This happens to all of us from time to time. Motivation comes and goes.
Some days you feel it and you’re totally pumped to do all the work. And on the other days, you don’t feel motivated at all. You totally don’t have the mood to do anything no matter how hard you try.
You can stare at the monitor screen and be in motion, but still not getting things done. There’s no energy and you just want to do nothing.
But there are a number of simple things that anyone can do to lift their mood.
You may already be doing some of these things, and you certainly don’t need to be doing them all. Just try the ones that feel most comfortable, or that are easiest for you.
What to Do When You Don’t Want to Do Anything
When you take charge of your mood, you take control of your life.
This is what you’re going to learn. Below are the 15 methods how you can lift your spirits and make more and bigger changes to your routine.
And if you can hold on to those habits once your mood has lifted, you may well feel better than you ever have before.
1. Roll with it.
Sometimes, not wanting to do anything is your mind and body’s way of asking for a break.
If you’ve been pushing yourself to your limit recently, heed this call before you reach the point of burnout.
Self-compassion is key in this situation. Acknowledge your hard work, and then give yourself permission to take some downtime. Take a nap, scroll through your favorite social media app, or curl up with your favorite blanket and a pet — whatever feels easy and relaxing.
2. Be patient with yourself.
Improvements in mood are likely to be gradual rather than sudden, and you may even get worse before you start to get better.
Once you are on the right track, there are going to be good days and bad days. A bad day that comes after a good one can seem all the worse for it. Don’t blame yourself for the bad days, and don’t despair. They will become fewer over time.
3. Go for a walk.
Get out of the house, even if only to buy milk or walk in the park.
Bright daylight, fresh air, and the hustle-bustle of everyday life can all be helpful, as can the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Getting some light physical activity outside — even if it’s just a 10-minute walk around the block — can help to reset your mood.
Changing your environment might also help motivate you to do something else, like head over to your favorite coffee shop. Even if it doesn’t, spending some time outside might help you feel better about spending the rest of the day on the couch.
4. Eat outside.
Seriously, try it. Grab a sandwich (or fish and chips) and sit on a hill or by the river. Savor it. Tastes better than at home or in the office, doesn’t it?
5. Take a quick shower.
Even if you’re feeling a bit unwell, it is the healthiest thing to do. You can also take a long bath, but keep the water temp comfortable. Your energy level will pick up a little, which may get you through the rest of the day.
Beyond the feel-good factor of cleaning yourself, dunking your head under water, taking a swim or having a shower will activate your mammalian (diving) reflex, which literally optimises your respiration by spreading oxygen levels around to all the best places, especially the heart and brain.
6. Talk to someone.
When you’re in a funk, reaching out to another person can be a great way to break out of an uninspired mindset. Think about who might be a good source of support in moments like this.
Who can you talk to who might understand what you are feeling? Are you looking for someone who can listen or do you want someone who can inspire you to get moving?
If you aren’t in the mood to hang out with a friend or if your friend is unavailable, sometimes just getting out and just being in the presence of other people can be helpful.
Enjoying a cup of coffee in a busy coffee shop, smiling at people in the grocery store, or saying hi to a neighbor are all simple social experiences that can help shift your mood.
7. Try some easy chores.
You may not want to do anything if you have a lot of unpleasant or boring things (like chores, bills, or errands) to get done. If they’ve been piling up, the thought of tackling them might feel particularly daunting.
Try creating a list of everything you need to take care of. Then, rank them by priority — what needs to be done ASAP? What can wait until next month? You can also organize them based on how easy they are.
Pick something that’s easy or high priority and make that your task for the day, even if it only takes you 20 minutes. Doing something, even something small, can help break you out of this rut of powerlessness and set you back on track.
Once you’re done, cross it off your list and give yourself permission to take it easy for the rest of the day.
8. Create your mood.
Another great way of setting the tone for your day is to control your inputs. Turn off notifications. Get your desk and surroundings in order. Make your bed. Create a playlist of delicious songs that just make you happy and sing along to them.
And yes, before you say it, music is another Dopamine switch.
9. Listen to music.
Music can help fill the silence and give you something to think about when you don’t feel like doing much.
While putting on your favorite music can soothe you (or energize you, or excite you, or anything else, depending on what type of music you prefer), it may even have some benefits for your brain, including improved attention and memory.
10. Plan something.
Even if you don’t have the motivation to work on something at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t start making plans for what you might like to do in the future.
Researches suggest that mental imagery, or visualizing things that you want to do, helps increase the motivation, expected pleasure, and anticipated reward of those planned activities.
Doing something like planning a trip or some other activity can give you something to look forward to and get excited about. Thinking about a future project or goal might involve doing things like visualizing the outcome, planning out the steps involved, or even creating a mood board for inspiration.
11. Start small.
When it comes to finding the energy to do something, getting started is often the hardest part. So if you’re struggling with the doldrums, starting with something small can help.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by a mountain of tasks you don’t have the mental or physical energy to tackle, pick one small thing that you can do — then do it.
Easy tasks you might try to tackle include:
- Doing the dishes
- Making the bed
- Folding a load of laundry
- Answering one email
- Scheduling one appointment
- Clearing off the counters
- Paying a bill
Chores can be boring, but even the easiest tasks can start to feel overwhelming if you let them pile up. Starting with one small task is sometimes enough to get the ball rolling. Once you get done with that easy chore, you might think that tackling one more might not be so bad.
And if you decide to stop after just one, that’s fine too! Give yourself some grace and do what you can, when you can.
12. Bribe and give yourself a reward.
You can celebrate your actions and give yourself a reward after you have completed some task.
Give yourself a treat after going completing your task.
- You can take an hour off to do whatever you love once you have completed the article.
- If you work out in the gym, pamper yourself with your favorite coffee in your favorite cafe.
- If you get the work done, give yourself a reward by having a great lunch in your favorite restaurant.
13. Read (or listen) to a book.
Remember, it’s really okay to do nothing sometimes. But if you feel like you should be doing something or have some feelings of guilt around “wasting time,” reading a book can be a low-key way to feel productive, especially if it’s a nonfiction book on a topic you want to learn more about.
If you feel too low on energy to even hold a book (it happens), consider an audiobook instead. Many libraries let you borrow audiobooks or e-books for free, as long as you have a library card.
Audiobooks are great for people who don’t have a lot of time to read, since you can enjoy books while doing almost anything else. They can also offer a way to “read” if you’d rather lie still and let sounds wash over you.
14. Open up the memory bank.
Is it worth doing anything if we can’t recall it? Look through photos of good times (although not ones with that ex that made you distinctly not happy!) or read a journal. A reminder that life has its awesome moments will get you thinking about the next ones.
15. And finally, laugh!
Really, does anything feel better than having a giggle? Make a little YouTube playlist of your favorite comedy clips, read a funny book, watch a funny TV series or just Google for any entertaining things.