How Does Behavioral Activation For Depression Work?

Updated December 13, 2018

Reviewer Sonya Bruner


Depression is something that impacts the lives of millions of people around the world. It can be very difficult to cope with depression symptoms if you do not have the proper resources. People who try to deal with their depression on their own often suffer and have difficulties in their daily lives. It can be tough to get through a workday or other daily tasks when feelings of depression have become intense.

Luckily, there are many different methods for treating depression in modern times. Sometimes depression is treated with medication. Other times it is treated with therapy and counseling. It is very common for treatments to include a combination of different medicines and therapy techniques.

One interesting way that depression is being treated is through a process known as behavioral activation. If you have never received this type of therapy before, then you likely don't know what it is. It is a method of therapeutic intervention that is gaining popularity in many circles. Keep reading on to learn more about behavioral activation, what it is, and how it can potentially help you with your depression.

What Is Behavioral Activation?

Behavioral activation is a therapeutic intervention technique that is used to treat depression. The idea behind behavioral activation is that depression is a symptom that is brought about due to a lack of positive reinforcement in the patient's life. This is essentially a treatment philosophy that focuses on the relationship between negativity and depression. Negative thoughts about life in general and negative views on self-image are often known to bring about depression.

When a person dwells on negative thoughts, it can lead them to a very dark place. Negativity has the power to make people feel low. The only real way to combat this negativity is through the use of positive reinforcement. The idea is to battle negativity with positive thoughts and reinforcement.

Helping patients to cope with their negative thoughts is a big part of this treatment model. For things to work out successfully, it is important for a patient to try to avoid activities that make them feel negative. Increasing the activities that make them feel positive is a good way to accomplish this. There is a bit more to it than this, but the simplest way to think about it is having positive activities replace negative ones.

Making Life Changes

This method of therapy is going to involve making life changes. The doctor in charge of overseeing behavioral activation therapy is going to try to recognize what negative triggers a person has. Some people may wind up being put in a negative and depressive state when they are left alone for long periods of time. In this situation, ensuring that the patient is socializing enough is going to help to keep those negative and depressive thoughts at bay.


For this method to work properly, it is important to understand what makes you feel negative. Knowing the types of activities that bring about challenging thoughts will allow you to combat them effectively. You will be able to either avoid doing activities that make you feel this way or you can try to adapt things to make them more positive. It will involve a lot of introspection on your part and recognition of what is bringing you low.

Your therapist or doctor should have some positive suggestions to make. They will speak with you about many of the behavior patterns that they think are making the depression worse. Recognizing that these behaviors are problematic and taking actions to remedy the situation will be beneficial. You'll be able to feel better and can attempt to stay positive for longer periods of time.

Since your doctor isn't going to be with you all of the time, the effectiveness of this therapy is going to come down to how well you implement positive activities in your life. The doctor or therapist should have many suggestions for things you could do to improve your situation. They may suggest scheduling activities with friends or doing more of certain things that make you truly happy. If you are willing to do your best to try this method, then the results can be very positive.

Monitoring Your Activities

Monitoring your activities will be an important part of the process. You need to do your best to commit to this therapy for it to work properly. It will largely be up to you to change your habits. You will need to make an effort to avoid the triggers for your negative thoughts and to surround yourself with positive situations.

The best thing that you can do to monitor how you are doing with behavioral therapy is to keep a journal. If you feel like you can, writing down your feelings and the activities of your day will be helpful. This information can be useful for your doctor when they are trying to see how you are doing. This will allow them to recognize certain patterns and they can make adjustments or suggestions depending on the results.

You can do your best to make this therapy work out. Thinking about the things that make you happy and deciding to focus on them will really be a good route to take. It is going to be up to you to implement these changes into your life. Take a look at some of these important suggestions for how you can do just that.

Do The Things That You Love

Try your best to do more of the things that you love. Instead of focusing on negative thoughts or doing activities that put you in a bad place, you should devote more energy to things that you are passionate about. Activities such as drawing and painting may be beneficial if you have a love for the arts. If you're passionate about sports, then you should try to play the sports that you love more often.

Whatever it is that makes you happy, that is what you need to be focusing on. For some people spending time getting lost in a book is a great escape. Some people love cooking and trying out new recipes. Some people are film buffs. Whatever your passion is, you will be able to focus on it, and your life will feel more positive overall.


Simply making an effort to spend more time doing the things that you love will be good. You can't just do the fun hobbies that make you happy all of the time, of course. Just try to include more of these fun and positive elements into your daily life. Dedicate a certain amount of time to fun activities like this to help combat depression.

Try To Exercise And Eat Healthily

Exercise is another important way that you can battle depression. A combination of exercising and eating healthy can definitely make you feel better overall. You will be able to feel more positive about yourself because you will know that you are doing something good. Working on your personal health goals will allow you to feel good about yourself and can definitely help to battle depression.

Simply exercising a little bit every day can make a big difference. If you can schedule just a small amount of time every day to exercise, then you will be able to make progress towards your fitness goals. You will feel better physically, and it will also have an impact on your mental state. Exercising releases positive endorphins in your body.

Eating right is important as well. If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, then you are going to have more energy. It can help you to maintain a healthy weight, and this will allow you to avoid any negative triggers associated with your body image. Eating good food can improve your life significantly. You will feel more focused and accomplishing your goals will be easier overall.

You should view it as a lifestyle change, and the results will happen in due time.

Getting Help From Friends And Family

Friends and family can help you to cope with depression symptoms too. Sometimes you will have negative relationships with friends or family. In this situation, you can inform them of your behavioral activation therapy that you are trying. If you can get your loved ones to provide more positive energy in your life, then you will feel better overall.

Any important people in your life who were acting as negative influences should try to change their behavior for your sake. You need positive energy and happy situations to get rid of depression symptoms. I

Talking To Some Can Help Too

Sometimes you might find that you are feeling negative and depressed despite your best efforts. Everyone who deals with depression has days that are more difficult than others. In this situation, you may want to try talking to someone that can help you. If you aren't comfortable talking with friends and family about these issues, then turning to a professional that can help is smart.

You can get counseling online that will be convenient and readily available when you're having a bad day. Simply being able to reach out to someone who cares and knows what you are going through can be helpful.


Reaching out to a professional like this is completely optional, but it is a good resource to have. If you are feeling low and need someone to interact with, then counselors can help. They will be able to talk about your issues and can help you to deal with the problems you are having effectively. If negative thoughts are ruining your day, then they can be a positive influence to help turn the situation around.

Using every resource that is available to you in the fight against depression is smart. You are never alone in your battle with depression. You have friends and family who love you very much. Compassionate professionals are there to help you too, so you never have to deal with symptoms of depression alone.

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