Mindfulness & Depression

When you are experiencing depression, starting a mindfulness practice can feel daunting. Today, I want to share a simple mindfulness tool that can get you activating, even when depression comes knocking.

The tool is called Activity Boosting and it comes from a therapy called Behavioral Activation. In a nutshell, it involves mindfully doing one activity a day that is aligned with your values.

Here are the 3 steps for Activity Boosting:

1. Find your Values. To do this ask yourself: how do you want people to remember you?

Maybe it’s being caring, disciplined, innovative, or optimistic.

2. Brainstorm activities that align with your values. For example, caring activities include

looking after plants, complimenting a friend, or giving yourself a hug.

3. Mindfully, do one activity each day. Choose a simple activity that you could do right

now, in less than 2 minutes, and bring awareness to the activity.

Tips for Success

  • Choose activities that make you feel good in both the short- & long-term

  • Commit to the practice and tell another person you are doing it

This tool works on two levels. First, it creates an upward spiral of motivation, mood, and fulfillment. When we do activities that are meaningful to us we get a boost from our internal reward system. We may feel accomplished, purposeful, or connected. These rewards boost our mood, motivation, and life satisfaction. To me, the coolest part about this tool is that it is cumulative. As you practice it will become easier to do it and in time you may find yourself doing multiple activities a day. Here we come activated life!

The second way this tool works is by encouraging us to switch from being stuck in our thoughts to being engaged in our present moment. This is one of the foundations of mindfulness and it is helpful for depression because being stuck in our thoughts can be overwhelming. The really cool thing is that your brain can’t focus on the present moment and be lost in your thoughts at the same time. We actually have two different networks, the task-positive network when we are focusing on the present, and the default-mode network when we are thinking about the past and future, and they cannot run at the same time. By mindfully doing your value-aligned activity each day, you are giving your brain a break from your thoughts.

I invite you to try the tool and to share your experience in the comments below. To get you started print the worksheet below!

Activity Boosting Worksheet
Download PDF • 323KB


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