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Actions Precede Emotions
The activities that we engage in affect our mood. This can work in our favour, like exercising after a bad night’s sleep because exercising encourages the production of “feel good chemicals” and can help mitigate blood glucose regulation that is sometimes compromised after poor sleep. However, it can also make things more difficult for us. Sometimes, when we’re feeling down, a pattern can form while we wait to feel better or more motivated and this pattern can be quite vicious. Take for example a situation in which you declined a social invitation because you felt sad, and then you felt even more sad because you weren’t engaging in activities that felt meaningful. Then, because you felt so sad, you declined the next social offer, so on and so forth.
This is where Behavioural Activation can be a useful tool. It comes from the Cognitive Behavioural school of Psychology. In order to identify actions that result in pleasure and actions that result in unwanted mood, we need to take some time to track our mood. By keeping record of what you do throughout the day (and then throughout the week) and how each activity affects your mood, you can pinpoint things that encourage low mood and the things that encourage positive mood. The first step in Behavioural Activation is this monitoring process.
Your Values, Your Pleasure, Your Goals
Behavioural Activation is highly individualized. Sure, some activities mostly make us all feel good, like breathwork and exercise. Beyond those measures, you have your own values, pleasures, goals, and things that make your life worth living and these need to be identified. Then, once we’ve identified these things, we can brainstorm activities that active them. You can use worksheets and other experiments linked here to aid in your exploration.
Putting It All Together
One we’ve figured out how time spent is associated with mood, we’ve determined and connected activities to the things that matter most to us, it’s time to plan those activities. Some tips include starting with just two or three activities and to schedule them when they will be most likely to get done. Remember, if you’ve been feeling stuck or low or depressed or anxious, it’s common to struggle in finding the motivation to take action. Check out these Motivation Tips to help you get started and go easy on yourself. We’re to help if you need us.
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Written by: Samantha O’Hara,
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