Depression. What can I do on my own?

Many studies have shown that behavioural activation is one of the most effective treatments for depression¹.

So, although working through the causes of your depression with a counsellor is important, just changing your behaviour is really key to lifting ourselves out of depression. The trick is to make a plan to start doing things, but gradually and progressively.

If you think back to the spiralling downward that happened when you became depressed, you might remember how you gradually stopped doing more and more stuff. Behavioural activation forces the spiral to go the other way and reverse that pattern. If we imagine depression like a hurricane, in the eye of the hurricane where everything is still, you are so depressed that just brushing your teeth or doing the dishes can feel impossible. However, if you just do it, as the famous logo says, one small but positive, habitual activity each day can really change how you feel about yourself. And it grows. It’s like stepping into the swirling winds around the eye. You get pulled upwards as your activity level increases.

For instance, many motivational speakers will say, try making your bed every morning. Yeah, you might not feel like it, but in behavioural activation we ignore those feelings that tell us not to do things. Instead, we do things that we know are good for us, even when we don’t feel like it. At first, it just seems like a pain. But after a week or two, you’ll notice small but real changes in how you feel. Keep building on your progress by gradually adding more activity into your life. Some ideas include making the effort to get a healthy breakfast every day. Or going for a walk. It’s about adding positive manageable steps in a gradual way that get you back into the swing of life. A good counsellor can help you build an activation plan that is tailored for you and your lifestyle.

Santos, M. M., Puspitasari, A. J., Nagy, G. A., & Kanter, J. W. (2021). Behavioral activation. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), Handbook of cognitive behavioral therapy: Overview and approaches (pp. 235–273). American Psychological Association.

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