Activity is critical to overcoming anxiety, depression, and other mood problems. If you are having mood problems, take the time to digest this information and develop a pleasant events schedule for yourself. In this blog post, I will point out some reasons why mental health and activity are closely related and that healthy activity also helps to prevent and promote recovery from mood problems.
A Primary Indicator of Mood Problems
Many mood problems (for example, sadness, anxiety, and irritability) have a common denominator. When we are experiencing emotional pain, we tend to become less active in healthy behaviors. This is particularly true for when people are sad, but is also true when people are nervous.
Negative emotions often serve as a warning system for us. When we feels sad or nervous, our body and mind is telling us we need to slow down and be careful before proceeding. Perhaps we should be cautious of a relationship. Maybe we need to stop spending so much time and energy in a particular activity. These emotions (although unpleasant) are sending us important signals that will help us. Unfortunately, sometimes nervousness and sadness become more severe and turn into clinically significant anxiety or depression. Under such circumstances, these emotions are no longer healthy.
When we experience unhealthy anxiety or depression, these emotions begin to hold us back from healthy activities that will help us experience greater wellness. Most people who are depressed tend to have lower energy and apathy. In contrast, most people who are anxious have increased difficulty focusing and although they often have the desire to be active, become overwhelmed and paralyzed.
While the reasons are different, depending on the emotion, negative emotions often lead to decrease in healthy activity. This lack of healthy activity can lead to unhealthy activities (such as substance abuse). Even if the person does not engage in unhealthy activity, simple inaction is unhealthy, both physically and mentally.
Surprisingly, people with emotional problems will not only stop exercising or doing chores, but they will also have little interest in doing pleasant activities, such as talking with friends, watching sports, or playing games. When individuals engage in pleasant events, research has demonstrated that there is often improvement in mood. But, if you don’t feel like doing these activities, how can you break the cycle of inaction?
Pleasant Events Scheduling
- Make a list of at least 5 activities you enjoy. A list of 10 or more actives would be better, but a minimum of 5. Make sure these activities are realistic and you can afford to engage in them. If you have difficulty making this list, find a friend or family member who knows you well and can assist you.
- Make a weekly schedule for yourself and block out a minimum of one hour on two separate occasions each week. More blocks of time is better, but block out a minimum of two separate days with a minimum of 1 hour for each block.
- Assign an item from your list to 2 blocks of time each week and track this for a month.
- You must consider these scheduled pleasant events as commitments with equal priority as you would to going to a medical appointment or going to work. You will not “feel like” doing the pleasant events, but do them anyway!
- You must make this a habit and continue this practice for at least a month.
- Keep track of your mood. You will notice a positive improvement over time. Don’t focus on any one event, but track your mood after you have engaged in several events. Remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint.
- Recruit a friend or family member who can help you stay accountable to this plan.