Best Way to Make Time for Enjoyment

People who feel depressed usually stop doing the things that once brought them pleasure. This cycle of worsening depression is sometimes called a negative downward spiral.

Making time for pleasure and reward in your life can help you reverse a downward spiral into a positive upward spi­ral. You will also feel better when you are successful at something. “Easier said than done,” you might think, feeling like you have barely enough energy to push the buttons on the TV remote. But it really is true that participating in positive activities can break a negative cycle and turn a negative spiral into a positive upward spiral.

Enjoyment Best Way to Make Time for Enjoyment

Often the hardest part is getting started. Antidepres­sant medications may boost your energy level and make it easier to start being more active. With or without antide­pressants, though, it’s true that what you do affect the way you feel.

Feelings, thoughts, and actions

You can think of your mental state as a three-part system that is made up of feelings, thoughts, and actions. All three parts interact to affect each other. For example, how you feel affects how you think and behave, which then affects how you feel and think—and so on.

When they are depressed, many people think they should be trying to change their emotions, since their emotions seem to be where they are having problems. But emotions are not readily controlled. It’s actually much eas­ier to change your actions and thoughts. Believe it or not, changing what you do and what you think will, in turn, change how you feel.

Some Effective Activities

The two types of activities that are particularly effective in changing your emotions to reduce depression are pleasant social activities and successful activities.

  •  Pleasant social activities are the enjoyable times that you spend with other people, especially friends and family.
  •  Successful activities are experiences that give you a sense of accomplishment and pride, whether it’s completing a tough project at work or adding an extra 4 blocks to your usual walk. When you feel you have done some­thing well, your self-confidence goes up. You’re also more likely to do other things, which in turn makes you feel even better.

Planning to have a better time

When you are depressed, it often seems easier and less frightening to do nothing. Fear, anxiety, and apathy are all common feelings among people who are depressed. But you don’t have to do much. Just plan one small pleasant activity every day. Begin by scheduling one short, enjoyable event for each day in the upcoming week. Think of some activities you used to enjoy. Perhaps there are also some new activ­ities that you would like to try.

Ideally, they should be

  •  Activities you truly enjoy
  •  Activities you can do frequently
  •  Activities that are relatively inexpensive
  •  Activities you feel you can control
  •  Activities that will not upset others

Examples of pleasurable activities might include

  •  Reading a book or magazine
  •  Listening to music
  •  Drinking a cup of tea
  •  Taking a walk with a friend
  •  Planning or organizing an event
  •  Skating, bicycling, or swimming
  •  Writing a letter to a friend
  •  Looking through old family photographs
  •  Browsing in a hardware or antique store
  •  Watching a videotape
  •  Being with dogs, cats, or other pets
  •  Talking to a friend on the phone
  •  Gardening or doing yard work
  •  Planning a trip or vacation
  •  Having lunch with friends
  •  Taking a drive to the beach or mountains
Enjoyment 1 Best Way to Make Time for Enjoyment

Remember, this isn’t an unnecessary indulgence: it’s something you need to do to make yourself feel better. It may help if some of your plans include another person. This may help prevent you from backing out or making excuses when you’re feeling ambivalent.

Get into the habit of scheduling your pleasant activi­ties in advance. You can set aside blocks of time in your daily planner or calendar for things you want to do as well as the things you must do. Your goal is to achieve a better balance between the “wants” and the “musts” in your life.

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