Activity Scheduling for depression

I don’t claim to be a therapist, but am going to speak about a therapeutic tool I have personally found helpful, and one which I still use as and when I need to, to help motivate me when I’m feeling depressed. This tool is sometimes called Activity Scheduling, and I was introduced to this tool during a course of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) some years ago.

At my most depressed I found it near impossible to find the will or any reason to even get out of bed, let alone participate in regular activities. Everything seemed meaningless and daunting. What was the point? As a result I spent large parts of my time in bed as this seemed the only place that offered any sense of safety or comfort. 

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

However, as part of my course of CBT, I was encouraged to take an experimental and scientific approach to my depression. The Activity Schedule I was given to complete asked you to choose an activity and a time you would do it. You then had to rate out of ten how much enjoyment you expected to get from said activity. 

Doing the scheduled activity was at first a huge struggle and effort, and it wasn’t always possible. When I did manage to complete an activity, whether that be to go for a walk, phone a friend, or whatever, then I had to rate out of ten how much I enjoyed the activity in reality. It was then possible to compare the two ratings out of ten. The latter rating was almost always higher. 

The second rating being higher at first seemed like a fluke. Using the Activity Schedule was by no means a quick fix, meaning that suddenly getting out of bed and being active became easy. Not at all. It took lots of time and effort and repetition for me to come to trust what the ratings were telling me. 

Photo by Snowscat on Unsplash

Slowly, slowly, through much more testing I started to be able to rely on the fact that, by and large, if I completed the given activity I would feel not only better than I expected to, but better than I would if I hid under the covers in bed which is what my depression urged me to do. I began to have hope that I could feel better, and have some influence over my mood through my actions. 

During low patches going to bed still seems appealing! And it’s still helpful for me to fill in an Activity Schedule now and then which I use alongside other coping strategies. Not always - but for the most part - I am now able to do the things I’ve planned to do and crucially I have regained pleasure in doing these things, where before life just seemed bleak.

Copyright 2014 Therapist Aid LLC

You may want to reflect on how far you’ve come already in your journey with depression?

Could an Activity Schedule be a helpful thing to add to your depression toolkit?

Bryony Bennett

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