Introduction to Behavioural Activation
Mood plays a critical role in brain health, and improving our mood is an important factor in our ability to concentrate and remember things in the present— both key things that enable us to feel cognitively at our best. It also supports our cognitive health later in life, something which is no doubt top of mind if you’re reading this right now. Experiencing low mood or depression however is something many people face, and the good news is there are many effective treatments that can help in the journey to address the issue.
Our Activities Affect Our Mood - Behavioural Activation
A common way to treat low mood or depression centres around activity and targeting thinking. Activity monitoring and scheduling is a core component of cognitive therapy for depression¹, in addition to being used as standalone therapy².
Activities that promote a sense of pleasure, achievement and closeness with others are often neglected in depression, which can lead to a negative reinforcement of mood. When we feel low it’s understandable that we may not feel up to doing much, but when this occurs for extended periods of time, it can result in low mood being prolonged.
However, not feeling our best can also come down to doing too much, and not having enough balance of activities that give a sense of both pleasure and purpose³. For example, if you find yourself spending all your time working and not giving much time to being with loved ones or immersing yourself in hobbies you enjoy, it’s understandable that you might not feel your best.
The kind of activities you pursue also makes a difference. While it’s important to gain pleasure in activities you choose to spend your time doing, research also shows that activities that give us a sense of purpose are equally as important when it comes to elevating mood⁴.
How to Identify Your Triggers
In any of the above cases, reflecting on and modifying our activity can help us regulate mood and start to tackle our own negative perceptions of our activity, be that doing too much or too little⁵. One thing to note is that when we’re experiencing low mood, we tend to have a negative bias in our thinking and it may instead be the case that there is a difference between what we think we are doing versus how much we are actually doing on a weekly basis. If you want to address your mood, it’s worth reviewing your level of activity, and seeing what you devote your time to. Are you spending time on the right things?
Behaviour Activation Tips
Look at how you choose to spend your week. Do you have a balance of activities offering you a sense of pleasure, achievement and closeness to loved ones? Aim to incorporate activities from these different categories in your week to help you achieve a balance that is supportive of mood. If you find yourself unable to answer the above question, keep a brief diary for one week, noting down the activities you complete and also how much pleasure and achievement you derive from each activity. This will allow you to assess your activity, and in turn the adjustments you may need to make. If doing this is difficult for you, consider seeking the help of a professional to assist you in addressing your low mood or depression.