Does it seem like the theme of your life these days is feeling down? It's like you're stuck in a negative cycle, right? Low energy that seems to bring nothing but even lower energy! Motivation - what does that even mean at this point? If so, you're not alone.
Many people experience these feelings at some point in their lives, and it can be challenging to break out of that cycle. BUT, there is always hope! And hope begins with baby steps. Think of really small changes you can make in your daily life. If we want to be a bit technical here, in therapy terms, we call this "Behavior Activation."
What is Behavior Activation?
Behavior activation is a technique used to help individuals improve their mood by engaging in activities that are consistent with their values and goals. The idea is that by engaging in activities that are pleasurable or fulfilling, we can improve our mood, increase our energy and motivation, and ultimately, improve our mental health - which is our end goal anyway! You know what therapy encourages behavior activation? You guessed it - CBT!
But how does it work, and what's the science behind it?
Behavior activation is based on the idea that there are certain chemicals or hormones in our bodies that play a role in our mood and well-being. When we engage in activities that we enjoy or find rewarding, our bodies release endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which are chemicals that make us feel good and improve our mood. These chemicals also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, making it easier for us to cope with the challenges of daily life.
So how can you put behavior activation into practice?
Think about the things you used to enjoy doing whether it's taking a walk, listening to music, reading, or talking to or hanging out with a friend. These activities can help activate positive feelings and get you out of that negative cycle. But the trick is that you need to make a plan and to try to engage in them regularly. By scheduling these activities into your day or week, you can create a sense of structure and purpose, and begin to shift your focus away from negative thoughts and feelings. You'd have enough time to mentally prepare yourself for the change, and you would have something to look forward to in your day or week.
A Sense of Fulfillment
Something else that can really bring about positive change to your mood is focusing on activities that align with your values and goals. For example, if you value creativity, you might try taking an art class or practicing a musical instrument. If you value community, you might volunteer at a local charity or attend a social event. By engaging in activities that are meaningful to you, you can cultivate a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and increase your sense of well-being.
I can't count the number of times I'd be feeling down or lazy, and when I resist the urge to sink on the couch and actually go out with a friend or family member, I end up feeling more energized and in a better mood - even if slightly. It really doesn't have to be something major. A simple walk around the block would do.
FYI - By combining CBT with behavior activation, you gear yourself up with a powerful tool to help you break out of that negative cycle and start feeling better. So go ahead and take that walk, listen to some music, or call a friend. It's these small changes that will help you break out of that negative cycle and start a more positive, upward spiral.