Motivation is a powerful but underrated tool in our mental health toolbox. There are two primary types of motivation that we use throughout the day: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that personally drives us, from our own determination and our own motivational factors. Extrinsic motivation comes from the reward, whether it’s the pay we get from work, good grades in school, kudos from your boss or coworkers, something from an external source. Intrinsic motivation has a stronger connection to the fulfillment of accomplishment, and purpose. Although intrinsic motivation tends to have more impact, any form of motivation acts as the fuel to push people to move forward in their life, it can give someone meaningful purpose, and a life with direction. The lack of motivation can lead to mental illness or ongoing depression.

One of the setbacks for motivation and goal setting is feeling that you have failed. You never fail unless you completely give up on yourself. We all have good days and bad days, and an unlimited amount of first days. So, if you fall off from your goals, if you’re not ready to give up then get back up and start over. Motivation to continue should not just come from accomplishment, but from desire! Also, when setting a goal, give yourself some grace. No matter what the goal is, take baby steps. We’re not going to go from walking 1 mile one day to running a marathon the next, that is just a setup for frustration and letdown. Give yourself the time you need to reach your goal, taking into consideration your personal motivational tools. Are you intrinsically motivated, do you have someone who is helping to motivate you with rewards or extrinsic tools? What is the overall goal, and more than that what is your “why”? If you are changing your eating habits, what is your “why” behind the change. People who are making big life changes will throw out the first thing that they think of “to lose weight”, or “to fit into a specific outfit”. That is not your why. The why is deeper, something that really hits home. Find your why and put that into your motivation toolbox. Celebrate the steps forward, and work to support yourself even if you take steps backwards. Some days our goals are to get out of bed and get to work, celebrate that! No two days will be the same as far as motivation goes, work to understand yourself and how you can work through the process.

For people who are struggling with a decline in mental health, the big motivational goals are going to be more complicated. The trick for motivation is understanding where you are and meeting yourself there. Depression and anxiety can play tricks on us, making people feel that they are not capable of getting back on track with their goals. Negative self-talk will be one of the bigger hurdles for finding motivation. Helping yourself to remember that you are where you are, it might be a difficult place, but the only way to get out of it is to do the work. If you have tried to change your self-talk to be more positive, or tried to set smaller goals, or even reassessed your overall plans and that has not helped then it might be time to talk to your mental health provider. Depression impacts our chemical makeup and increases the cortisol released while also decreasing our dopamine and serotonin release and intake within our brain. When this happens, it makes it increasingly more challenging to get back on track with motivation. Talk to your provider, maybe increase in sessions, changing therapy style, or even talking about medication options. Motivation is a wonderful tool, but sometimes we need additional support to get things back on track.