"Action before feeling" is a phrase used in cognitive behavioral therapy, self-discipline training, and, my psychiatrist told me, A.A. I can't remember where I read it or heard it first, online or from my doctor, but in any event, it works. Not all the time, by any means, but often enough to make a difference.
Simply put, it means that when you need to do something, but don't want to do it, you do it anyway, and afterward you feel good for having done it.
I've been putting this to use in my life, so I can give you some examples:
- I don't want to clean the bathroom. I mean, I really don't want to do it. But I force myself to start, and once I've started, it gets less difficult. And after I'm done I'm rewarded not just with a sense of a job well done, but with a clean bathroom for days following.
- For literally months I'd put off a job of boxing up a huge stack of monthly documents (1 or 2 months to a 2.5" high box), wrapping the boxes in stacks of 3 with packing tape, and taking them to UPS for shipping. By the time I forced myself to do the job last week, I had NINE boxes worth. This job had been hanging there stressing me for a long time because the boxes were sitting there, visible, all along. I didn't enjoy doing it because fastening them together is a bitch. But WOW did I feel good after I dropped them off!
- I bought one of those lightweight electric broom things a month ago. I'm not 100% happy with it, so the 3 boxes it came in - yes, three layers of boxes - were still sitting on the floor downstairs because I couldn't decide whether to ship it back. Yesterday I said look - you know you're too lazy to ship it back, and threw the boxes away. Did I feel wonderful? No. I'm still not 100% happy with it. But the decision isn't weighing on me any more - and the boxes aren't (a) making my living room icky, or (b) pressuring me to make the decision every time I see them.
I can't always force myself to do tasks, but recently that's been more due to physical than mood/emotional issues. This has been a rough month health-wise, and I haven't had a lot of energy, focus or willpower. I've needed a lot of extra sleep, which cuts into available time.
Even so, when I complete one of those jobs I have no interest in or actively don't want to do, there is always a reward, big or small - and often, as shown above, more than one reward.
It helps to say to myself, when faced with one of those tasks, "Action Before Feeling." It reminds me that there'll be a reward.
Try it out. I'm finding it a way to get past inertia - which is often a symptom of depression - and feel at least a little better about myself afterward.