What is behavior activation and how can it help with depression?

Depression can feel like a dark cloud settling in and suck the energy out of you. It takes away your motivation and can make it a struggle to complete even the most basic tasks. Depression can feel like a thief. A thief who comes in and steals your joy, happiness and desire to those fun things you enjoy. How can you take back your life if you experience symptoms of depression?


The first thing you have to remember is there is a cyclic nature to depression. Check out the picture on this cycle. Depression can cause low motivation to do anything that might produce moments of joy. It also causes fatigue and low energy which makes it more difficult to feel like doing anything. This can lead to negative thoughts such as “nothing will get better for me” which increases feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.


This leads to you wanting to withdraw from others, you are engaged in

less activities. You may experience more feelings of sadness from being isolated and hopelessness which leads to more depression. And the cycle continues! The more stuck you become you stop engaging in activities that help boost your mood and you feel more depressed.


How do you break that cycle?? One way is to start with behavior activation (BA). Behavior Activation are what I call “Mood boosters” behaviors that can help give you moments of joy. Y These can be divided into 4 categories: Body care (getting right amount of sleep, eating healthy, exercise), Accomplishment (school, work or chores), Social activities and Overall fun. Taking the time to engage these activities helps your brain get a boost of serotonin which is a feel good chemical. With depression you may experience a much lower level of serotonin. The more often you can engage in these activities it activates your brain to healthier place emotionally so you can start to feel better.


To fully engage with behavioral activation, it helps to create a schedule to follow. This helps with accountability and make it easier to get it going instead of just “thinking about doing it” in your mind. Visuals can be very powerful. Scheduling in specific days/times for BA activities can make a huge difference on your symptoms of depression. Here’s a link to sample BA schedule you can try https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/schedule-behavioral-activation .


Remember to start small. Don’t feel the need to complete a chart covering every time period on there. Maybe take one area that’s hard for you like getting chores done and schedule in times for a week to break it up. If you don’t’ “feel” like doing it at the scheduled time, do it anyways! Do the opposite of that feeling is what research shows is most effective.


It is not easy to get started with activities in your life again when depression takes hold. But just know that there is hope! Depression can be overcome, it takes some work but it is possible for you to create the life you most want filled with happiness once again. If you are someone you know is struggling with depression, help is available! Reach out today to the Therapists at Path to Hope counsel

ing today. We are here to help! Email us at pathtohopec@hushmail.com.