7 Powerful Self-Motivation Techniques for Dealing Effectively with Depression and Anxiety

September 11, 2021

Half the battle of dealing effectively with depression and anxiety involves getting started with valuable motivational and self-help techniques. But that’s easier said than done. In fact, struggling with self-motivation is very common.

264 million people in America suffer from depression and 284 million suffer from anxiety. Plus, nearly half of those suffering from depression are diagnosed as well with some form of anxiety disorder.

While we strive to stay motivated and remain free of the anxieties and worries of the world, we often find that it’s difficult to know where to begin with the healing journey.

As Mark Twain once commented:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

For example, we may want to learn to play the piano, but it can be difficult to be motivated to try. After all, it’s much easier to turn on Netflix and binge another season of Friends for the third time, right?

Unfortunately, in cases like this, when we aren’t achieving our goals, our mental health suffers. So essential self-motivation techniques can offer a great way to improve our lives and boost our positive state of mind.


This article can help you with:

  • Essential advice when you’re asking yourself, ‘what can I do to help with anxiety and depression?’
  • 7 self-motivation techniques for dealing with depression and anxiety.
  • Understanding how these techniques help derive self-motivation.
  • Putting self-motivation techniques into practice.
  • Overcoming depression and anxiety with essential tools and resources

Put simply, we are motivated to do things that meet our biological and psychological needs. Let’s dive into what can help with anxiety and depression.

What can I do to help with anxiety and depression?

We all have goals that we’d like to achieve – that’s part of being human. Whether we want to be a great parent, a successful artist, run a marathon, or win a promotion at the end of the year, we all have something that we’re striving towards.

But not everyone finds it easy to work towards and achieve their goals. While certain people can happily jump out of bed at 6.15 a.m. for a spin class, some of us find it difficult to leave the sofa after a long week at work.

Motivation is what makes us get started and act towards our goals. Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence, states that there are four central aspects of motivation:

  • Achievement drive
  • Commitment to personal goals
  • Initiative
  • Optimism

People who are highly motivated display all these traits and use them to pursue their goals. People who lack motivation may lack some or all their traits. For example, they may not have a strong internal drive to achieve. Or they may be pessimistic about their abilities and their chance of success.

That’s why these 7 self-motivation techniques may be able to help with dealing with depression and anxiety.

7 Self-motivation techniques for dealing with depression and anxiety

You probably have some specific goals that you’d like to achieve. And developing self-motivation will help. People often try to develop self-motivation to achieve goals like getting healthier; changing careers; dealing with depression and anxiety; learning a new skill; completing your degree; or ending a relationship.

If you’re struggling with self-motivation, here are some things you can do to help you get started and keep going on your way to reaching your goal.

1. Align your goal with your values

If your goal is aligned with your values, it will be much easier to be self-motivated. For example, if you value being a good father, and your goal is to get healthier, make the link between being healthier and being a more active, better father for your children. Take time to define your values, and then, make sure your goals are aligned with your values.

2. Set challenging but achievable goals

A lot of big personal goals can seem overwhelming at first. So, it’s important to break your goals down into actionable, realistic tasks.

Set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. As you achieve the small goals, your confidence will grow, and you’ll feel intrinsically rewarded every time you tick an item off your list. It’s also important to have success early on. That way, you begin to believe you can accomplish your bigger goals.

3. Develop a growth mindset

Research has shown that motivation decreases when we’re rewarded for fixed traits like intelligence or natural sporting ability. But motivation increases when we reward ourselves for effort and perseverance. A growth mindset is an idea popularized by researcher Carole Dweck. By cultivating a growth mindset with a self-empowered focus on the journey and achievement goals, we set our feet on the path to being self-motivated.

4. Visualize how you’ll achieve your goal

Spend time visualizing the process of achieving your goal. By visualizing the effort and the challenges and defining actual actionable objectives, you’ll be better prepared, remain motivated, and be more likely to achieve your mission.

5. Get support from friends, family, or co-workers

Whatever your goal, it’s easier to achieve if you have support from others. Speak to someone you trust about what you’re trying to achieve and let them help you stay focused on your goal. If you’re willing to accept help, you’ll be far more likely to succeed. You can also use social accountability to help keep you on track. The more people know about your goal, the more likely you are to stick to it.

6. Track and celebrate your progress

To stay on track, it’s important to remember what you’ve already achieved. Keep a record of all the small goals you accomplish in a journal or an app. As you achieve more success, you’ll feel more confident and motivated to keep going.

The dopamine rush that you get from achieving a goal is a powerful reward that will increase your self-motivation in the future. You might also want to give yourself small extrinsic rewards when you achieve some goals too.

7. Be gentle with yourself

Research has shown that self-compassionate people find it easier to be motivated. Being willing to learn and improve is vital to achieving your goals. On the other hand, being self-critical can reduce motivation and make us less likely to change our behavior.

So, if you have a bad day, don’t berate yourself.

Instead, try to be compassionate with yourself.

Talk to yourself as you would to a friend in the same situation and be understanding and accepting of your failures. Consider virtual therapy to comfort you in times when you need extra support.

How these 7 techniques help with self-motivation

One way to understand what’s good for anxiety and depression is motivation through the eyes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This famous research from 1943 presents all human needs on a hierarchy. Starting with the most basic biological needs, like food, water, and sleep, Maslow’s hierarchy moves through our need for security, our social needs, and our need for power. At the very top of the hierarchy is our need for self-actualization and personal development.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps us understand what motivates us. Nearly all goal-directed behavior helps us meet one of the requirements in the hierarchy.

Think about the goals you’d like to work towards. Which needs on the hierarchy are you hoping to reach? Perhaps you are motivated for a promotion to help meet your basic needs for food and shelter or to boost your self-esteem. And, if you find your work meaningful, a promotion may be a way to meet your need for self-actualization.

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

There are many sources of motivation that can be split into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic.

  • Extrinsic motivation is when we’re motivated by external rewards. That could mean money, prestige, praise, or good grades. It can also mean being motivated to avoid punishment or guilt. Extrinsic motivation can be very effective: not many of us would work a 40-hour week without some external reward. But relying on extrinsic motivation can be limiting.
  • Intrinsic motivation is what lies behind successful self-motivation. Intrinsic motivation “occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.”

Developing intrinsic motivation for activities is a much better way to stick at it, and in the long-term, achieve our goals. Intrinsic motivation will ultimately leave us feeling like our lives have more meaning.

Putting self-motivation techniques into practice

Whether you are motivated to read more books, put in more hours at work, or devote more time to family, self-motivation is typically driven by an intrinsic reward. By aligning our values with a rewarding experience and choosing to focus on achieving that reward, we become self-motivated to achieve that internally personalized goal.

Self-motivation produces a natural, good feeling – for achieving a task. Self-control or self-discipline, on the other hand, requires subduing your feelings to achieve a task, even though it may feel bad to do so. One example may be resisting the urge to overeat.

That’s not to say that self-motivation doesn’t include some self-discipline. Self-discipline as a part of self-motivation involves an active commitment to tasks that may offer an intrinsic reward while aiding with depression and self-esteem.

Often, we’ll develop more self-motivation over time as we get closer to achieving our goal. Then we’ll rely less on self-discipline and more on intrinsic rewards like feeling more energized after exercise or feeling confident in our favorite outfit.

Overcoming depression and anxiety with effective self-motivation tools and resources

Self-motivation is a simple concept, but it can be surprisingly hard to find in our lives. There are lots of reasons for this: you might recognize some of them from your own experience.

  • Assess your self-motivation. Learn more about your self-motivation with this simple tool. The tool provides statements about self-motivation, like “I am someone who begins a task with a little prompting from others.” You rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each statement, and your total score will give you some insight into your level of self-motivation.
  • Learn how to set SMART goals. Setting SMART goals is a great way to jump-start your self-motivation by making your goals feel achievable. This resource will help you create smart goals out of your big dreams, taking the first steps towards achieving them.
  • Start a success journal. Celebrate your success by keeping a success journal including positive notes about your progress. A success journal, based on psychology research, will enable you to set goals and stay positive and on track.
  • Develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset (rather than a fixed mindset) is vital for self-motivation. Carole Dweck, the researcher who developed the concept of the growth mindset, explains her ideas in this video. Her research is focused on how to motivate students in a classroom, but it’s just as applicable to our everyday lives too.

Look after yourself! Finally, we can’t achieve our big goals if we aren’t meeting our basic needs. Sleeping well, eating healthily, and looking after your body serve as core examples. It’s much easier to remain motivated when those needs are met. And remember, being self-critical decreases motivation.  So be kind to yourself!

Start building your self-motivation today

You can now begin to realize the value of self-motivation. While it won’t happen overnight, trying and understanding why these techniques work and putting them into practice can help alleviate depression and anxiety.

Because, at some stage of almost everyone’s life, there will likely be a mental health crisis or challenge, it’s critical to work toward building your self-motivation with the right techniques and resources.

As you experience your first few successes of working through depression and anxiety by incorporating key self-motivational techniques and personalized therapy, your brain will reward you and make it easier to be self-motivated next time.


  1. https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health#anxiety-disorders
  2. Goleman, D., What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1998 pp. 93-102
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-intrinsic-motivation-2795385
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22645164
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/self-control
  6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2020/01/27/achieve-more-by-setting-smart-goals/?sh=6d5e0fff560e
  7. https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
  8. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/202001/how-start-journaling-better-mental-health
  9. “Developing a Growth Mindset with Carol Dweck” YouTube, uploaded by
    Stanford Alumni, 14 Oct. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiiEeMN7vbQ
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27929304/
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