What is Activity Scheduling?

Activity Scheduling is one of the simplest behavioural interventions in the CBT approach to depression.

Depressed people tend to withdraw from 'everyday' life, and this passivity is a safety behaviour which itself lowers energy levels, reduces motivation and confirms in the depressed person the view that they're best left to their own devices and ought not to bother with others.

Severely depressed people often find it hard to do much more than lie in bed all day.

Activity Scheduling is a tool for combating passivity and gradually re-engaging the depressed person in some of the routines of his/her daily life. At the same time it allows for the 'testing' of certain depressive assumptions ("I don't enjoy anything these days…", "I'm just a useless waste of space")

The first step in Activity Scheduling is simply to monitor the activity over the course of a week by recording on a grid (see below). It allows you to take a baseline reading of current activity levels, and the results often hold pleasant surprises in showing the depressed person that they often achieve more than they give themselves credit for. At the same time it gives an opportunity to set realistic goals to improve mood.

By rating the intensity of the symptom alongside the specific activity, it becomes pssible to work out the circumstances that make someone more depressed and identifies those activities that take the edge off depression. By analysing these pattern, one can gradually introduce more of those activities that are helpful.

The depressed person fills out the Activity Schedule by describing what they did (briefly), one word that describes Mood, and a rate of intensity of mood on scale of 0-100%, sense of Achievement (A:0-10), sense of Closeness to others (C:0-10), and sense of Enjoyment (E:0-10):

Activity Diary

Day

Time

Monday Tuesday Wed     Thurs   Friday Saturday Sunday
6 am - 8 am Slept
8 am - 10 am Lay in bed
going over
things
Depressed
90%
A=0, C=0, E=0
10 am - 12 noon Took dog
for walk
Tearful
50%
A=5, C=1, E=7
12 pm - 2 pm Friend
called round
for coffee
Anxious
65%
A=3, C=4, E=5
2 pm - 4 pm Went back
to bed
Tearful
90%
A=1, C=0, E=2
4 pm - 6 pm  
6 pm - 8 pm  
8 pm - 10 pm  
10 pm - Midnight