Behavioral Activation

Behavioral Activation in Addiction Recovery

Have you ever experienced a time in your life, perhaps even right now, where you don’t find enjoyment in your usual activities? Where you begin to avoid the things that used to make you feel good; connection with others, physical activity, your favorite hobbies. You slowly draw inward and isolate, until it feels impossible to make yourself do those things? This is actually a common experience for those experiencing depression or addiction.

Now that we have a good understanding of how alcohol impacts our brain chemistry, how mood disorders like depression or anxiety are inextricably intertwined with alcohol use, and how we can experience shifting moods after we remove habitual alcohol use, we know that the isolation and loss of enjoyment we just described might be part of your alcohol-free journey at times.

A tool for this experience, when you slowly fall away from all of the experiences you used to enjoy, is called Behavioral Activation Therapy. While usually guided by a trained mental health professional like a therapist, we can utilize a few key features of this modality on our own, specifically the goal setting and activity monitoring. When we use Behavioral Activation, we work towards getting back to the things we used to love doing, back to being around others, out in the world. Community and finding enjoyment in alcohol-free living is an integral part of living without booze, so this is important work. This is a holistic approach, one that focuses on all  of the pieces of our well being like sleep, nutrition, exercise, and social interactions.

In Behavioral Activation, we shift away from the internal, cognitive work we’ve been doing, and we focus more on the outward, active work of putting ourselves “out there.” We focus on putting one foot in front of the other, either literally or figuratively, and getting back to the things that bring us joy. For today’s purposes, let’s use a yoga class as an example.