BA interrupts the vicious cycle of depression (feeling depressed leads to inactivity, which leads to feeling more depressed, which leads to more inactivity, etc.). BA is backed by a great deal of research showing its efficacy in decreasing depression symptoms. Based on the principles of behaviorist B.F. Skinner, one of history’s most prominent and influential psychologists, BA aims to:
- Increase participation in mood-boosting activities
- Decrease avoidance that maintains the cycle of depression
- Identify and address barriers to accessing mood-boosting activities
If low mood or clinical depression are a part of your life, BA can be the mood-boosting skill you need. Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Activity Monitoring
Now is the time to get a pen and paper and begin recording your daily activities (hour by hour) and rating mood on a 0-10 scale (0 for very depressed and 10 for feeling very good). Do this for one week (it might feel like you’re in school doing homework, but it’s a necessary step).
Step 2: Analyzing the Data
Review your recorded data from the last week and determine whether there are patterns between mood and activity. Create a list of “Activities that made me feel good” and “Activities that made me feel bad” based on your responses to the following questions:
- What were you doing when your mood was at the high end of the scale?
- What activities were associated with a mood at the low end of the scale?
- How do you interpret the connection between mood and how active you were at a given time?
- What was your mood like on days when you were mostly inactive or didn’t leave the house?
Step 3: Identifying Values
Before we can choose to live according to our values, we must first understand what those are for us. Values—which are unique to each person and can change over time—are beliefs or principles that we find important in our lives. Check out this Travco blog post to help clarify your values.
Step 4: Activity Scheduling
Using your “Feel Good Activities” list and the values identified in the previous step, schedule 2-3 simple activities. Remember to use the SMART goals here:
- Specific: I’d like to spend more time improving physical strength so I can keep up with my young daughter.
- Measurable: I’ll determine a certain amount of time that I will exercise in the next week.
- Achievable: I will be able to complete this goal each day during my daughter’s nap time.
- Reasonable: I haven’t done much exercise lately and I believe starting with just 20 minutes is a realistic goal.
- Time-based: I will do 20-30 minutes of cardio or strength training for 3 days out of the next week.
Step 5: Problem-Solving and Refining
Based on your experience with the activities you scheduled in Step 4, ask the following questions:
- Did you accomplish all, some or none of the goal you set?
- What went wrong? What went right?
- How could you increase the likelihood of achieving the goal next time (adjust the time spent, do something to reward yourself after, do it at a different time of day, etc.)?
Sometimes, practicing BA alone is enough to improve mood and break the vicious cycle of depression. Other times, additional approaches with the help of a mental health professional might be necessary.
If you’re struggling with depression, the compassionate and knowledgeable clinicians at Travco Behavioral Health can help. Contact us today at 330.286.0050!