How to Treat Depression with Behavioral Activation
For some people, Behavioral Activation (BA) can help alleviate depression and its symptoms. The goal of BA is for you to feel less isolated by partaking in activities that boost your mood. The idea behind BA is that when people become depressed, they isolate themselves and avoid activities that may combat depression, such as exercising, spending time with friends, maintaining good hygiene, and working towards goals. BA seeks to teach individuals to use these activities to help combat their depression. By implementing behavioral activation and maintaining your daily responsibilities, you can work to manage your depression. You can also learn to focus on your value categories, meaning the most important parts of your life, like your family and friends.
EditPracticing Activity Monitoring
- Write down your activities. You want to figure out how to spend more time doing what makes you happy. The best way to do that is to start tracking your daily activities. Keep track of everything you do during the day.
- You might write things like “rode my bike to work” or “watched Netflix”.
- Find a system that works for you. You could keep a small notebook with you or use the Memo or Notepad function on your phone to log activities.
- Rate your depression. At the end of each day, look back over your activity log. Using a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, rate each activity depending on how it made you feel. “1” might indicate “very depressed” while “10” could mean “feeling really happy”.
- For example, maybe you missed your bus and had to walk home in the rain. You might rate that as a low number on your scale.
- Maybe you had a nice talk on the phone with your mom. That might earn a high score on your scale.
- Keep in mind that it is important to be objective and stick with a specific type of rating system since people tend to exaggerate how they are feeling when they are depressed.
- Schedule more activities that make you feel good. Spend a week or two tracking your activities and rating your depression. Then spend some time looking back over your logs. Notice whether there are certain activities that consistently rate really high on your scale. Then make sure to regularly spend time doing those activities.
- Maybe “reading for pleasure” always rates a 10 in your log. Make it a point to allow yourself some time to enjoy that activity each day. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Just set aside 30 minutes before bed and take that time to enjoy yourself.
- Complete your entire “to-do” list. The goal of BA is to spend more time focusing on things that bring you joy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you can skip all of the activities that you dislike. You’ll still need to go to work and do chores like washing the dishes. Try making a to-do list for each day. It might make you feel good to cross each item off.
- Use your activity tracking to help you. For example, if you know you have a stressful meeting on Monday, make sure to schedule some extra time for something you enjoy, such as reading a new novel that you’re interested in. Knowing that you’ll be able to unwind might make getting through the meeting easier.
- Set clear and specific goals. Once you’ve started to understand what triggers your depression and what makes it better, you can start challenging yourself to make some positive changes. Figure out what would make you feel better and set some goals to make that happen.
- Make sure each goal is specific. For example, instead of saying “I want to eat healthier” try saying, “I will eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and I will cut out fried foods.
- Create attainable goals. Instead of saying “I will find the perfect partner to spend my life with” , say “I will make an effort to meet new people and be open to the possibility of finding love.”
EditFocusing on Your Value Categories
- Make time for your family. Your values are the things that are most important to you in your life. To focus on your values, write down what they are, and then figure out how to make them priorities. You might write down “family” as a core value. Make specific goals on how to focus on your relationship with your family.
- For example, you could write down, “Eat lunch with my siblings every Saturday.”
- Commit to your romantic relationship, if applicable. Concentrating on your values can help you feel more centered and can also make it easier to focus on the positive things in your life. If you are in a relationship, you’ll want to make this one of your value categories.Ask yourself questions such as, “What type of partner do I want to be?” and “What do I need from this relationship?” Once you’ve determined what you want your relationship to look like, take concrete steps to make that happen.
- Maybe you wrote down that you need clear communication in your relationship. With your partner, set aside 20 minutes a day to talk to each other. Put down your devices, turn off the TV, and focus on any issues at hand.
- If you wrote down that you want to be a more attentive partner, you could take time to check in with your partner during the day instead of waiting until after work.
- Devote time to your friendships. Your friends can be one of your greatest assets when you’re battling depression. When you’re practicing BA, make sure to think about your relationships with your friends. Look for ways to make those bonds stronger.
- Write down what you value about each friendship, such as “Amy always makes me laugh”.
- List concrete ways that you can work to improve your relationships. For instance, “I’ll make an effort to invite Amy to more social events.”
- Set clear goals at work. Your career might be another area that is a major priority in your life. Sometimes depression and anxiety can make it feel like you’re going nowhere at work. When you are practicing BA, make sure to write out a list of concrete goals and update this list regularly.
- Make short-term goals. For example, you might write “Increase my sales by 10% this month.”
- Include long-term goals. You could say, “Become a Vice President of Accounting within the next year.”
- Contribute to the community. Find a way to get involved in your town or neighborhood. Community engagement can help you feel connected to others and also give you a sense of accomplishment. Plus, you’re helping someone in need!
- Find a place to volunteer that fits your interests. If you’re a dog lover, ask the local shelter if they need help. If you’re an avid reader, check with the local library to see if they need volunteers.
EditHandling Daily Tasks
- Monitor your sleep schedule. When you’re dealing with depression, sometimes it can be hard just to take care of yourself. However, in order to feel better, you’ll have to practice healthy habits even when you don’t feel like it. Tracking your sleep habits can help you make sure that you’re getting the right amount of rest. The right amount of sleep can help ease symptoms of depression.
- Try to make a point of going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at roughly the same time each morning. Write down the time you go to sleep and wake up each day.
- If you find yourself sleeping in or feeling like you can’t get out of bed, take a look at what happened the day before. You might see a pattern of certain activities causing you to feel drained.
- Eat a healthy diet. It’s not a given that changing your eating habits will help your depression. However, certain foods can help ease some of your symptoms. And eating healthy foods can help you feel better overall.
- Certain carbs can help calm you down. Go for “smart” carbs such as whole grains and sweet potatoes. Avoid foods such as cakes and fruit juices.
- Look for healthy proteins. Good proteins can actually increase alertness, which can make you feel better. Try lean meats such as chicken, fish, and Greek yogurt.
- Create a cleaning schedule. When you’re dealing with depression, it can be difficult to handle household chores. Write down what needs to be done, and then write down when you will do it. Sticking to your schedule can help you feel more productive and less overwhelmed.
- For example, you might write: “Monday–dust living room” or “Tuesday–do laundry”.
- Practice good personal hygiene. Even though it might feel like a challenge, take the time to keep up your hygiene. Take a shower and brush your teeth everyday. Make sure to keep your hair clean, your nails clipped, and use deodorant.
- Ask for help from your therapist. You don’t have to tackle BA all by yourself.
- Make adjustments as necessary. This is your program, so do what works for you.
- Be patient with yourself. Change doesn’t happen overnight.
EditSources and Citations
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