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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Using Behavioural Activation to Fight Depression

By Dr Becky Spelman
Using Behavioural Activation to Fight Depression

How can you use Behavioural Activation to Help with Your Depression?

Depression can have a very serious impact on your quality of life, but there are many ways of dealing with depression that can make it more manageable and reduce this impact significantly. One of those approaches is behavioural activation, which is a self-help strategy that you can use at home to supplement whatever treatment you are receiving in a more formal setting.

One of the problems with depression is that it stops you from doing things that you might enjoy or that would be good for you, such as getting out and meeting other people or engaging in a hobby that you enjoy. The impact of this can be to deepen your depression, and unless something happens to break the cycle, the result can be worsening mental health.

Behavioural activation works by helping you to engage in positive activities on a regular basis.

Step one                                                          

Think about the sort of life you would like to have. Would you like to be more sociable? More active in your community? Would you like to give more to society? Think about what would make you feel better about your life and yourself.

Step two

Figure out what sort of activities would help you to get closer to your goal. Would you like to meet up with friends more often? Volunteer in a community group? Take part in a fundraising activity for a charity? Think about why these things matter to you, and what a difference taking part in them can make in your life.

Step three

Using the Activity Planning Sheet, you sit down at the end of the week and devise some goals for yourself for the following week. It might be a good idea to do this on Sunday evenings and to make it part of your regular routine.  Make your goals both ambitious and realistic. For instance, if you would like to become more sociable, set up some coffee dates with friends or colleagues from work—but not so many that you won’t be able to fulfil your own obligations! Make your goals specific. Don’t write: “Try to be more sociable!” Write: “Call Cindy from the book club and make a date for coffee and cake.”

Step four

Include some goals that you know are going to be relatively easy to accomplish so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Maybe your long-term goal is to raise money by climbing Everest, but you might want to start with a park run or a more modest challenge at first.

Step five

Make behavioural activation part of your routine. As the weeks pass, you can become more ambitious with the goals you set and introduce new ones as you become better able to manage your depressive symptoms. Keep the sheets in a folder so that you can see how much progress you have made, and quickly identify if you start to experience a set-back, so that you can take rapid corrective action.

Step six

Allow yourself to feel a sense of pride as you accomplish more of your goals. Dealing with depression is a big challenge, and you are making a significant difference to your quality of life.


Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford.



For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.

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