The idea of ‘keeping busy’ may seem exhausting to an already overworked generation of individuals out there in the workforce. They can’t bear the thought of adding one more thing to their packed schedule and may wonder about the sustainability of their ventures. In theory, these individuals know the merits of relaxation, however, the messaging may seem at odds at first to find that a healthy existence values both.
Keeping busy involves one’s ability to separate the important from the trivial. It is dependent upon prioritizing what actions are meaningful and pursuing them while refraining from getting caught up with those that waste precious time. A person who keeps themselves busy embraces change and hard work and acts accordingly to achieve their goals in life.
Staying busy for your mental health
However, for those who are anxious or depressed, their life likely reflects a diminished capacity to go on with ‘life as usual’ or to do things that they would otherwise enjoy were they not experiencing such mood disorders. They have likely lost sight of all values for their life, of pursuing health, security, personal growth or development, of taking time to build positive relationships or make time for social activities.
Truly, it can become a vicious cycle, as inactivity can be a source of depression, of boredom and unhappiness, and it is these individuals that most benefit from creating more structure and activity in their daily lives. To be clear, however, the advice is not simply to fill your days with more Netflix, or more “chill”. It is getting your butt out of bed, out of the house, even if it is just a walk to the end of the block to start.
Behavioral Activation Strategies
Behavioral Activation is a specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy technique that focuses on the ability of our actions to influence how we feel and is the process for assisting individuals in creating routines to fill their life with positive practices.
Think of your mind as a car’s battery, that has gone cold from not being used in a long time. It will likely have a hard time getting started, or building any sort of momentum. This is what it’s like to be depressed– You become more detached from people, places and things that once brought you joy. Behavioral activation, in this case, is like the jumper cables, that presents a strategy to activate the proverbial “stalled engine” by helping you regain your focus by closely examining yourself and daily routine.
Researchers have found behavioral activation to be slightly superior to medication because it shifts away from cognitions and feelings to focus on an individual’s behavior and environment and works to identify and observe patterns of behavior. Negative life events such as grief, trauma, life stressors, or even just having a genetic tendency toward depression can lead someone turn to unhealthy behaviors like alcohol and drug use, or even social withdrawal in an attempt to avoid the uncomfortable emotions associated with certain activities.
Behavioral activation will not only help in replacing negative avoidance behaviors with new ones but it also increases the amount of positive reinforcement a person experiences in real life. One main symptom of depression is loss of interest in things that were enjoyable. In this case, this therapy can help an individual engage more enjoyable activities and experience the rewards of feeling accomplished and even leading to having a sense of meaning.
Working with a therapist and implementing behavioral activation strategies will also encourage people to schedule enjoyable experiences and taking actions that steer them toward a positive solution and goal. Consequently, it moves them past the paralyzing inaction that once locked them in the clasps of depression.