I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking these past few weeks about how to keep my mood balanced and healthy, and to help my clients do the same during these challenging times. With the stressors of the ever changing social landscape with the arrival of Covid-19 and physical distancing measures that have led to mega shifts in our routine and structures, many of us may find that we could use some mood boosting strategies now more than ever.
Activity monitoring is a skill often used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help people begin to make links between the different things they do in their day and how these things make them feel. Over the course of a few days, pay close attention and mark down some of the times during the day where you notice a dip in your mood. Then, take some time to review your notes and make some connections between times of day or certain activities that continually seem to contribute to a lower mood. Consider this as an opportunity to look for areas of your day where you might try something else in its place to help boost your mood. This practice in CBT is known as activity scheduling.
I often talk to people about adding or scheduling in “anti-depressant activities” throughout their week. These often include activities that fit into three categories of those that:
- Feel good and bring about a sense of PLEASURE
- Give you a sense of MASTERY or accomplishment and/or
- Give you a sense of CONNECTION to yourself or others.
Take a few moments to make a list of activities that fit into these three categories for yourself. These activities will be unique to you (see list below for some ideas). Remember that what gives one person a sense of joy will not necessarily be the same for someone else. Keep in mind the limitations of the current social situation while writing your list and consider ways in which you might adjust some of these activities for the realities of now. Next, circle a few activities that you’d like to try first.
Pleasure/Feel Good Activities
Go for a walk
Try out a new recipe
Bake something yummy
Take a midday dance break -turn up the tunes & dance in your living room
Take a bath
Grocery order online
Organize & pay bills
Go for a run (set a new goal)
Check off something on my work to-do list
Listen to a new podcast
Connection Activities (Self/Others)
Skype call a friend
Do a live virtual yoga or exercise class
Organize a group online game
Write a letter & put it in the mail
Send an email to connect with an old friend
Try out a new meditation
Make your mood boosting activities official by adding in a few of them into your calendar over the next few weeks. Remember, making changes doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as making a small shift in how you do a task, or when you do it. Adding in a short break in your day, for example, may make a big difference in how you feel. Most importantly, as you do your scheduled “anti-depressant activities” check-in with how you feel and again when you are done, and rate your mood on a scale of 0-10. Keep track of your mood ratings over time by writing them down to help you to decide over time where to make more changes. Always try an activity more than once to make sure you get an accurate picture of how it impacts your mood.
Consider making activity scheduling an ongoing experiment—adjusting it to your life as it ebbs & flows. What can you do today to help boost your mood during these challenging times? What’s one small thing you can schedule in that will give you a sense of pleasure, mastery and/or connection? It’s times like these where we need to use our creativity more than ever to keep our minds and bodies healthy and at ease.
Note: If you are reading this and your mood has been consistently low for a period of a few weeks or more, consider reaching out to your primary health care provider for support.
Julia Sage is a registered social worker & psychotherapist at The Counselling Group – she currently works with clients exclusively through Ontario’s Increasing Access to Structured Psychotherapy (IASP) program which provides free, short-term, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for adults living with anxiety and depression. Referrals for this program can be made by a physician or nurse practitioner by completing and submitting the referral form which can be found on the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre’s website.
In addition, the Counselling Group offers a variety of experienced counsellors who can support positive changes and growth in your life. For more information, please call 613-722-2225 ext. 352 to speak with an intake worker today. We are offering appointments remotely at this time.