I often don't feel motivated to do anything, and waiting it out feels awful, what do I do?

At random, I feel absolutely no motivation to do anything, even things I like. It feels awful but waiting for it to pass is the only thing that always works, although it always lasts for at least a few hours. Sometimes it's so bad that I just lay down on bed and don't even feel like moving.
Asked by Mya

Hi Mya! Thank you so much for asking this essential question on the BetterHelp platform. It is a wonderful sign that you are reaching out for support at this time. The concept of motivation is a truly great topic to bring to the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. I will do my best to answer your question. I hope to assist you in coming up with a plan to further address your concerns about motivation.

First and foremost, I can certainly understand why you would be seeking out answers about this important topic. The fact that you are unable to do anything, even the things that you like to do, sounds like a distressing situation. It makes sense why you would be feeling concerned since you are noticing a lack of motivation to do anything at times. It does sound concerning that this feeling can last for hours and that you have to lay down and do not feel like moving. This experience sounds paralyzing, in a sense.

I realize that you had mentioned that this experience of feeling and thinking happens completely at random but I would like to try to encourage you to focus on seeking out a pattern for this behavior. You can begin doing this by keeping track of the days in which you sense that your motivation has been dwindling. It will more than likely be beneficial for you to improve your self awareness skills through self observational information. Utilize a calendar, daily planner, notebook or journal to keep track of these patterns of behaviors. Over time, you may observe a trend and a connection in your thoughts, feeling and experiences.
You can also begin this process by asking yourself some thoughtful questions. I recommend documenting your observations of these behavioral patterns as well as answering the following questions through therapeutic writing. Writing and journaling can be a fantastic processing technique. Journaling about this experience can be a skill that you add to your tool box, which in turn could hopefully inspire you to try out other new coping skills, too.
Some of the questions you could ask yourself that first come to mind include: Are there triggers in your life that impact your lack of motivation? What are some of the warning signs that you notice contribute to your lack of motivation? What emotions do you notice feeling during moments of low motivation? If your motivation could improve in any given moment, what would that look like for you? Who can you rely on to help you get back on track? What would help you to feel more motivated? What was the most motivating moment that you have endured?

Secondly, I would like to give you some feedback for the way that you manage the situation. The strategy to wait for the feeling to pass is a very intuitive one. This sounds like the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) technique in which individuals notice feelings and allow them to pass. It can certainly take a lot of practice to do this. Therefore, I am so inspired to hear that this strategy is already something that you are trying out on your own! You can keep doing what you are doing as well as look deeper into the concept of mindfulness. Essentially, the mindfulness DBT approach offers a way for individuals to remove judgement from their situation and their feelings. Removing judgement can be a helpful way to move past a certain emotion or concerning experience. Distress tolerance, emotion management and interpersonal effectiveness skills may also be beneficial for you to try out. For more information about these DBT core skills, please check out the website: www.dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com 

Another go to strategy for building and maintaining motivation is going to be utilizing positive self affirming statements. An example of a positive affirmation is: "I am feeling motivated to succeed. Today is a good day to make a new change happen. I am feeling motivated in this moment and I choose to feel this way throughout the day." 
Personalized mantras and motivational messages can be incredibly powerful, inspiring and thought provoking. For more information and details on the power of inspiring quotes, please check out the writing by Louise Hay. In her book "You Can Heal Your Life," Hay outlines a myriad of self affirming statements that can be utilized on a daily or weekly basis.

When working with clients that lack motivation and are actively seeking to improve ambition, I oftentimes provide guidance and advice to allow ambition to over come anxiety. Think in terms of there being two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Ultimately, intrinsic motivation comes from the self and extrinsic motivation comes from others and external factors. In addition, it can be really helpful to visualize your motivation as an external object, symbol or shape. Think of a metaphorical way to describe your feeling of motivation. What symbol would you choose to best describe your motivation? 

As an aspiring art therapist, I always recommend that individuals take some time to create art. The art making process can certainly provide a naturally motivating tool for creative problem solving. There are essentially countless art therapy directives that may be beneficial for you to try. One idea that comes to mind is to participate in a self portrait kinetic drawing. In essence, you are to draw yourself doing something. For more information on the benefits of art therapy, please check out the website for the American Art Therapy Association: www.arttherapy.org

At this time, I would like to recommend that you begin attending individual therapy sessions. In concluding my response, I would like to thank you again, Mya, for your time asking this vital question on the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. I sincerely hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. Best wishes for an improvement with your overall feelings of motivation. Take good care and have a nice day!