What We DO Matters: The Link Between Behavior and Mood

What We DO Matters to Our Mood!running man

The impact of depression on ones abilities is significant. In the US, depression is the leading cause of disability for adults (ADAA). The symptoms of depression themselves, including decreased motivation and fatigue, make it difficult to feel better or do the things we need to do. The good news is that what we DO (our behaviors) actually matters more than we may think.

An effective treatment for depression includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Behavioral activation is part of CBT that involves engaging in more meaningful activities throughout each day. Behavioral activation has been found to be significantly effective in reducing depressive symptoms and increasing mood.

What is Behavioral Activation?

Behavioral activation focuses on changing behaviors to reduce depression. Dr. Neil Jacobson at the University of Washington found that people who engaged in various activities, including socializing and being more physically active, had significantly reduced their symptoms of depression. Even more notable, some recent studies have found behavioral activation to be superior to antidepressants (Ilardi, 2009)!

The idea here is that the more we do, the better we feel.

Starting Behavioral Activation.

As stated above, depression itself can be debilitating and it is part of the diagnosis to withdraw from friends, lose motivation and feel tired often. That being said, behavioral activation can be much more doable if you start with a list of pleasurable activities (like the ones here) to engage in every day.

Pleasurable activities may include:
• Taking care of your plants
• Listening to others
• Going on a hike
• Painting or drawing
• Cooking for others

Take a moment to think about what may be included on a list of activities you enjoy.
After engaging in a pleasurable activity or accomplishing a task, a person is more likely to feel increased motivation, energy and a better mood. The key is to start with things you look forward to doing, know you have enjoyed in the past, or are willing to try for the first time. If it feels overwhelming, start small with one goal that you know is possible, for example getting the mail from outside each day. You can also engage in new behaviors each day or switch it up based on what fits best with your schedule.

As you get more consistent with changing your behaviors you can try to set daily goals such as running one errand each day, making it a point to initiate routine lunches with coworkers, getting outside for 30mins of daily sunshine or incorporating a morning walk into your routine.

Keep on Doing!

The more a person engages in behavioral activation, the less pervasive their symptoms of depression may be. It makes sense if you think back to the last time you accomplished something and how it motivated you to do something else. If you’ve ever gone for a walk when you were feeling tired, you may have returned from the walk feeling rejuvenated or with more energy than when you left! And if you’ve ever felt lonely and ran into a familiar face, even if just for a few minutes, it often makes your feel better and less alone! Give it a try and you shall see.

For anyone experiencing symptoms of depression it is important to explore treatment options to get the help you may need, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Contact us at Behavioral Associates, Los Angeles to find out what treatment may be best for you. To explore CBT interventions further check out our resources page.

Deborah Schleicher, Psy.D., Associate | Behavioral Associates Los Angeles


Behavioral Associates Los Angeles is a group of cognitive-behavioral therapists specializing in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To find out more, contact us by phone at 310-205-0523 or by email at treatment@behavioralassociatesla.com.

You can also request an appointment with a Behavioral Associates LA psychologist by submitting a brief patient assessment form on our Website. Our clinical staff will follow up with you within 24 hours of submission.