When you’re feeling down, with no energy to make any changes in your life or take action, the best thing to do is exactly this – take action. We call it Behavioural Activation and it’s about getting through your psychological barriers to do what you need to do to improve your mental health. Here’s what you need to know to add this useful concept to your toolkit.
If you find yourself feeling down or stuck, it might be time to consider a skill called 'Behavioural Activation' to change your mood.
What’s the idea behind Behavioural Activation?
Sometimes, when your mood is low, you really don’t feel like doing anything or seeing anyone. You might even start to avoid the activities you usually take part in and enjoy, or the people that make you happy. Yet, those are exactly what’s most helpful when you’re feeling down.
Usually, motivation comes before action: We do things because we believe we want to do them. But, since a lack of motivation is a common symptom of low mood, action has to come before motivation.
Behavioural Activation is about challenging yourself to experiment with different behaviours when you least feel like doing them. When we engage in activities that give us pleasure and a sense of accomplishment or achievement, we feel good. One important method to get you feeling better is to get you back to doing the things you love to do.
Over the next week, create a schedule of activities that you normally enjoy and give you pleasure, tasks that you check off on your to-do list, and maybe even some form of physical activity. Then, no matter how you’re feeling at the time, do them. Force yourself to stick to that schedule you’ve created. Then make a new one.
Make the activities simple to start. For example, you don’t need to cook yourself a 5-course elaborate dinner, but you could tell yourself you’re going to make a new side dish for your next meal. You’ll probably be surprised at how much better you feel from a great dish and the sense of accomplishment of trying something new.