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Behavioural Activation Can Reduce Negative Emotions

Lara Calus

2nd February 2024

According to CBT, behavioural activiation (using new behaviours to improve our routine and mood) can be a helpful tool to use when treating depression. This can seem paralysing to do, especially if a patient has been inactive for a while and is also experiencing fear and sadness. It is no surprise that increasing activity levels elevates feelings of sadness and can improve mood. Apart from improving mood, it is crucial to understand that helping and taking part in self-care is paramount before we can take care of others.

So why don’t we do this?

When feeling sad, we tend to put these activities on the back burner, but it is exactly at this point that we should be putting self-care first. This may look like hiking, being in nature, meditating, physical activity or even going out with friends. It can also be helpful to put these activities in your calendar as well as taking any medications that have been prescribed, eating healthily, showering/bath, taking care of work, and any household chores. It is also helpful to break activities up into smaller steps that are easier to accomplish.

To begin, set a goal that is relatively easy to achieve soon, and every day, to help with motivation invite a friend for support to perhaps go on a nature walk and track your progress. You can track and see if the activities are helping your mood.

You can read more about this, using the following references:

* Behavioral Activation as an ‘active ingredient’ of interventions addressing depression and anxiety among young people: a systematic review and evidence synthesis. BMC Psychology, Sprinter Nature

* If you need additional direction, consider using the exercises in Making Meaning of Difficult Experiences: A Self-Guided Program for more structure and support. Rauch, S. A. M., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2023). . Oxford University Press.

Lara Calus

Lara is an experienced Psychology lecturer and part of the tutor2u Psychology team.

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