Behavior activation is a concept that comes from Cognitive-Behavior Therapy and is well supported by research. We implement behavior activation when depression is present. Essentially, depression likes to create an environment where it can thrive. What that looks like is people isolating themselves, not sleeping or eating properly, not taking care of themselves, not exercising, watching too much TV, or spending too much time on social media. When these conditions are present, depression is able to flourish.
This is where behavior activation comes in. These practices create an environment that is inhospitable to depression. When people engage in behavior activation consistently, their depression symptoms improve.
What are some behavior activation practices?
The list below describes some classic behavior activation practices, however, it is not exhaustive. A part of behavior activation also includes people incorporating additional activities that bring them joy.
Get off the couch and get moving. This is one of the most difficult things to do when depression is present, but physical activity is imperative. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Do an exercise routine that you found on YouTube. Dance around your house. Lift some weights. Go on a hike. The options are endless-just get moving.
Spend time with friends and family. Depression likes for us to isolate. Make sure your meet up with people regularly. Depression is going to make the idea of seeing people really unappealing, but there is a strong likelihood that once you are with others, you’ll feel better.
Take care of your hygiene. Depression makes it difficult to shower, brush our teeth, comb our hair, and change our clothes. Even if you don’t feel like it, keep taking care of yourself.
Do your chores. It’s so easy to let household responsibilities slip when we feel depressed. Make sure you’re attending to the laundry, the dishes, cleaning, paying bills, etc.
Establish good sleep habits. Depression makes us prone to sleep too much or too little. Try to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Set a solid night routine that lets you decompress and drift to sleep. For additional tips on good sleep practices, see our blog from October 2019.
Give yourself some credit
Your engagement in behavior activation doesn’t have to be perfect. Set small goals initially, and add in more practices as time goes on. As you accomplish your behavior activation, be sure to take a moment to acknowledge that you did something good for yourself. And…you did it under circumstances that were really difficult-fighting the opposition of depression.
If you are struggling with depression and want to get behavior activation in place, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.