Exercise can be a super effective tool in recovery from mental illness. However, when you’re deep in depression, it can be difficult to find the motivation required to get up and get moving. These are a few ways to take the initiative to exercise when you’re struggling with depression.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Since it’s so difficult to find the determination to simply start exercising, eliminating any potential obstacles is essential. Lay out your exercise gear in advance. Eat and drink plenty beforehand. If you can’t make it to the gym, choose a workout you can do close to home. Prepare for an exercise that interests you, whether it’s running, swimming, dancing, or water polo. Be prepared to succeed.

It’s also important to stay realistic with your goals. Start off small and build your way up, no matter what exercises you do, or you’ll likely burn out pretty quickly. Don’t set your expectations too high, and don’t expect to feel immediately better after one session. Working out is a process, so stick with it, set incremental goals, and prepare to enjoy the little steps!

Stay Committed, Social, And Accountable

Even if it’s difficult to stay patient that your routine will pay off, committing to exercise can help you stay motivated for future workouts. Build an exercise schedule. Track your progress, milestones, and victories. Take accountability for the efforts you’ve made while also keeping yourself focused on goals for your workouts ahead.

Another great way to hold yourself accountable? Make it public. It might be hard to drag yourself to a gym class or out for a run with friends. However, it can also be an excellent way to build a social circle around your workouts, which may keep you showing up for them. Nothing like a little encouragement from pals to keep you moving, right?

Celebrate Your Little Victories

While the release of serotonin that comes with exercise can feel great, it’s not always enough of a reward to stick with a routine. It can be extremely motivating to treat yourself in other ways when you accomplish a full workout. So, what kind of things can you make yourself look forward to when you’ve finished exercising?

Everything from celebrating your workout by messaging your friends your progress to treating yourself to a day at the spa can help you keep your eye on the prize. That, and you’ll likely feel a whole lot better once you’ve gotten moving. Win-win! Also, every once in a while, feel free to give yourself the day off. If you’ve stuck with a routine, you’ve absolutely earned it.