Scheduling Something Pleasant
Many of us know that when we are feeling sad and depressed getting motivated to do almost anything can be difficult. We often find ourselves withdrawing from people and activities that we previously enjoyed. Scheduling one or more pleasant activities into our daily life is a way to help increase our positive experiences, social engagement, and activities, all of which can make us more energized and help improve our thoughts and mood.
In your mind or on paper, come up with one or more pleasant, fun, or pleasurable activities. Then see if you can set up your schedule to do one or more of these activities each day.
- Begin by brainstorming one or more activities that you enjoy doing.
- It is best to do this when you are in a good or neutral mood so that it is easier to think of ideas.
- Activities can be large or very small, such as going to dinner with friends, taking a hot bath, listening to music, or going to the park.
- If you have trouble thinking of ideas there are many pleasant activity lists online such as this one
- After completing your list, each day see if you can select one or more activities that you will make time to do.
- While you are doing your pleasant activity, try to really pay attention to and be mindful of your experience, focusing on how it feels and what thoughts, emotions and sensations are present.
- After a few days or weeks check in with yourself about how things are going and if you wish to schedule in more than one activity a day go for it!
- Continue trying to incorporate and make time for pleasant activities in your life as much as possible and notice how it affects your mood and wellbeing.
In the 1950’s psychologist B.F. Skinner was the first to propose that depression was associated with a withdrawal from healthy behaviors. While initially behavioral activation, which includes scheduling pleasant activities, was a component of cognitive behavioral therapy, in the early 1970’s various behavioral psychologists led by Peter Lewinsohn created behavioral activation as a stand-alone treatment. The treatment has since been modified and expanded over the past decades by various psychologists.
Don’t be disheartened if you can’t seem to “get going” or think of pleasant activities- depression makes these things very difficult and it is not your fault! Remember to be gentle with yourself and refrain from self-judgment or criticism if you cannot think of a pleasant activity- this is very common when we are feeling bad.
Sometimes we can feel as if we don’t have time for pleasant activities, however it can be helpful to set aside a specific time each day that you plan to do your activity. Also, pleasant activities need not be time-consuming endeavors and can be as short and simple as eating a good meal or taking a break to stretch.
If you are having trouble actually doing the pleasant activities, see if you can carve out and designate a specific time to do them into your daily planner or schedule.
Remember that the most important thing is to treat yourself with kindness and not to beat up on yourself if you do not do a pleasant activity.
Video clip explaining behavioral activation (scheduling pleasant activities is a component of behavioral activation)