1. What is Behavioural Activation?
Behavioural activation (BA) is a third generation approach of Cognitive BehaviourTherapy for treating low mood and depression. Behavioural Activation focuses on your present life and attempts to make subtle changes to your lifestyle. Behavioural activation theory indicates that much clinically relevant human behaviour is a function of positive reinforcement, and that when positive reinforcement is stopped, reduced, or chronically low depression or low mood develop.
Behavioural activation aims to help patients engage more often in enjoyable activities and develop or enhance problem-solving skills. Behavioural activation is an effective coping strategy, as well as a short-term treatment, that can help you to boost your mood. When you feel low or depressed, you may be less likely to do things you enjoy or avoid other potentially pleasurable activities.
2. How does Behavioural Activation work?
Behavioural activation works on the CBT principle that our behaviour affects our mood. Behavioural activation focuses on activity scheduling to encourage people to approach activities that they are avoiding. Patients are thus refocused on their goals and directions in life.
A key element of Behavioural Activation is positive reinforcement in social situations. This means that how other people respond to you can have major impacts on your mood in the short-term and your overall mental health in the long-term.
Behavioural activation aims at increasing the frequency you engage in pleasurable rewarding activities. In behavioural activation, you identify goals for the week and work toward reaching your targets. Behavioural Activation works well to help you cope with depression and low mood because is highly customizable and is a very personal treatment plan.
These goals take the form of pleasurable activities that are consistent with your life choices and values. For example, if you want to live the life of a sociable and active person, you might choose goals focused on exercising, going out, meeting up with friends, engage in activities that can help you to meet new people. When you notice yourself feeling particularly low or worried, you should work on a pleasurable activity. This teaches you through practical experiments that your behaviour can affect your mood.
3. Top Techniques for Behavioural Activation
Some of the techniques that can be used to set up a behavioural activation plan include:
- Goal setting to determine which changes you want to make in your life.
- Self-monitoring of activities and mood through the use of a journal.
- Weekly activity scheduling to help you manage your time effectively.
- Weekly activity planning to boost your motivation towards making changes in your life.
- Problem-solving to help you manage feelings of anxiety.
- Social skill training to enhance your self-esteem.
- Ranking how easy certain activities are to accomplish from 1 to 10 – this helps you with monitoring your progress towards your desired targets.
- Training healthy behaviours to become habits.
- Setting weekly rewards to enhance your commitment.
- Signing a contract with a friend or relative so that they will reinforce your healthy choices.
- Assessing in which areas of life (work, family etc..) one desires change.