Three effective ways to ease depression – use these tips to improve your mood:
Becoming more active is one way of breaking the vicious circle of depression. When you are depressed, you do less and that, in turn, makes your low mood worse.
Doing more has a number of ADVANTAGES:
- Activity makes you feel better at the very least, it takes your mind off your painful feelings. It can give you the sense that you are taking control of your life again, and achieving something worthwhile. You may even find that there are things you enjoy, once you try them.
- Activity makes you feel less tired normally, when you are tired, you need rest. When you are feeling low, the opposite is true. You need to do more. Doing nothing will only make you feel more lethargic and exhausted. And doing nothing leaves your mind unoccupied, so you are more likely to brood on your difficulties, and to feel even more low mood.
- Activity motivates you to do more when you feel down/sad/demotivation, motivation works backwards. The more you do, the more you feel like doing.
- Activity improves your ability to think once you get started, problems which you thought you could do nothing about come into perspective.
STEPS TOWARDS ACTIVITY SCHEDULING
Step One: Self-monitoring
‘Self-monitoring’ simply means observing your pattern of activities. It involves keeping a detailed record of what you do, hour by hour – you can do this in a notebook or diary.
Your record will show you in black and white how you are spending your time, and will make you aware of how much satisfaction you get from what you do. This will allow you to test thoughts like I’m not doing anything’, or ‘I don’t enjoy anything I do’, and to see if they hold water when compared with the facts.
You may well find that you are more active and competent than you assumed, and that you are enjoying yourself more than you thought. Even if this is not the case, you will have a factual record to help you find out more about what is getting in your way, and to form a basis for changing how you spend your time.
How To Use Activity Record
You can use your own weekly planner or download one using this link: (copy and paste into your browser search bar)
For the next few days, write down:
- Your activities – record exactly what you do, hour by hour.
- Pleasure and mastery – give each activity a rating between 0 and 8 for pleasure (P) and for mastery (M). ‘P’ refers to how much you enjoyed what you did.
‘P8′ = enjoying an activity very much. ‘PO’ would mean that you did not enjoy the activity at all.
You could use any number between 0 and 8 to measure how much you enjoyed a particular activity.
‘M’ refers to how much mastery you experienced in what you did – how much of an achievement was it, given how you felt?
‘M8’ = real mastery or achievement for what you did. ‘MO’ means no sense of mastery or achievement at all.
Again, you could use any number between 0 and 8 to measure a sense of mastery you felt in a particular activity.
“Rate your feeling of mastery and pleasure on a 0-8 scale”
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
No Mastery/Pleasure Slightly Definitely Markedly The most you could experience
Mastery means many things to many people here are some examples:
Command & understanding of the activity, Sense of skill or expertise, Element of control over the situation, Independence, and Accomplishment.
Step Two: Planning Ahead
Now that you can see how you are spending your time, the next step is to plan each day in advance, making sure that you include activities which will give you a sense of pleasure and mastery.
Planning ahead will allow you to feel that you are taking control of your life, and will give you a sense of purpose.
The framework you give yourself will prevent you from sinking into a swamp of minor decisions (‘what shall I do next?’). It will help you to keep going even when you feel bad or despondent. Once the day’s activities are laid out in writing, they will seem less overwhelming.
You will have broken the day down into a series of manageable chunks, rather than a long shapeless stretch of time which you must somehow fill.
How TO Schedule Activities Plan your activities
Every evening, or first thing in the morning, set aside time to plan the day ahead.
Find out which time suits you best to do this, remembering that you are likely to be able to plan most realistically and constructively when you are feeling relatively well and clear-headed.
If you find it difficult to remember to make time to plan ahead, give yourself reminder cues.
Put up signs around the house, for example, or ask someone to remind you that 7.30 is your time for planning tomorrow.
As far as possible, try to ensure that your planning time is not interrupted, and that there are no other pressing demands to distract you.
Turn off the television, and take the phone off the hook.
Aim for a balance between pleasure and mastery in your day.
If you fill your time with duties and chores, and allow no time for enjoyment or relaxation, you may find yourself feeling tired, resentful, and frustrated at the end of the day.
On the other hand, if you completely ignore things you have to do, you may find your pleasure soured by a sense that nothing has been achieved, and your list of necessary tasks will mount up.
You may find it helpful to aim for the pattern of activities you found most rewarding in the past. There is a fair chance that, once you get going, you will find this pattern works for you again.
Encourage yourself by starting the day with an activity which will give you a sense of mastery or pleasure, and which you have a good chance of completing successfully.
This is particularly important if you have trouble getting going in the morning.
Plan to reward yourself with a pleasurable or relaxing activity when you tackle something difficult. You might, for example, set aside time to have a cup of coffee and listen to your favourite radio programme when you have spent an hour doing housework.
Avoid going to bed. Beds are for sleeping in, not for retreating to during the day – unless you are unwell but try to resist the temptation. PS – I love my bed so I know this can be tough!
If you need rest or relaxation, plan to achieve it in some other way.
To begin with, you may find that trying to plan a whole day at a time is too much for you. If so, break the day down into smaller chunks, and deal with them one at a time.
Record what you actually do. Put your plan into practice
Write down how you in fact spend your time on your record sheet, just as you did at the self-monitoring stage.
Rate each activity out of 8 for mastery and pleasure.
Review what you have done
At the end of each day, review what you have done.
Take the time to sit down and examine how you spent your day, how much pleasure and mastery you got from what you did, and how far you managed to carry out the activities you had planned.
This will help you to see clearly how you are spending your time, what room there is for improvement, and what changes you might like to make in the pattern of your day.
If you have managed overall to stick to your plan, and have found what you did reasonably satisfying, this gives you something positive to build on.
If on the other hand you did not stick to your plan, or you got little satisfaction from what you did, this will give you valuable information about the kind of things that are preventing you from making the most of your time.
What exactly was the problem?
Did you over-estimate what you could do in the time available?
Did you feel too tired to carry out everything you had planned?
Did you aim too high, forgetting to take into account how you feel at the moment?
Did you spend your day doing things that you felt you ought to do, rather than things that would give you pleasure and help you to relax?
Were your best efforts blocked by pessimistic thoughts?
If you can find out what went wrong, you can learn from these experiences. Use what you have found out to help you plan in future.
Step Three: Coping with practical tasks (useful if you procrastinate)
Lack of motivation (and/or depression) often leads people to put off practical tasks they need to carry out. The pile mounts, and in the end, they feel completely overwhelmed.
You can help yourself to get started on things you need to do by following these steps:
- Make a list of all the things you have been putting off, in whatever order they occur to you.
- Number the tasks in order of priority which needs to be done first? If you cannot decide, or it genuinely does not matter, number them in alphabetical order. The important thing at this stage is to do something.
- Take the first task and break it down into small steps, what exactly do you have to do in order to complete it?
- Rehearse the task mentally, step by step. Write down any practical difficulties you may encounter, and work out what to do about them.
- Write down any negative thoughts that come to you about doing the task, and answer them if you can (see below).
If you cannot find answers, simply note the thoughts down (recognizing them for what they are)
- Take the task step by step, dealing with difficulties and negative thoughts as they occur, just as you did in your mental rehearsal.
- Write down what you have done on your activity schedule, and rate it out of 10 for P and M, as soon as you have completed the task.
- Focus on what you have achieved, not on all the other things you still have to do. Watch out for negative thoughts that will make you devalue or discount what you have done.
Write these thoughts down, and answer them if you can.
- Take the next task and tackle it the same way.
Depression can be overcome but it takes forcing yourself to get the momentum going. You will find that the more you push yourself to increase your activity levels, the better you will feel. It’s that simple.