“But I Don’t Want To!”: How Behavioral Activation Can Get You Moving

Andy Santanello · May 16, 2018

elderly coupleWarmer weather is here, which makes it the perfect time to go outside and get moving, exploring and enjoying the world around us. However, if you are dealing with depression or anxiety, it can be hard to get out and do things for reasons that have nothing to do with the weather. Behavior activation is a powerful tool for many adults seeking motivation to go out and do things.

The Basics of Behavioral Activation

Behavioral activation is a type of therapy that is well-known for being an effective non-medical and non-pharmaceutical intervention for depression. By getting moving and out into the world and harnessing motivation, many adults find that the symptoms improve without additional intervention.

What does that mean in plain terms? When you’re depressed, withdrawing from daily life can make you even more down in the dumps. If you get your feet moving in a positive way, your head and heart might follow.

Utilizing Behavioral Activation

Behavioral activation increases the amount of time you spend doing positively-rewarding activities through setting specific goals and working toward meeting them. Goals will look different for everyone, but typically include activities you find to be positively rewarding and consistent with the way that you want to live your life. For example, if you want to be compassionate and take care of the world around you, the goals you set could include volunteering, helping a friend move into a new apartment or donating to a charity.

Making Behavioral Activation Work for You

  • Find activities that are truly important to you. Don’t think about what other people are doing or what you feel that you should be doing. Instead, think about what you really love. By choosing activities that are aligned with your wants and values, you will have extra motivation when struggling to get up in the morning or out of the house.
  • Choose activities where you can measure your progress. If you can’t identify whether or not you completed an activity or goal, it is too vague. Do you want to be more organized? “Get organized” is not specific enough. Instead, choose a more measurable goal like “alphabetize books” or “organize kitchen cabinets.” Specific and measurable activities set you up for success.
  • Work from easy activities to hard activities. If you tackle easier activities first, seeing the rapid progress that you made will help you to keep going and tackle harder goals. Work with a therapist so that behavioral activation does not become a source of stress or negative element of your life.
  • Use a broad range of activities that dip into multiple areas of your life to avoid boredom. Brainstorm activities that focus in areas including work, personal care, family, friends and relationships. The greater the variety that you incorporate, the more balanced that your life will become.
  • Be mindful when completing activities. Avoid engaging in avoidance behaviors like worrying or dwelling on the past. Avoidance behaviors make it hard to benefit from engaging in meaningful activities.

Learn More About the Way You Think 

Reach out to CBT Baltimore at 443-470-9815. We would love to help.