For a lot of people, spells of motivation or enthusiasm to get things done will be experienced by most individuals at some point in their lives. What is troubling about this is that most of the time, these feelings and mindsets can trigger unexpectedly and impair our mental clarity, with no clear cause. Luckily, there are several helpful steps we can take whenever feelings of doom and glow creep about.
Low mood and motivation is very common, so the first thing I would advise to do is understand that you’re not alone. It can also be helpful in the long term to manage these negative emotions by acknowledging that they are sometimes just that: emotions! This strategy has powerful potential, as it allows us to accept that this is how we are feeling in the present moment, and not necessarily concrete traits of the mindset we have.
So next time (if there is a next time), say to yourself “this is how I feel at moment, not how I always am, and that’s fine”. Next, maybe ask yourself ‘would I feel better for doing something with my day?’ In my experience, the answer is usually a yes! I often find that once I set aside these negative feelings and get going, I end up enjoying my day, and it reminds me that there is a lot to gain from the day if we have the courage to work through the dark spells of the mind. You end up learning a lot about yourself and saying something along the lines of “Somehow I ended up having a better day than I thought!”
In my experience, I’ve found that listening to the inner voice telling me to ‘stay in and watch telly, cos you can’t be bothered’ almost always results in making me feel worse at the end of the day compared to how I felt at the start of the day. Going to the gym is my primary form of exercise, and I find that even if I just put how I feel in the back of my mind and get myself out of the house to do even half the workout that I could’ve done, I feel a lot better because I have accomplished the small feat of getting out of the house.
I’m not saying we must do a form of exercise or get out of the house to feel better than we do. I am simply sharing what works for me. What works for one person will almost always vary differently for another, so it is important to identify what makes YOU feel better and make it your counterattack against low moods. Whether it’s having a walk around your local neighbourhood, the park or going to your favourite coffee shop, movement of some kind is key. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s sometimes easier said than done.
When we have feelings of low motivation, it is not unusual for us to become self-critical; telling ourselves to stop being lazy, or to ‘get a grip’ are phrases that we most likely say to ourselves. To combat this pattern of behaviour, I believe it’s important to realise that our daily lives do not always have to be filled with activities that qualify as “productivity”. With that said, it is important to strike a balance between performing small efforts that our present and future selves will thank us for, and not putting too much pressure on ourselves to the point where we end up feeling worse than we did.
It’s also worth pointing out that working through our bleak mindset isn’t a cure for depressive emotions or low mood; these periods can spring up at any time and even when we least expect them, but repeating the actions of acknowledging our emotions, understanding that they don’t define have to our day and keeping busy at a level that is manageable for us is a very useful way to train our minds to adopt this behaviour pattern to better handle these situations in the future.
Lastly, it’s also important to be kind to ourselves. There will be times when we do need some down time and give our minds and bodies a rest. If you are raising a family, building a career, or going through any kind of life transition that demands an incredible amount of energy and time, make sure to reward yourself with the adequate amount of rest that’s needed, where and when you can. Navigating through low motivation and low mood is hard, so during these busy periods in life, acknowledge that while you may not feel 100%, you have gotten up and tackled the challenges of the day, and it is a testament to how strong you can be.
Dean Cranney is a psychology student and aspiring mental health writer and advocate with personal experiences of anxiety and depressive episodes.
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