When you are depressed it can be very difficult to see the wood for the trees. You simply cannot see any alternatives . Although the self-monitoring stages and functional analysis should help, it can still seem hard to decide what to do. Being depressed tends to slow your thinking down and make you feel helpless . However, there are a number of useful questions you can ask yourself to help with this.

*Think of all the possible alternative approaches to this- anything at all.

You can write all of the ideas down, no matter how unlikely they seem at first . Later you can choose which behaviours might work well and pick the most likely one.

  • Have I had similar situations in the past when I was not depressed ?Did I deal with this in a more helpful way? What did I do ?

These are great questions to ask yourself You can use them to remember a time when you faced a similar situations . You can then compare and contrast how you responded.

  • If I knew someone else with a problem like this, what would I recommend they should do?

Standing outside of yourself like this can help you to be more objective. What would you say to a friend in this situation?


Once you identified alternative behaviours you must mmake a plan. If there is one message about self-help behaviour activation that is absolutely vital, it is the importance of planning. Quite simply, waiting for things to happen by chance will not be very effective. You cannot just hang around in the hope that a trigger will show up. You cannot hope that you will come across an ideal situation in which to practise your alternative behaviours by accident . No, you have to plan to act .

You can think about activity scheduling in seven steps summarised below .

1- First of all, as described earlier , you should identify situations and behaviours from self-monitoring record forms that are associated with your low mood.

2- Next consider alternative behaviours, just as I described in the previous posts.

3- Select one or more of these alternative behaviours and schedule them into a weekly plan , as small steps, not giant leaps.



1 am

1-2 am

2-3 am

3-4 am




11 pm-midnight

4- When you select an alternative behaviour , adopt an ‘experimental’ attitude to your activity scheduling .Be curious about the results of trying this new behaviour. Experiment with it. Putting the new behaviour into effect is not supposed to be a test of perseverance. It is a test of the effect of this alternative behaviour on your mood.

The acid test of course is what you do next. Put your new behaviours into action, using your weekly schedule to guide you. It is better if this plan includes trying the behaviours more than once if possible . Try one new behaviour several times rather than many different behaviours only occasionally . Repeated practice is the key here.

6- In line with your experimental attitude , you should evaluate the results of trying out these new behaviours. You are interested in the effect they have in your mood. Just like when you make a plan, you should write these effects down. Using a system like the self-monitoring records( in fact you can use either these tables I showed before or the activity planning table – whatever feels easiest), record your mood and its strength alongside your activity records. So , records kept in activity scheduling should include a rating of activity and mood.

7- The final stage is to review , adjust and repeat. Continue with your experimental attitude . You should not expect quick fixes . You need to try the same activities repeatedly until you are sure they do or do not work for you. If they do not work, this is not a disaster . Rather you have learnt something. Adjust your activities and try something else instead. You have to be careful no to give in too early, but equally there is no point in persevering for no reason. This is how the experimental attitude can help you. Ask yourself, ’Is this working? Am I sure it is not working? Do I need to practise some more? Is there anything else that might be better?’


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