If you’re reading this, and you’ve been feeling depressed, would you like some easy tips to help you feel better?
In this article, I’m going to share 5 behavioral activation tips that are easy to use.
If you work on this, either by yourself, or with a loved one, you’ll start to feel better.
What is Behavioral Activation? And Why Should You Care?
Think of yourself as a car.
You’re a prime model, but your engine is cold from not being used in a long time.
That’s what it’s like when we’re depressed.
Things we used to enjoy doing no longer hold any pleasure.
For example, we may stop hobbies (like video games, running, or hanging out with friends or family).
We avoid responsibilities of daily living, like bathing, showering, paying bills, cleaning our house, or going to work.
We remember when, like a car, we used to run effortlessly down the highway.
But now, our engine is stalled.
Behavioral activation is like jumper cables that can get our batteries started.
Clinical psychologists studied behavior of depressed people and found out that there is depressant behavior and anti-depressant behavior.
Here’s a graphic from Therapist Aid that illustrates this concept.
The key to feeling better, sometimes, lies in our actions!
We need to act our way into feeling better.
5 Behavioral Activation Tips
1. Keep It Simple!
When we’re depressed, performing the smallest actions can seem like trying to climb Mount Everest.
In the words of C.S. Lewis,
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
So the more simple a solution is, the better.
That’s why, for $4.99, you can download Moodivate, an app developed specifically to make behavioral activation easy.
Unfortunately this app is only available for iPhone users at this time.
If you can’t get the app, or if you don’t want to pay for it, here’s what you can do.
a) Watch this video from Therapist Aid to better understand behavioral activation.
b) Download the free positive activities worksheet from Therapist Aid.
It’s pretty self-explanatory.
Don’t think about how you currently think about positive activities. Rather, think about positive activities you used to enjoy doing.
A lot of this therapy is “fake it till you make it” , or “act as if” you were feeling better.
If you’re having a hard time thinking about ideas, use this free activities list to choose from.
2. What Am I Doing?! Pay Attention
Before we go any further, how we need to examine our daily routine.
Looking at ourselves is always painful.
I remember being in debt before I got married. I went to a debt counselor.
The first thing we had to do was to list out my debts and see what I was dealing with.
It’s also like that when we need to lose weight.
We need to step on the scale and look at our weight.
So, what I want you to do, is to simply record and observe!
Go to Psychology Tools and register to get free access to all their worksheets.
Here’s the Daily Activity Diary With Enjoyment And Mastery Ratings where you can record what you are doing without any self judgement.
All you want to do is get a baseline of what you’re currently doing (or not doing) during your day.
You can’t change what you don’t measure!
3. Plan (and Get Help) To Succeed!
This is going to take some effort.
And it’ll take some humility.
When astronauts go to the moon, they don’t go it alone!
They have a whole team of researchers, scientists, and experts helping them meticulously plan each step of the journey.
Are you willing to ask someone for help?
Action Step: Talk to a loved one or a trusted friend and let them know you’re having a hard time, but that you’re working to get better.
Ask them to read this article with you and help you put your behavioral activation plan together.
Think through your upcoming weekly schedule, and fill it up with positive activities.
You only need to schedule one or two activities for the morning, the afternoon, and the evening.
4. Easy Does It
12 Step Recovery programs are full of wisdom for people who are trying to change.
Practice self compassion.
Action Step: Here are some mantras to repeat to yourself as you implement your weekly schedule.
- Progress, not perfection.
- Easy does it.
- Change is a process, not an event.
- One day at a time (or one hour at a time)
5. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
You may not accomplish every activity on your schedule on a given day.
Once you’ve repeated your self-compassion mantra, it’s time to go into problem-solving mode.
This will take some energy.
Action Step: I suggest you problem-solve with a friend or family member.
Here’s a problem solving worksheet from Therapist Aid.
Use it to figure out why you may not have gotten one of your activities done.
Perhaps you tried to accomplish too much?
There may be a number of reasons.
Approach problem solving with curiosity and an open mind.
You’ll be surpised at the solutions you come up with!
All Change Starts With Small Steps
I read about a person who struggled with his weight.
One day, he decided to walk to the end of the block and back.
The next day, he walked around the block.
Then he jogged.
Within a year, he was running in a marathon!
Getting back to how you used to feel may feel like a marathon.
Begin by asking a friend to help you follow the steps in this article.
If you are still struggling after working with your friend, consider contacting a local professional counselor.
If you live in Barrington, IL, or the surrounding suburbs, I’d love to work with you.
Behavioral activation is one cognitive behavioral therapy strategy I can coach you on to move you forward.