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Monday, July 2, 2012

How to handle a depressing day

For those diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, or for those who are having a depressing day or week, what can be done to lift your mood? The answer is not simple. For many battling depression, the simple act of lifting one's mood may seem impossible. However, there is one thing you may like to try in order to lift your spirits. 

Behavioral activation. 

What is this? This may sound like a technical term, but it actually is quite easily implemented and has been shown in meta-analyses to be effective in the treatment of depression (C

  • uijpers, 
  • van Straten, and 
  • Warmerdam, 2006). 

  • What does behavioral activation mean? Behavioral activation is a process by which you start monitoring pleasant things that occur in your life. Then, you try your hardest to incorporate these activities that make you feel good to increase feelings of happiness.
    It may sound too easy, but here is how you can try it:

    1. Make two lists. Label one Happiness and the other Self-Efficacy. Keep the lists on you at all times. Since we live in a modern age where everyone has cellular phones. Perhaps you can keep the lists in your phone. 

    2. On the happiness list, list all the things that make you happy. Do you have a dog or cat that makes you smile every time you pet it? Write it down. Do you enjoy a particular TV show? Write it down. Maybe it makes you happy to watch inspirational videos or read comics. It could be anything from feeling the sun on your skin to listening to upbeat music. 

    3. On the self-efficacy list, list all the things that make you feel proud that you accomplished something or that make you feel you are capable. For example, if you finished that big project at work, or if you got a good grade on a test; if you fixed something in your house. You can list the simplest things too. It doesn't have to be considered the biggest feat. The point is to list what makes you feel like you are accomplishing something that seems impossible at the time. If you are really having trouble with this one, because sometimes the effects of depression can be disabling, try accomplishing your first task of splashing some water on your face and going outside in the sun for at least 10 minutes. It might be hard to get going, but you can find your first steps to more activities that make you feel capable of doing more and more.

    4. Look at your lists periodically, you will be surprised how many things begin to show up on both lists. Now start doing things on these lists, incorporating them into your daily routine. They don't have to be in a specific order, or you can implement them on a schedule, it is completely up to you. And remember, it may not seem like the activity will make you happy or make you feel accomplished. However, you wrote it down once, so it's worth trying again! 

    Hopefully you can find things that improve your level of happiness and self-efficacy and find ways to incorporate them into your routine. If you think you are suffering from a severe mental illness, you should contact your primary care doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible for consultation. Behavioral activation is not a substitute for treatment of depression, and is merely something you can try to do to lift your mood. 


    • Cuijpers, P.,
    •  van Straten, A., 
    • & Warmerdam, L. (2006). Behavioral activation treatments of depression: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 27(3), 318-326. doi: 
    • 10.1016/j.cpr.2006.11.001