CBT Strategies to Get Moving When You’re Feeling Depressed

Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, emphasizes the need to change certain behaviors. Specific behaviors can increase or decrease your depression symptoms.

CBT Strategies to Get Moving When You’re Feeling Depressed

Estimated watch time: 5 mins 02 secs


The “B” in CBT stands for behavior. This guide works through the behavioral components of CBT that you can rely on to increase or decrease depressed feelings when you notice a lack of activity or engagement. Learn how to take small, specific steps to increase activities and connections.

Video Materials:

Related Content:

There will be exercises associated with each lesson that you will be able to download here or access through our portal.

Medically-reviewed articles:
Other Clinical Videos:
  1. Causes & Symptoms of Depression
  2. How is Depression Diagnosed?
  3. How is Depression Treated?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Strategies to Get Moving When You’re Feeling Depressed

In this lesson we will discuss cognitive behavior therapy strategies to get moving when you’re feeling depressed.

The behavioral part of CBT is concerned with the behaviors you engage in that increase or decrease depressed feelings.

When you’re feeling down, you may go to work, come home, do only what absolutely must be done, and go to bed. You may spend much of your off time in bed or watching tv.

When you notice this lack of engagement and inactivity, you want to schedule behaviors that will lift you up, instead of allowing yourself to isolate, sleep too much, and numb out on your screens. These all keep you down.

Instead, your goal is to get moving by taking small steps to increase the activities or connections that are missing in your life.

Begin with essential activities. This means that even if you don’t have to go out and go to work, you get out of bed, shower, get dressed, eat and take care of what needs to be done around your home.

Getting up and getting dressed is likely to activate you. You’re dressed, so you might as well go out and buy groceries or take the dog for a walk.

Next, build enjoyable activities into your day. Whether it’s before or after work, during off days or anytime you’re unscheduled, make time to engage in activities that help you feel good. Whether it’s going for coffee with a friend, reading or working out, try to do it.

Make sure you connect with people to help get out of the doldrums. It’s important that you carve out some time to see people, talk to people and connect.

Consider your work/life balance. Are you working too much? Does it leave you with no time to renew, recharge and connect? That’s a recipe for disaster for anyone, particularly for the depression-prone. Life beyond work can involve other people, hobbies, exercise, travel, anything that’s not work.

Identify lifestyle changes you need to make. Look at your sleep habits, diet, exercise, spirituality and relationships. Evaluate each on a scale from one to ten (ten being exactly where I need to be and one being totally not where I need to be).

What small changes can you make in one or two of the problem areas? These changes will help improve your mood by living a healthier lifestyle. There’s a whole video devoted to lifestyle issues and depression.

Keys to being able to make behavior change work.

It’s hard to change your behavior. These are some things that make it easier.

  • Values: consider your most important values. Make a plan that fits with those values. If you decide being healthy enough to see your grandchild grow up is an important value, use this to help get you up and out the door.
  • Commit to yourself. It’s easy to say you’re going to start working out three times a week. You must really mean it. It has to be for you, not someone else. Acknowledge that it fits with your values. Recognize that even though it takes time away from something else and you will not always feel like doing it, you will do it anyway.
  • Commit to someone else. You’re not doing it for them, but it is helpful to have at least one other person hear your commitment. Especially when you start something new, it’s easier if you have someone else to be accountable to.
  • Figure out how to track your success. It’s important to be able to concretely see the goals you have set and the progress you’re making. Use a fitness or goal tracker. Keep a journal or note your progress on a calendar.
  • Start small. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to do everything in one day. Identify small steps. Setting SMART goals is helpful (there’s a video on this too). SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-limited. Build on what you achieve.
  • Don’t let negative thinking derail you. You’re going to miss a goal, an activity you planned, or a healthy meal you intended. You’ll have a day that you stay up too late, get up too late and don’t get anything done. That’s okay. Just start again. You may want to reevaluate your goal and set one that is more attainable.
  • Reward yourself! When you see progress, whether it’s a day, a week or a month, a reward can help keep you going. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Rewards reinforce the success you are having and encourage you to keep going.

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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.