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Published on September 12, 2018

How to Get Motivated When Depressed and Frustrated

How to Get Motivated When Depressed and Frustrated

Feeling down?

You’re not alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 16 million adults over age 18 had a major depressive episode in the United States in 2016 alone.[1]

And that doesn’t include the more common forms of depression and frustration that consume most of us on an all-too-regular basis.

In this article, we’re going to look into the reasons why you may feel depressed and frustrated and how to get motivated when depressed.

First, are you really depressed?

The signs and symptoms of depression on legion.

Depression can create feelings of apathy, discontent, hopeless, sadness and guilt.

Depressive episodes can affect your sleep cycles, leading to restlessness, insomnia or excessive sleepiness.

Behaviorally, in a depressive state, individuals experience more frustration and agitation.

Depression can influence your appetite (in either direction), your cognitive functioning (lack of focus), and your level of energy (fatigue).

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Okay, so let’s say you’re saying, “Check, check, and check.”

What’s next? Let’s explore some of the potential reasons why we get depressed.

7 common reasons for depression and frustration

Scan this list with an open mind and see which ones resonate with you. Often there are multiple factors that trigger our emotional states.

  • Repressed rage: When we are de-pressed, we are pushing down other emotions and feelings. The most common emotion that we push out of our awareness is anger and rage.
  • Unacknowledged envy: For many of us, envy silently eats away at our motivation each day. When we’re not conscious of our envy, it can quickly lead to depression.
  • Unmet basic needs: Abraham Maslow found that we all have basic human needs for safety, belonging, and self-esteem. When we don’t meet these needs sufficiently, we become neurotic. Depression and anxiety are common forms of neurosis.[2]
  • Life circumstances: If you’re going through a divorce or the loss of a loved one, depression and sadness is a common experience.
  • Something doesn’t go your way: You want something to happen—a promotion, a date, etc.—but it doesn’t happen. These circumstances often trigger frustration and can lead to depression.
  • Repressed desires: When we don’t get what we want, we get frustrated. When we don’t even acknowledge what we want, we get depressed. Sometimes these desires are reasonable; other times, they are tyrannical.
  • Living out of alignment: Perhaps you’ve made choices that defy who you are. Or, you’re behaving in ways that go against your personal core values. Making poor decisions and living out of accord with our values, is a sure path to depression and discontent.

What’s next? How do you get motivated when you’re depressed?

The standard approach: What not to do

When most people feel depressed, they try to “push through it.”

In a culture that has a bias toward happiness, we believe depression is a bad thing. If we have depression, we need to change it right away.

And how do we go about changing it? By using brute force—pushing ourselves to do that which we don’t want to do.

But here’s the most valuable lesson anyone can learn about their subconscious mind:

What we resist, persists.

What does this mean?

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Resisting depression or frustration will not only prolong its existence; it may even make it stronger. So, when we try to motivate ourselves through sheer will, we are feeding the very monster we’re trying to overcome.

The alternative approach: Self-awareness

Instead of trying to push through depression, learn from it. It’s there for a reason; a part of you is trying to tell you something.

Do you know what it’s trying to tell you?

Many times, just getting clarity on the source of the depression can reduce it if not release it entirely.

This approach is powerful, but there are two good reasons we don’t take it:

  1. It can be uncomfortable to face the truth behind our depression and frustration. And we often do what we can to avoid discomfort.
  2. The source of our depression and frustration isn’t always obvious. Without sufficient self-awareness skills, we may not be fully conscious of the cause of depression.

3 powerful approaches to overcoming depression

Martin Seligman is considered the father of positive psychology. Early in his career, he specialized in studying depression.

In his groundbreaking book, Learned Optimism, Seligman highlights that depression is a form of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness occurs when a problem appears:

  • Personal
  • Permanent
  • Pervasive

When these three Ps are present, we feel hopeless and get depressed. The methods that follow are designed to help shift you out of the feeling that your problems are personal, permanent, and everywhere.

I’ve come to appreciate the power of taking a multi-dimensional approach to things like depression. Different methods will work for different people, and at different times, so experiment until you find what works for you.

These approaches fall into three categories: mental, emotional, and physical.

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Emotional strategies for depression

If you’re aware of your depression and what’s causing it, you can try going deeper into the emotion itself.

Remember, depression is just a state. You’re not the depression itself.

Try to find the “center” of the depression, and you may realize that it has none. Then, the depression will disappear on its own.

Alternatively, you can express your depression and frustration. Go into a private space, like the bathroom, and talk to the depressed part in the mirror. See what it wants and needs. Often, merely allowing this sad part to express itself can resolve the depression.

Mental strategies for depression

You can also try a meditation technique. Access what’s called the Observing Mind—the part of you that can observe or witness your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Use this Observing Mind to simply watch the depression.

By observing your depression, it creates “distance” between you and this depressive part. And with this distance often comes a different perspective about your life circumstances.

Alternatively, go on Youtube.com and watch a few videos of individuals living in environments that have significantly fewer opportunities than you have. This contrast may reduce the perceived importance of the causes of your depression and frustration, allowing you to shift to a new mental state.

Physical strategies for depression

Some of the most powerful things we can do to shift out of depression and into a more empowered state are physical.

Here’s a list of things you can try:

  • Take a cold shower. Evidence continues to show that exposure to cold activates numerous brain functions that help alleviate depression.
  • Exercise. Numerous studies show that exercise helps reduce depression by increasing endorphins and getting us out of heads.[3] Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes or more at least 3 to 5 times each week. What exercise? It doesn’t matter. Just move! The key is to find something you enjoy doing.
  • Trauma release exercises. Depression and chronic fatigue is often a result of emotions like anger, fear, and sadness getting stored in the body. Trauma release exercises[4] are designed to release these stored emotions.
  • Do something outrageous. Similar to taking a cold shower, try doing something outrageous—anything that “breaks your patterns,” as they say in neuro-linguistic programming. Push-ups, jumping jacks, or jumping rope can work. You can even try putting your head out the passenger window in a car.
  • Be mindful of what you eat and drink. When we’re depressed, we often seek to feel better by consuming foods and drinks that only add to the depression. Sugar and alcohol consumption will likely prolong your misery. Instead, eat foods that help fight depression.
  • Avoid social media. Research continues to link social media usage with an increase in depression and anxiety. This study, for instance, shows that the more people use Facebook, the worse they feel.[5]
  • Ground yourself. A grounding technique as simple as walking barefoot on the earth for 20 minutes once or twice a day can have a tremendous effect on our emotional wellbeing. How? Grounding is an easy way get out of our head and into our body. The more rooted we are in our body, the less rumination we experience, which can break the cycle of depression.

The best long-term methods to optimism

All of the above strategies can help you overcome depression and frustration, but the best long-term approaches to getting motivated in the face of depression are to develop your strengths and cultivate gratitude.

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Playing to your strengths

Seligman and others developed a free assessment to highlight your signature strengths. His research suggests that the best way to ensure happiness in the present is to develop yourself and play to your strengths as much as you can.[6]

Cultivating gratitude

Depression is largely the result of our minds fixating on what we don’t have. Gratitude is an expression of the opposite: by being grateful, we are acknowledging all of the things we have right now.

There’s significant evidence that maintaining a gratitude journal where you highlight three things that you’re grateful for each day can have a measurable impact on your wellbeing within 30 days.[7]

Final thoughts

So how do you get motivated when depressed or frustrated?

Remember, what you resist, persists. Trying to motivate yourself in the face of depression can potentially make the depression stronger.

Instead, accept what you’re feeling right now. But at the same time, you’re not what your feelings.

Depression and frustration may be experiences in you, but they are not what you are.

Understanding the real source of your depression can be infinitely more helpful than trying to “push through it.” Then, focus on things you can do to foster a more empowering emotional state right now.

Approach depression with the physical, emotional and mental strategies highlighted above and your motivation will naturally arise in due time.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Scott Jeffrey

Business Coach, Writer, and Mind Voyager

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Last Updated on March 19, 2019

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

It’s Monday morning. The alarm rings. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you open your eyes?

“I really don’t want to go to work today”, “I have such a long day ahead, what a dread”, or “Yes! It’s a brand new week ahead! Looking forward to getting lots done.”

Whatever your response may be, ask yourself this question:

“What is it that made you feel unmotivated?” What was driving you to feel negative or positive about your Monday ahead? How to get motivated?

Meet Nancy

I used to have a colleague by the name of Nancy. She came to work at the same time every morning, and would leave at 6.30 sharp every evening. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. She was known to be the office grinch as she was often grumpy towards everyone, so much so people would avoid her whenever possible. She complained about everything under the sun.

I had a brief conversation with her one morning in the office lounge where we were both getting coffee. She told me she had been working with the company for over 20 years! When she told me that, I asked her what motivated her to stay on for so long, and her reply was simply “I don’t know. It’s a job that pays the bills, and is close to where I live.” With that, she walked away and I was left standing alone in the lounge with my hot coffee, at a loss for words.

How could someone be doing the exact same thing for over 20 years? And she clearly doesn’t enjoy her work, what with all that complaints and grouchy attitude. So why hasn’t she done anything about it?

The 2 Types of People

This might be an extreme case, but I’m sure you must know of people who have been doing the same thing for years and seem to not have any problem staying stagnant. Whether it be in their marriage, job, or personal endeavors, they seem to be getting along just fine without progressing towards anything ‘better’.

On the other hand, I’m sure you would also know of individuals who focus on the positive, set goals and are constantly pushing themselves to greater heights. Be it promotions at work, building a family, celebrating milestones in their marriage or relationships, upgrading houses and cars, setting up new businesses, or going to school again, these individuals seem to constantly progress towards something that improves or enhances their life.

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So what’s the difference between these 2 category of individuals?

What you feel like or don’t feel like doing, boils down to one thing. And that is motivation. It is the force, or lack of, that keeps driving you forward to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve your goals.

Without motivation, you’ll give up after a few failed attempts or even on the first tough challenge that comes your way. Or, in the case of Nancy, just remain where you are: unhappy yet not doing anything to progress ahead.

What is Motivation, Really?

Whether you realize it or not, motivation is a huge force in your life; and it needs to be harnessed in order to excel and actually enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many overgeneralize the word motivation. We think of being either motivated or demotivated as a simple “yes” or “no” state of being.

But motivation is not a switch. Motivation is a flow. To feel motivated, you need to dive beyond the surface. Just reading a motivational quote, being encouraged by your friends or even mentor won’t help you build sustainable motivation in the long run.

You can think of the motivation that we want to achieve like the Sun (self-sustaining and long lasting), which supplies a constant influx of energy to all life on Earth. Just like the Sun, your “motivation engine” has different layers, starting from the core and spreading out to the surface. The surface is what you see, but the real process is driven from the core; and that’s the most important part… I’ll explain why in a moment.

If you can create a self sustaining motivation engine, you’ll not only be able to find more meaning and purpose in your life, but you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of what you’re doing, which will make your roles and responsibilities less of a chore. Now wouldn’t that be a game changer?

Let me help you understand this motivation flow better, by breaking down the Motivation Engine into 3 parts:

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  1. Core – Purpose
  2. Support – Enablers
  3. Surface – Acknowledgement

I’d say we’re most familiar with layers 2 and 3, as we come into direct contact with both of them frequently.

The Second Layer: Support – Enablers

In essence, the second layer of the Motivation Engine (also known as Enablers) is what supports your goals. They can magnify the motivation core you have, or speed up the momentum that you build. Basically, they create favorable circumstances for things to go smoothly.  

The Third Layer: Surface – Acknowledgement

The third layer, also known as Acknowledgement, encompasses any type of external recognition that might give you motivation. It may come in the form of respect or recognition, such as compliments and praise.

Or it could be emotional support through encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism. It could also be affiliation, where you have mutual companions or buddies sharing the same goal or burden with you.

This is generally what you see on the surface when you look at other people. You see the external acknowledgement, respect, and recognition they’re getting.

The Innermost Layer: Core – Purpose

But what’s most important, and the true driving force behind your Motivation flow, is the innermost core – your Purpose. Your purpose is what differentiates the motivated from the demotivated, the achievers from the underachievers, the happy from the unhappy.

Your motivational core is your Purpose, and is sustained by two things: Having Meaning, and Forward Movement. With these two as a foundation, you’ll have a power source that will feed you motivational energy indefinitely.

So, how do you do these two things?

How to Sustain Your Purpose

Having Meaning is simple. Just ask yourself a question: Why?

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Why are you pursuing a certain goal? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. While motivation provides you energy to do something, that energy needs to be focused somewhere. So without meaning, there is no direction for your energy to be focused on.

Yet, having a meaningful objective doesn’t mean you have to change the world or create A huge impact on society. The secret to meaningful work is simple: it should contribute value to something or someone that matters to you.

Next up is gaining Forward Movement. In short, this means to just keep moving. Like a snowball, motivation from having progress creates momentum. So to keep this up, you have to keep moving.

And the good news is, your progress doesn’t have to be huge for you to recognize it. Small amounts of progress can be just as motivating, as long as they keep coming. Like driving a car, you may be really impatient if you’re at a complete halt. But, it lessens if you’re moving forward–even if you’re moving slowly.

Creating a simple progress indicator like checklists or milestones, are a great way to visualize your small (and big) wins. They trigger your brain to recognize and acknowledge them, giving you small boosts of motivational energy.

This is why video games are so addictive! They’re full of progress indicators everywhere. Even though the progress is completely virtual, they’re still able to trigger the motivation centers in your brain.

Find Out What Drives You Today

So why not take some time today and do a quick reflection of where you’re at now? Take one aspect of your life that you’d like to be more motivated.

For example, it may be your current job. First, start with why. Write down your reasons for why you’re in the job that you’re in. Then think about your Motivation Core: Your Purpose. Write down what it is within your job that gives you meaning, and what are some things that will help push you forward in life.

Once you have those points, it’s time to do a comparison. Does your current job help you make progress towards that Purpose that you’ve written?  

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If it does, then wonderful! You’re on the right track. But if it doesn’t entirely, or you now realize you’re way off target, don’t panic. It’s definitely not too late to align your actions back to your true purpose.

Here at Lifehack, we’ve condensed over 15 years of life improvement coaching into 7 distinct Cornerstone Skills. And finding motivation is just 1 of 7 Cornerstone Skills that you can master to dramatically turn your life around!

Wouldn’t We All Like to Be Happy?

Happiness need not be a vague term or illusion that you’re constantly chasing after–with no end in sight. By finding your true motivation, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your happiness and finding meaning in all things you do.

And for those of you who feel like you’re already working towards your purpose or goals, learning these 7 Cornerstone Skills will only help you to push progress even further, and at a much faster rate. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be 10 times more productive?

You may have read hundreds of books, articles, and watched videos, maybe even tried some solutions too to help you stay motivated. But, none of them really have any impact. They bring only incremental changes, and that’s not what you’re really looking for. This is because permanent change requires a holistic approach, and is more than just focusing on one area of your life, or working on changing a part of your routine or actions.

You want to make a fundamental change; but it feels like big, unknown territory that you can’t afford to venture into at this point in your life.

The truth is, taking your life to the next stage doesn’t have to be this complicated. With our course, it’s actually quite simple. It’s an all in approach, and the 7 Cornerstone Skills is just what you need to make that holistic change. So if you’d like to take the first step to achieving your life purpose, the time is now!

Applying one of the 7 Cornerstone Skills as covered in this article can already make a difference in your life, imagine learning the whole set of skills to live your best life! How to learn them all? We’ve got the solution at Lifehack — Find out More About Our Solution Here!

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

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