Activating Your Way Out of Depression: How Behavioural Activation Can Help

When we are feeling down or depressed, we tend to have a strong urge to want to pull away from others and the things we like doing. We tend to also tend to have low energy and low levels of motivation which feeds this urge and makes us withdraw even more. This makes us feel even WORSE and unhelpful thoughts start to form about ourselves, other people and the world…this is the vicious cycle of depression.

Behavioural Activation
Behavioural Activation is one technique that psychologists use to try and break this cycle. It is based on the idea that doing things (aka behaviours) can activate pleasant emotions. So, rather than waiting to feel energized or motivated to do things we use to enjoy, we instead MAKE ourselves do these things then start to notice a positive change in our feelings and thoughts because of this. This then causes our depression to subside.

Activating your way out of depression

What do to: Build a schedule of activities (or “activity schedule”)

STEP 1: start small! Try to think about the little things that you use to enjoy but haven’t done for a while. The smaller the behaviour the more achievable it will be. For example, rather than planning to run 10kms instead plan on going for a walk 10-15mins each morning at a set time then build from this.

STEP 2: Brainstorm around the barriers. Its important to consider potential obstacles for activities throughout the week (e.g. weather, other commitments, feeling tired). Try to think of ways you can still stick to your activity despite these barriers (e.g. wear a raincoat on my walk, plan to walk for 10mins at a time of day you are less likely to feel tired, set reminders/ alarms etc.)

STEP 3: Make yourself accountable – create a written schedule or calendar where you can tick off every time you complete your activity. Notice how many times you do tick off the activity and take that as a win! Good for you!

STEP 4: Revise your plan every week or 2. If you notice things are getting easier to do, consider making things a little bit more challenging for yourself so that you can continue to experience a sense of mastery (e.g. aim to walk for 20mins instead of 10). If things have been harder than anticipated and you haven’t completed as many activities as you would have liked to, consider making the tasks a little easier for yourself (e.g. instead of walking for 10minutes every day agree to sit outside and have a cup of tea in the sun every morning instead).

Suggested activities for your schedule:
• Go for a walk
• Get a coffee with a friend
• Sit in the sun
• See live music
• Cook something
• Visit your favourite café/ restaurant
• Play a friendly game of sport
• Do some gardening
• Go to the gym
• Draw or paint
• Eat your favourite chocolate
• Do some yoga
• Call a friend
• Volunteer
• Visit a park

Can’t do it on your own?

For more support with behavioural activation and/or other strategies and support with overcoming depression, book an appointment with one of our psychologists by contacting us on 1300 405 902.