Finding your resilience

woman looking out a window

I’ve noticed myself fall into a pattern of becoming lazier and lazier. I’m unmotivated to work out, so now my body doesn’t feel as strong, nor do I fit as well into my clothes. I’ve stopped making healthy choices with food. I used to cook for myself but now I order out or just snack. After work I want to come home and watch TV instead of making plans with friends. This has been happening slowly over the past few years and I feel like I’m falling into a dark hole. How can I find motivation again?

If only it were as easy as me telling you to “just snap out of it!” But something deeper has caused this apathy to set in.

There is a quote by Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

This captures you right now. You are not in love with your life. And although you are not dead, you are not really living. You are going through the motions and surviving, but certainly not thriving.

Whether you have long term, low-grade depression — what psychologists call dysthymia — due to biological factors, years of difficult life circumstances or both, the end result is you lack “joie de vivre,” the French phrase for joyful, spirited, satisfied living. For many people, particularly in American culture, they’re so bogged down in long workdays and caring for others (children, elderly parents) that they have lost their sense of self and what lights them up.

To be a healthy human in the modern era doesn’t mean we’ll be joyful all the time. There will always be ups and downs, of course. But it does mean having resilience, the capacity to pick oneself up again.

One of my favorite quotes is this Japanese Proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” Understand that life is a cycle of being let down, only to regain hope and vitality once again.

Connect to your resilience by giving yourself credit for the changes and transitions in life you’ve already endured.

You want motivation, so start by brainstorming a list of all the things that matter to you, big and small. If that is difficult then look back to when you felt better and recall what mattered to you once upon a time.

Because your world has gotten smaller and smaller and you’re stuck in your head, let this list include what matters to you on a larger scale in your community. Do you love animals? The environment? Supporting the arts? Find ways to volunteer or get involved in these larger causes and see if that inspires an inner fire within and reconnects you to a world beyond your TV screen.

It is never too late for a fresh start. A depressed mind can get stuck in the past. Envision a new future that feels good from the inside out, as opposed to how it looks on the outside to others.

Slowly start exercising and cooking again because you will feel better and because you deserve it. This needs to be a daily practice over time in order for it to become intrinsic motivation.

Don’t tackle this alone. Ask someone to join you and encourage you, which is essential to keep you on track.

Be gentle with yourself on your path. Some days you’ll nail it and cook yourself a nourishing meal and some days you’ll order pizza. Rather than get trapped in black and white thinking or feel discouraged, adopt this mantra: begin again.

Begin. Again.