Fake it 'till you make it: behavioural activation


When I was little my mom used to tell me, "fake it till you make it."  I think most of us are familiar with the old adage.  But did you know that this strategy is an effective tool used in the treatment of depression called behavioural activation?  The premise of this intervention is that when people become depressed, they often stop finding pleasure in their daily activities, and may avoid activities they used to enjoy, which results in their becoming socially isolated, and can even increase stress if important things are missed (like meals, work deadlines, etc) which worsens their mood further.  This lack of pleasure - avoidance - negative consequences cycle needs to be broken to help people come out of a depression.  Enter behavioural activation.

For my patients struggling with mood issues, in addition to discussing psychological therapy and medications, I always “prescribe” 1 social, 1 physical and 1 intellectual activity a day.  Doctor’s orders, mandatory!  It might seem daunting, but I meet people where they are at and suggest appropriate activities that will “count” depending on how they are feeling.  One of the issues with depression is a lack of motivation, and if you decide on an activity that requires too much motivation, you’ll be less likely to do it and the process won’t work.  If you’re really down, the physical activity might be putting on your clothes and walking around the block once, or doing 20 jumping jacks.  A social activity can be talking on the phone for 2 minutes.  The intellectual activity can be going to your job, or reading 1 article online about something that interests you.  

You don't need to have clinical depression to benefit from this knowledge.  Sometimes life gets busy and you stop taking care of yourself, and you wake up one day and feel stressed and overwhelmed and you just want to stay in bed.  Ask yourself - have you been doing 1 small social / physical / intellectual activity per day?  I know I feel way better when my mind is active, my body is active and I’m getting that social support from friends and family.  Sometimes we over-schedule ourselves and we really do just need some alone time and a break - that is healthy and normal.  But if you're finding that you are starting to avoid things you used to enjoy on a regular basis, try to nip it in the bud with a little behavioural activation and fake it 'till you make it.

I hope this serves you!


Dr Kaleigh



Kaleigh Briggs1 Comment