronger. The dancers say: “It was a good workout. Pain is good."

Without doing something unpleasant every day, you will not succeed. You can use your discomfort as an investment - do what it takes to get what you want. Acting in discomfort is like building "mental" muscles. This is called self-discipline. Discomfort is temporary. Pride is eternal.

"You shouldn't have done this"

Another obstacle to success is your rules about what you "shouldn't do". For example, after a relationship breaks up, you might think, “I shouldn't have gone through this. Shouldn't have been lonely." It's hard and often unfair. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Knowing that you now have to deal with your own suffering only adds to the feeling of injustice.

One way to deal with a situation is to realize that you don't have much choice. The only choice you have is to do something to improve your situation or not to do anything. What happened to you may be unfair, perhaps even traumatic. But it didn't happen today. Today, you may be asking yourself if there is anything you can do to help yourself deal with what has happened.

Imagine that your house was destroyed by a hurricane. Now you have a choice: rebuild it or sit back and think about how terrible the hurricane was. Where will you direct your efforts and resources?

We often make the wise decision to do things we really shouldn't do. Why are we doing this? Because it's in our interest. It helps us improve our lives.

What kind of person do you want to be?

When we are in a crisis, we tend to focus on overcoming the negative emotions we are experiencing right now. It `s naturally. But you can also see your depression as an opportunity to figure out the kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be the one who waits until something happens to him, or the one who gets things done? The expectation of improving well-being speaks of passivity. Doing what needs to be done means taking the initiative. What kind of person do you want to be? Those who wait or those who act?

Jennifer had a habit of waiting until she got better. I offered her another choice: "You can do more now and feel better later."

We can also think of intention as an initiative: "I will get my way" or "I am going after my goals." Jennifer had several good examples of past goals that she aspired to and achieved. She studied difficult subjects in college, studied hard and made progress. She lost weight. She moved to New York without knowing anyone there and made new friends. The initiative helped her feel better. Passivity brought a feeling of helplessness.

The ancient Greeks and Romans in the days of Aristotle and the Stoics knew the value of this way of thinking. They emphasized the development of habits that contributed to the "good life" - generosity, courage, self-discipline and poise.

An important feature of a habit is its regular practice without motivation or reward. You just do it. Act in accordance with your interests. Once you form the "habit" of getting your way, you won't rely on your feelings. You will not sit and wait for motivation to appear. Habit will resist fatigue and hardship. This is the kind of person you will become.

The key to Aristotle's approach was precisely to strive to become the person you want to be. You need to know your goals. Jennifer realized that she wanted to be kind, generous, truthful. But she also realized that she needed to develop the habit of self-discipline - to be able to act in a bad mood and do the difficult.

Do you want to be someone who gets things done, doesn't put things off, and is able to do difficult things even when you don't feel like it? Or do you want to be the one who waits by the sea for the weather and is ready to do only easy and pleasant things? Do you want to be a person who sets goals and perseveres towards the result? Or do you want to be the one who quits the moment things don't work out? The choice is yours.

See also

Where to Look for Motivation: Why Time Limits are Better than Quarterly Bonuses

A young man I know graduated from West Point, the US Military Academy. The training there is very harsh. I asked him to name the most important lesson he learned from there. Without thinking, he said, "I have learned that I can do things that I never thought I could do." Suddenly you will learn the same? We may be able to make this your daily habit.

Let's see what steps you can take to get where you want to be and be the person you want to be.

8 ways to deal with apathy

It’s strange: I’m sitting alone in Odessa, in a small dark apartment rented on airbnb, absently watching serials one after another, eating ice cream, eating bread — and I don’t want to go to the sea for which I came . Through the window you can see how people are hurrying by on important business, and from my business I can buy falafel in the right pita. After much torment, I accepted the simple truth about myself: right now I do not want anything and nowhere. But the truth is that I'm fine. Well, because finally there is no shame.

The habit of wanting more, setting ambitious goals and living every second to the fullest played a cruel joke on me - in pursuit of the great, I missed the moment when the battery of vitality began to blink alarmingly, demanding to immediately connect the power supply. I was not up to it: I built my life according to the patterns of my dreams. And in the end, I woke up on an unremarkable morning and was surprised to find that there was no longer enough motivation even to put my hand out from under the covers and turn off the alarm clock. The electronic rooster continued to crow, and I was overcome by such impotence, unwillingness to desire and guilt for inefficiency that I seemed to sleep until the next morning. I had objective reasons for the crisis of desires (my business “for the soul” fell apart before it had time to get stronger). But, as I found out later from conversations with friends, the state when you don’t want anything at all can come without any global cataclysms from the outside world. In the end, it's always about perception. Even a collapsed business for one person is a reason to switch to something new with passion, and for another - a stupor and apathy.


Who is the first to fall into the risk group for loss of motivation and desires? Of course, excellent students are perfectionists. A healthy person has a system of self-regulation, a kind of built-in radar that tells when to work and when to rest, when to give gasoline in pursuit of the stars, and when to praise oneself for what has already been achieved. With perfectionism, the ability to self-regulate is lost: it always seems to a person that he has not done enough, that more and faster is needed. As a result, a feeling of guilt arises, which “does not give” the right to a good rest. As in childhood: why lay down when English is not done? Formally, you can spend a day off with your family outside the city, but your mind will be busy solving issues of increasing personal efficiency. All the time paying attention to the global “should” and neglecting the small daily “want”, you drive the inner child into a corner, from which he can only get out with the help of hysteria or, in my case, a quiet boycott.

The second stress factor is low self-esteem, which gives rise to high expectations. With high expectations, you want everything or nothing, completely losing the ability to appreciate the present. A common example is "get it before" psychosis. When a girl for some reason decides that, say, by thirty she should have everything - a beloved husband, rosy-cheeked little ones, a business that brings moral satisfaction and benefit to society, a high income, her own housing, a wide circle of friends ... If at least one of points sags - hello, depression! Psychologist Viktor Emil Frankl, known for books describing the principles of survival of prisoners in Nazi camps, notes that people who have lost faith in their salvation are doomed. But, oddly enough, those who entertain themselves with unrealistically optimistic illusions are doomed.


Once you have dealt with the causes that brought you to a state of deep apathy, it is easier to begin the recovery process. According to psychologists, recognizing a problem and understanding its origins is the first and necessary step towards a solution. But don't dig too deep: it's easy to drown in the childhood traumas that led to perfectionism and low self-esteem. To carefully and calmly explore the causes of destructive automatisms of your character, you will need more than one insight in sessions with a psychologist or during honest conversations with yourself. But if the task is to urgently bring yourself back to life, there is no time for a detailed debriefing. Act, then reflect! When a person drowns, he must first be rescued and given first aid. And after that, figure out why he climbed into the water at night, alone, in the middle of a storm.


I tried all the described methods on personal experience at peak critical moments. The goal of each of them is to convey to their inner child, who arranged the boycott, that the weather has finally cleared up and he can go out. And to convey to yourself, an adult who achieves goals and heights, that to give free rein to perfectionism to such an extent that you have to drink chamomile tea for half a year is not perfect at all.

1. Allow yourself everything and at least try not to feel guilty about it. The stupidest thing you can do in a moment of complete apathy is to try to turn on your willpower to the maximum, tighten the belts tighter and force yourself to "throw this nonsense out of your head." Willpower, like muscles, can and should be kept in good shape, but, like muscles, it needs rest. If you find it difficult to see the motivation. in obvious things, this just says that the willpower has been overloaded and it's time to leave it alone. Give your inner child whatever it wants. Do you want to sleep twelve hours a day and not communicate with anyone? Give him that opportunity! Watch series in a circle with a bucket of ice cream? No problem! If you can't get in touch with your childish self and you still can't hear what it wants, try this exercise. When you wake up, allow yourself not to run anywhere, not to decide anything, not to check your mail or phone. Indulge in bliss, turn on your fantasy and dream about something completely unrealistic (about something that cannot be immediately turned into a goal) - about a magical superpower that you would like to have, or what you would tell a curious alien about Earth in the first place. Surely in the process at least one material desire will come up, which must be written down (so as not to forget) and fulfilled.

2. The diet can wait. "In the basal nuclei of the forebrain there is an area called the "pleasure center". It is part of the brain's reward system and plays an important role in everything related to motivation, pleasure and energy replenishment. In us, as in all other vertebrates, this system associates pleasure with activities that are vital to the existence of our species, such as eating food and sex,” writes Mike Wiking in the book “Hygge. The secret of Danish happiness. Start simple: switch to a diet rich in substances that stimulate the production of pleasure hormones: nuts, bananas, wine, red fish, chocolate brownies, pasta. Now everything is possible!

3. Tell at least one person about your condition. Even to himself. Talking to someone about being deeply apathetic is difficult - it's like admitting weakness in public. You begin to avoid meetings, because you do not want to spoil everyone's mood with your sour mine. You increasingly want to be alone. However, sharing your thoughts with at least one person is essential. This does not mean that you need to treat him like a free psychoanalyst, dumping all your hidden fears on the poor fellow. Just be honest about how you feel and why you can't communicate as usual. First, it will relieve the paranoia of social isolation. Secondly, after a sincere conversation, the situation will no longer seem so hopeless. If dialogue with loved ones is not given, start by talking to yourself. Open a blank notepad and write! It doesn’t matter what, just write down the first phrase that comes to mind. If there are no ideas, try starting like this: “Hi! Well, here we come, we don’t want anything at all. And what are we going to do now?" You will be surprised, but someone will start to answer!

4. Avoid motivational speeches, posts, photos. The worst thing that a person in a state of loss of motivation can do is to try to recharge the motivation of a neighbor. Everything seems to be logical: I have zeros, you have a lot - lend it. But in reality it turns out to be a disservice. In moments of devastation, you will automatically either subject such information to devaluation, or it will make you feel like a pathetic person, unable to muster your will into a fist. At the other extreme, you set an unrealistic goal in order to dig even deeper into the hole of apathy. Motivation by example works when you initially intend to achieve a certain goal, and monitor the ways that others work. But now is not the case at all. A drastic and actionable solution: temporarily unfollow all inspiring social media influencers. By the way, this will be a good way to check which information really inspires you, and which one you consume out of habit.

5. Food for the body, entertainment for the mind. Switch your attention from the needs of the mind, which is temporarily "hung", to the needs of the body. Start with meditation. In the morning, after fantasizing about superpowers and aliens, sit on the floor and enter a state of meditation. The body should be absolutely comfortable, so if necessary, put pillows under the buttocks and knees, throw a blanket over your shoulders and turn on calm, soothing music. Close your eyes and control your breathing. Breathing in, say "breath in" while breathing out, say "breath out". Try not to focus on a single thought, no matter how persistently it climbs into the air. Stay in this state for at least ten minutes. At the end of your meditation, smile and thank yourself for the effort. After meditation, you can start light exercises - not for the sake of a thin waist, but solely for pleasure. And for the mind - fiction. Recently, I often hear from acquaintances that this is just a “waste of time”, that it is better to read books about management and motivation. But wasting time is just what you need. You don't want to do anything, so don't do anything. Just waste your time.

6. Your turn! By the way, about the senseless waste of time. According to a study conducted by Princeton University led by economics and public policy professor Alan Krueger, activities with elements of play bring the most pleasure to a person, although they have no practical value. According to the study, the list of activities that bring joy is topped by social activities - hiking, playing with children, board games. As you slowly start to come to your senses and when the company of other people does not make your jaw clench, invite your friends to get together for a game of poker, Monopoly or Dixit - this is a great way to return to communication after a break.

7. Hug - stimulate the release of oxytocin. In fact, activities with elements of the game have a practical meaning: they bring people together. Psychologists around the world agree that social connections are necessary for a person to feel well. It is important for us to feel the whole spectrum of “intimacy” - to know that we have someone to rely on, someone to say hello to near the house, someone to play squash with or go to a rally against the development of the old city. It doesn't take any statistics to notice how city dwellers are losing their outer circles of intimacy in favor of networking over all other forms of communication. While intimacy between people is necessary even at the hormonal level. Hugging a friend who is sad is more important than subtly analyzing his injuries and giving thoughtful advice. This is how nature heals: the touch of a loved one activates the production of oxytocin, which causes a surge of happiness and reduces feelings of stress, fear and longing.

8. Presence in the present. All recognized specialists in happiness, from Buddhist monks from Bhutan to researchers of the secrets of well-being from Denmark, teach us one thing - to be aware of the present and our feelings in it. So, in moments of apathy, it seems to us that we practically do not feel tastes or smells. Push yourself to wake up: sit in a picturesque corner with a glass of your favorite drink and ask a question in relation to each of the five sensations: what am I seeing? what do I hear? what flavor do you feel? what taste is on my tongue? what surface am I touching? It is equally interesting to develop each of the sensations separately: look into a niche perfume shop and ask them to show you all the variations of rose-themed fragrances.

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