How do I become less lazy?
March 8, 2007 1:33 PM   Subscribe

How do I become less lazy?

I'm 23. I'm lazy. I barely want to get up in the morning; I'd rather stay comfortable in bed. I wait until the last minute to take out the trash or do the dishes. My husband insists that it's not a problem because he likes the activity, but I feel such guilt for not pulling my share lately. Sometimes I'll skip class because I feel too tired or something to walk to school. I can't focus on readings or tasks at hand. I feel completely apathetic about my grades as long as I can maintain a B. I'll nuke a burrito if it means I don't have to spend more than five minutes making lunch and cleaning up. I've gained approximately 20 lbs. in the last year (likely from moving out on my own) and have moved from plus-sized to obese.

I'm going to graduate from college soon and so it might be the fabled "senioritis" extending to my non-academic life. Either way, I'm becoming lazier and lazier and I want to curb this now.

I believe that I have experienced a touch of SAD in the past, but I have never seen a doctor about it. There's six feet of snow on the ground and it's overcast every day here, so I'm sure that's not helping. Can I be depressed while I feel generally very happy about my life (aside from my laziness issue)? Would therapy help me with this? Did I develop some kind of adult ADD in the last year?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Are you the same throughout the year, or just in the winter? Try taking some vitamin D... if it is SAD, that can make a world of difference. If it doesn't help at all, you've probably eliminated it as a cause (vitamin D is naturally produced by the interaction of your skin with the sun, and is generally thought of as a main component of SAD).
posted by chundo at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2007

Go get your blood tested for diabetes and hypothyroidism.
posted by prolific at 1:44 PM on March 8, 2007

Random suggestion - Get your doctor to check your thyroid. Lack of energy and weight gain can be two symptoms of hypothryoidism (underactive thyroid), which is much more prevelant in women than men. Of course, those symptoms can also be signs of other things, but that's the first thing that I thought of.

Obviously, IANAD, I just know that until I got my thyroid under control I felt similarly to what you describe. I'm still a lazy butt, but things have improved considerably.
posted by cgg at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2007

Exercise. Daily. Allow yourself to slack off on absolutely everything else, if you want, but working out will improve your health, your mood, and your motivation. Do it outside, if possible - sunshine helps mood.

Next, talk to a therapist, or even just your GP. I don't know how you feel about psychoactive medication, but you sound depressed, and while not a quick-fix, it could be the boost you need to continue to fix your problems.

Get a good physical while you're there.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 1:56 PM on March 8, 2007

You need to get out of the house. First see a doctor and be told that you are fat, that was the only thing that saved me when I ballooned up to 250 in college (I am now 190 and still working to lose weight). I recommend that you find someone in your neighborhood who jogs and get into the act. You'll have a hard time the first two weeks, but after that, the work really builds you up. I read in Runner's World about a chef who went from 400 lbs and diabetic to 170 in two years. It is very possible. The self-confidence alone will help you remember not to sit down on the couch or stay in bed longer than you absolutely have to.
posted by parmanparman at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2007

I agree that exercise should help. I usually feel a little less lazy after even an easy workout. A good indoor workout to build up some endurance are the somewhat-annoying but pretty good Walk Away the Pounds DVDs.

Cutting down on sugar & simple carbs also might help. Try to avoid sweet things even "healthy" sweets like 100-calorie packs, granola bars, sweetened cereals, white bread, etc. The first few days will suck but then you will start to feel better.

Also everyone is going to tell you to go to the doctor. Guess why? Cuz you should.
posted by tastybrains at 2:10 PM on March 8, 2007

I've experienced this before, even though I'm generally a pretty motivated/capable individual. In my experience, my life was basically too easy. I knew that I could float, sleep in, skip class, and I'd still be fine. I could still manage to pass and have enough money to live life.

In my situation, the only thing I did that fixed it was to completely overload myself. I got a job working 30-something hours a week while taking a full load of classes. After that happened, I couldn't afford to screw off; my homework had to get done. I didn't skip class because I didn't have time to do a little extra reading to catch up.

My guess is if you put yourself in a situation where you will face real consequences if you don't step up and stop being lazy, you will do just that.
posted by PFL at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2007

Because being lazy currently rewards you more than not being lazy. What does an A give you over a B? A B is still a good mark, will get you through and get your degree. Snoozing in the morning means the garbage still gets emptied. Nuking a burrito gets you fed.

While I am not ruling out depression (etc), I would suggest instead, maybe you could consider your goals and values. Take some time and write it down, see if your lifestyle is actually what you prefer and if it is, don't fret the idea of being lazy, just call yourself efficient and in touch with yourself. If it's not what you want, start planning days and events you do want. Half the time that I eat crap stuff, it's because I haven't planned in advance. Planning is key to making sure you live the way you want to, and don't just waft along whereever the breeze sends you.
posted by b33j at 2:22 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't really have any words of wisdom, but rest assured you're not alone. My current tactic to get out of this rut is pretty much what PFL said. I'm moving from a house in which I can slack off and spend all day doing nothing to New York where I'll have to bust my ass to pay rent. Good luck and if you need someone to commiserate with, my email is in my profile.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2007

I feel your pain. You have to understand that pretty much everyone has a voice inside them that tells them to stay in bed, not get up, and not go out. Everybody also has another voice telling them to do all the things they "should" be doing. Some people just listen more to one than the other. You're not really different from anyone else in that respect, and there's probably not anything wrong with you that needs to be fixed. You just need to decide that you want to start listening to the YES voice and stop listening to and obeying the NO voice.

When you're lying in bed in the morning, and you think "I should get up" and then you think, "Oh, but the bed is so warm and comfortable", try to pay more attention to the YES voice and less to the NO voice. I'm getting better at doing this, but it's still one of my biggest weaknesses. Whenever you catch yourself thinking, "I don't feel like getting up or going out", stop yourself, tell yourself that you'll never get anywhere thinking like that, and tell yourself, "Actually, I do feel like going out." Now, it's not as simple as all that, and if you could simply decide to stop being tired, you already would have. However, you can't hurt anything by acting like it really is that easy and seeing how far you get.

Having someone that's supportive is great, especially if they make sure you eat right. It can't hurt to go have your thyroid checked, either. Good luck with it.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:38 PM on March 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Another thing is that if you find that sometimes you're really charged up and productive, and sometimes you're lazy and just can't get going, just know this about yourself, let the people around you know this about you, and roll with it.

Everybody has highs and lows. Don't tell yourself you'll always be lazy because you're lazy right now, and likewise, don't tell yourself that you'll always be super pumped up and motivated, because you won't be.

The trick is to not over-commit yourself so that you don't end up promising to do 1000 things when you're motivated and end up letting half of them slide when you hit a low, because then you'll feel bad about disappointing people, too. Know yourself and manage your highs along with your lows.

People always talk about things to do to get out of a depression, but I think that's only half the picture. You should watch out for being manic when you come out of the depression, too.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2007

You focus on being more active. If your focus is on being less lazy, you will still be lazy but maybe not as lazy. Stop measuring your laziness and start measuring your activeness.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:29 PM on March 8, 2007

Most psychologists bristle at the word lazy because it's a behaviour, not a condition. Laziness is generally caused by a lack of motivation that can have roots in depression, illness, shitty habits, or a general feeling that nothing you do will make you feel better. Trying to 'just do more' without a goal or desire is kind of like a sick person just deciding to be well.

I was terribly lazy in school because I hated my prospects, drank for fun, and had no idea what to do with my life. Now that I have a job with at least some future I find energy to do things I like.

Please do see a doctor, but also try to think of something you could learn or do that would make your life better. Oh, and get a SAD light and mount it over your bed.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:19 PM on March 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I would say try doing small things. Start by doing something in the morning every morning.

For eg get up from bed and do two crunches/ walk around for a while.
posted by radsqd at 4:27 PM on March 8, 2007

This sounds a lot like me. I try to get myself to do "good" stuff a few times a week like:
- Do the massive pile of washing up that I've been ignoring
- Cook a decent meal
- Go to ultimate frisbee practice

I get myself to do the task by motivating myself with the thought of how good the result will be (the kitchen will be a lot tidier, I will have a really tasty and healthy meal, and I will get a lot of exercise and have a lot of fun seeing my friends, respectively).

I was worse than I am now when at uni (since it was way easier to shrug off lectures and stay in bed) but have improved somewhat since getting a full time job. Nothing like a regular paycheck to get you out of bed every morning.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:41 PM on March 8, 2007

I struggle with SAD myself. I find getting outside early in the day helps.

To encourage yourself to get out of bed in the morning, try drinking a couple of glasses of water before you go to sleep.

You might have lower energy levels due to poor nutrition. Buy only healthy foods, if that's all that is around, that will be what you eat.

Seconding getting your thyroid levels (TSH and free T4) checked, especially if you feel cold a lot.
posted by yohko at 5:42 PM on March 8, 2007

go on a vacation.
even somewhere nearby & with the same climate if that's all you can afford- although somewhere sunny would be better.
my best girlfriend and i both had terrible winters last year, quite similarly lazy to what you describe (but coupled with terrible mood swings and depression). a mid-april week in a different city turned it around for both of us.
start planning it asap, too- the anticipation is therapeutic.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:24 PM on March 8, 2007

Eat less. Exercise more. Feed your head.

No, seriously. I've been battling the same symptoms all my life. I've dropped 15 pounds in two weeks on the I'm-broke-and-stressed diet. Eating nothing but rice and beans tends to take the weight off, and reminds you that food is fuel, not entertainment or comfort.

Getting up and getting active both takes the weight off and gives you added energy and stamina. It's a catch-22 situation. You just have to get off your ass and do it, otherwise you never will and they'll bury you in a piano crate.

Feeding your head keeps you from being hungry and bored, and also keeps you active, not to mention smart. Learn a language. Take up computer programming. Draw. Write. Start a fantastically obscure hobby, like bagging all those minor low-altitude "peaks". Find the highest point in your neighborhood, town, county and state. The lowest?

Exercise can take many forms. Take up nervous twitching as a hobby. Twitchers and seat-bouncers and other fiddlers burn more calories in the day than more sedate people. Walk everywhere. Park farther away. Bike, walk, skate, trance dance, swing dance, pole dance, climbing, pole climbing, rock-stacking - whatever. Just start moving and don't stop. Lift stuff and move it around even if you don't have to.
posted by loquacious at 7:52 PM on March 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

do you feel like doing anything? ever? if you ever have moments when you do, try to get up and do the thing immediately if possible. pretty much no matter what it is, because just acting on ideas can be a good positive habit to develop, even if you don't feel like doing it any more after a few minutes.

i also find that making commitments to do certain things helps. like "i will do four hours of housework this week", or whatever. for me, telling someone else about these commitments, especially someone who understands my situation and wants to help, helps a lot, because i know i will be embarassed and disappointed if i don't follow through. also, starting small helps. consider commiting to one small action per day, and then once that becomes a habit, add another. that way it will be easy to do at first, you'll gain a sense of accomplishment rather than failure, and by the time you word up to doing more it will feel easier. oh, and make these commitments things that on some level you actually care about doing-- if there are things you feel like you should be doing but you really don't want any part of it, reconsider whether it is really important to you.
posted by lgyre at 8:18 PM on March 8, 2007

As a woman with ADD I can tell you this doesn't sound like ADD. You can't develop ADD in adulthood. It might have gone undiagnosed but a component of diagnosis is having it since childhood. (This, for me, was beyond obvious in retrospect.)

All that said, here's a link to a decent description of adult ADD in women for your info.
posted by loiseau at 9:07 PM on March 8, 2007

I'm in a similar rut, and have been for quite some time. I get by just fine but basically do the bare minimum. The quick lunches, not getting out of bed, and apathy about grades/classes are a pretty good description of my daily routine, so I know where you're coming from.

Take a multivitamin every day, stay hydrated, and eat well. Avoid processed foods. It IS possible to make very fast, cheap meals that are nutritious, and make little mess.

As others have said, you may want to get some blood work done, and even if you don't it couldn't hurt to see a doc anyway. I saw mine (about being in this kind of rut), and had blood work done. Everything came back just fine. The doc said there was no physiological cause, and gave me a referral to a psychologist.

What did he tell me? He referred to what he called self-regulating behavior, which he described as making yourself do things you don't want to do, when you don't want to do them. He said that I needed to strengthen my self-regulating behavior, but added that in the absence of any strong goals that it might be difficult. Ultimately, he wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, and we agreed that it would be fruitless for me to continue seeing him, as he would essentially be nagging me, and neither of us wanted that.

So, you need to force yourself to do things you don't want to do, when you don't want to do them, if not for the sake of getting the things done, then for the sake of getting better at doing things you don't want to do.

So, the answer is simple, but that doesn't make it easy.

As b33j said, you need to examine your goals. If you mainly want to live a comfortable enjoyable life, you're essentially already there, and don't have much reason to put in any more effort than you are right now. The psychologist told me that not only is this not unusual in the least, but is really pretty reasonable. I found that reassuring because I went from feeling like I was stuck in a catch-22 because something was wrong with me, to realizing that really my habits just need tweaking.

The only advice that I can give you beyond trying to become more disciplined, is to think of your health, and making life easy for yourself in the future. Staying healthy is a good reason to better your day to day habits, and making life easier (by keeping your options open) is a good reason to do decently in school.

I hope you find some of that useful, or at least a little reassuring. Since you posted this anon, feel free to email me (email in profile) if you want to for any reason.

On preview: I'd also like to second everything loquacious suggested.
posted by benign at 9:19 PM on March 8, 2007

Buy weight machines, running machines, the whole works. Put them in your house and use them regularly. Every single day, you have to exercise. Let your husband nag you to do it. You will get slimmer, you will be healthier, you will have a lot more energy, and you will feel better with yourself.

Trust me, you may be happy, but I do not think there are many men who are happy with a lazy wife that is quickly gaining weight. Do it for your husband if not for yourself.
posted by markesh at 1:06 AM on March 9, 2007

Seconding what gesamtkunstwerk says about laziness being a behavior, not a condition.

And yes, it can totally be depression without having the obvious mood symptoms. I'm not saying it *is* depression -- there are plenty of other things it could be, including perhaps that you just have bad habits -- but when I was in college I had seasonal depression that did not manifest itself in sadness until I was really, really sick. Most of the time I was just lazy and gaining weight -- and then berating myself for being lazy, which just made things worse. Getting on the right antidepressants did wonders for my motivation and apparent laziness.
Going to a doctor to get checked out for thyroid and depression is a very good idea, to rule out any medical causes before you start beating yourself up.
posted by katemonster at 4:57 AM on March 9, 2007

Buy weight machines, running machines, the whole works. Put them in your house and use them regularly. Every single day, you have to exercise.

This is like answering "How do I become less lazy?" with "don't be lazy".

Before you buy exercise equipment that'll be used as clothes hangers and add guilt to the mix, I say see a doctor about your thyroid and depression, plus a therapist. It may just be medical, it may just be about establishing new behavior routines, it may be both.
posted by AnyGuelmann at 1:25 PM on March 9, 2007

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