Although activity strategies are useful for depression generally they may be particularly effective during the early stages of depression when it is just possible they could nip a possible decline in the bud.
Activity and awareness of activity are different things. If you feel the symptoms of depression you know only too well how it is possible to get on with things but only be half aware of what is happening. This is because your thoughts are shifting in the direction of your concerns rather than the task.
Awareness of activity involves making an effort to focus on what is actually happening. For example, making something like a slice of toast is a task most of us do without even thinking. If we were to become more aware or mindful of what is happening we might, for example, become more focused on the number of steps, the sights, smells and time it takes, the extent of toasting, the choice of something to put on or eat with it.
That last example may sound a bit simplistic but using these routine actions as an example is just one way of breaking up patterns of thought away from troubling concerns and towards some involvement in activity. The greater the variety of activities the better, but obviously not to the point where they become overwhelming and stressful.
During the process of activity awareness you may find that troubling thoughts start to intrude. If this happens a strategy of deliberate awareness would be to identify and label the thinking. For example, "I’ve just been ruminating" or that was "self-critical."
Try to increase activities that are pleasurable and that provide you with a sense of control and purpose. Balance these with tasks that need to be done, but if they are big and intimidating, try breaking them down into smaller steps or chunks of activity.
The more you are able to refocus your thoughts and establish a routine, including sleep and a little regular exercise, the greater the chance your mood will recover.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.