When you can’t think of a reason to keep going, it’s natural to feel upset or afraid. This feeling doesn’t have to last forever.
Many life circumstances can bring us to a place of hopelessness or apathy. Family issues, injustice, bullying, and just feeling stuck in the daily grind can leave you wondering, “Is it even worth it?”
Sometimes you might end up feeling like this for no clear reason. Mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder can cause these feelings, for instance.
Whatever the cause, your feelings are valid.
In fact, Viktor E. Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust as well as a psychiatrist and neurologist, wrote in his book ”Man’s Search for Meaning”: “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
In other words: When things go wrong, it’s natural to react with deep, dark thoughts and feelings.
What’s important is how you choose to handle them. Hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts don’t last forever, unlike suicide itself.
Need to talk?
If you feel like harming yourself or have a plan to do so, empathetic and nonstigmatizing support is available.
To connect with help right now, you can:
- Call a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- Call or text the Postpartum Support International Help Line at 800-944-4773 (#1 Español, #2 English)
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text START to 678678, or chat online 24-7.
- Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24-7.
- Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
Everyone is different. What may be a reason to keep living for one person may not be for someone else.
So, if one of the reasons on this list doesn’t click, that’s OK. Consider alternatives that might be a better fit for you.
Milestones bring change and sometimes challenge, but they can also result in a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Milestones can be as life-altering as coming out or becoming a parent. They can also take the form of achievements like learning to drive or cook for yourself.
Which milestones are on your list?
What stones have you left unturned?
If you’re a curious person, wanting to know more about what’s “out there” may be a reason to keep going.
Who knows what you might discover and what might be uncovered in your lifetime?
Your undiscovered potential
Are you curious about who you could be?
No one knows the future, but life brings the constant opportunity to discover your true potential as a person, artist, parent, athlete, or activist.
The chance to leave your mark
If you’re not yet at the point in life where you feel you’ve crafted your legacy, there’s still time to do just that.
What do you hope to be remembered for someday?
Love and human connection
The connections we forge with the people we care about most can be a powerful motivating factor.
Here’s a quick exercise: Can you think of a time when you “clicked” with another person?
It’s that feeling of simultaneously understanding and being understood. Life offers the chance to find and prioritize people like that.
Research shows that positive interactions with pets can boost levels of oxytocin and dopamine — brain chemicals that bring feelings of pleasure and connection.
But if you’ve ever loved an animal companion, you probably don’t need science to tell you why they help make life worthwhile.
If you see yourself as a spiritual being, keeping a spiritual practice — such as honoring the sacred in daily life or connecting with a higher power — can bring meaning and satisfaction.
Causes you care about
You have a unique set of cares and perspectives about the world. Some people channel these cares into a mission that gives them a reason to get out of bed each day.
Whether it’s caring for the planet, the mental health of future generations, or something entirely your own, passion for making a difference might give you the spark you’re looking for.
The chance to lift others up
One thing is certain: You’re not alone.
Others are also searching for better reasons to keep going, and some of them might be similar to you.
Someday, you may get the chance to relate to and encourage someone who’s standing where you stood.
Unfulfilled hopes and dreams
Chances are you had some dreams for your future as a child. If you’re like most people, those dreams may no longer resonate with your present-day self.
And like most of us, you may not have checked off many (if any) of those boxes.
But what about current hopes you haven’t yet acted upon? Each day brings another chance to dust off those hopes and breathe new life into them.
To prove the naysayers wrong
Sometimes a little spite is called for.
If anyone has ever questioned your ability or flat-out told you, “You’ll never succeed at that,” it can be pretty satisfying to show them just how wrong they are.
The existence of creativity and imagination
One of the most brilliant human qualities is the capacity for creativity.
Exercising our own imaginations and creative power can bring joy, but so can admiring the creativity of others in the form of art, music, literature, film, and more.
The chance to find your people
It’s natural to feel lonely or isolated when there’s seemingly no one you can relate to or share interests with.
If you haven’t met those people yet, it’s likely they’re out there somewhere and they may be looking for you, too.
Your own hero’s journey
The hero’s journey is a concept that originated from 20th-century professor Joseph Campbell. It’s what often causes a hero to embark on a quest in many classic stories, but it can also apply to your own life.
Where are you on your hero’s journey?
Maybe you feel you’ve been called to do something great, but getting started has been challenging. Maybe you’ve been on your journey for a while, but you’ve come up against an obstacle that seems insurmountable.
Either way, continuing to answer the call, as many great stories tell us, can lead to a stronger and happier sense of self.
When was the last time you laughed until your stomach hurt and tears rolled down your face? Chances are good there will be more of those times.
There’s a reason laughter feels great — research tells us it:
- reverses stress
- stimulates endorphins
- supports connection with others
If need be, consider faking it until you make it.
That ‘spark’ from childhood
Remember that childhood feeling of being totally absorbed in what you’re doing? You can invite that feeling of being completely, simply present back into your life.
Here’s one way to try:
Choose an activity that sounds like pure fun — not something you feel you should want to do, but something you just want to do.
It might be frolicking in a park, creating a choreography, or planning a future vacation.
Then set aside an hour or afternoon and allow yourself to get lost in the activity.
Connection with those who came before you
How inspiring is it that you’ve come from an unbroken line of humans who survived long enough to bring about your existence?
While human history is far from perfect, it can be comforting to reflect on what challenges and triumphs your ancestors may have experienced throughout the past centuries.
Do you have a favorite spot to take in the beauty of nature?
Life on planet earth can mean tropical beaches with aquamarine water, panoramic views from hills and mountaintops, and serene forests full of fresh air. Hey! And you’re part of it all.
It’s an undeniable part of life for countless people — and in addition to pleasure, sex provides an opportunity to connect with others on a different level and to explore not only our bodies, but our psyches. What’s not to love?
Pushing your limits and taking calculated risks might be your jam if you’re into skydiving or roller coasters.
A small 2018 study emphasizes that adrenaline-boosting activities fostered feelings of connection, happiness, and excitement in those who enjoyed them.
Music can transport us to a different space and connect us to something outside ourselves. It has served this purpose for millennia.
Those specific emotions and sensations only you seem to feel
Maybe it’s a feeling you get that doesn’t seem to match any existing labels.
Maybe it’s a memory from your past that involves just you, and you’ve never told anyone about it.
While these feelings aren’t always pleasant, some can be — you might even associate some with a rush of nostalgia if you’ve experienced them since your youth.
What motivates someone else might not work for you, and finding your own motivation can be more difficult when you’re feeling low.
Zamira Castro, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Delray Beach, Florida, explains how brain chemistry can play a key role.
“When we’re feeling low emotionally, our brains are less responsive to positive stimuli, and more susceptible to detect and respond to negative stimuli, such as negative thoughts about suicide or the meaninglessness of life,” Castro says.
She also shares that depression can impact regions of the brain that deal with emotional responses and memory. This may make us more prone to low emotions and less able to recall happy memories.
But Castro also advises reconnecting with meaning and motivation.
“My best advice for starting this process is to ask yourself: What would I be doing if no one were watching? If I could do anything and had none of the limitations I currently do… what would I be doing with my time?”
Once you’ve asked yourself those questions, you might consider these tips for finding why you should stay alive:
- finding a workbook or self-help book that speaks to you
- setting aside some time for self-exploratory journaling
- working with a trusted mental health professional or life coach
Hardship can make life look bleak, and so can some mental health conditions.
But finding the motivation during tough times can make a difference.
Inspiration and professional support might prove helpful, especially if you think you might be dealing with a mental health condition.