Often, when we are struggling with depression, it can be difficult to complete tasks such as getting out of bed in the morning or even taking our dog on a short walk. Depression can make even simple activities feel impossible to complete.
Behavioral Activation (BA) is a cognitive behavioral therapeutic approach found to be helpful for individuals struggling with depression.
What is Behavioral Activation (BA)?
The idea behind BA is that by deliberately engaging in certain behaviors, we “activate” positive emotional states (i.e. we feel better!)
BA typically involves three primary activity categories: doing something enjoyable, something valuable, and something routine. When experiencing a period of depression, these three areas of our lives can become neglected. Chores pile up, we lose motivation, and little brings us joy. By engaging in meaningful and rewarding activities, BA helps foster a sense of accomplishment and mastery and re-introduces experiences of pleasure.
Depression can also bring feelings of isolation and social withdrawal. BA encourages us to step back into activities we have withdrawn ourselves from during the darkness. Each of these active steps interrupt the cycle of withdrawal, boosting our mood along the way!
Examples of helpful behavioral activation might include:
BA is most effective when the activities are uniquely important to the individual. Pay attention to what activities seem to be mood-boosting or give you a sense of accomplishment. Brainstorm activities for each category. Be specific. Then, set your goal, schedule your activities, and proceed! Remember: It’s okay to start small. What is important is for you to take one active step forward.
BA helps empower us to take control of our lives, strengthen our support systems, and reduce feelings of isolation.
If you begin to experience symptoms of depression, behavioral activation may be a helpful tool to add to your toolbox of skills!