Behavioral Activation

Enhance your Mental Fitness by becoming a B.A.
Not BA Baracus, but a Behavioral Activator 🙂

Behavioral Activation (BA) is a treatment approach that helps people feel better by increasing their positive mood states. A “Behavioral Activator” utilizes behavioral activation techniques to enhance mental fitness and optimize wellbeing.

Become a BA and add Behavioral Activation to your Mental Training toolbox.

How do you introduce Behavioral Activation into your Mental Training Program?

  • Determine a behavior you would like to activate:
    Goals ~ determine in concrete, measureable, achievable, reasonable, and time sensitive terms, what you are setting out to do.
  • Set up an accountability partner:
    Teamwork ~ tell someone you are close to about your desired and let them know you want them to hold you accountable for achieving your goal.
  • Develop a visual tool:
    Record ~ find a method to chart or record your completion of the desired behavior using a journal, calendar, or table
  • Determine what a positive reinforcement might motivate you:
    Reward ~ think in terms of what is reasonable and what will motivate you to complete the desired behavior in the future
  • Work towards your desired behavior, achieve your desired behavior, and evaluate new desired behaviors:
    Succeed & Repeat🙂

Behavioral Activation 101

BA is largely based on research with depressed patients, and may prove to be beneficial to anyone seeking to live the best life possible, aka, feel better more frequently.

For example, an individual has a goal to workout at the gym four days a week for one hour before being at work at 8am. When using the BA approach, the individual would identify what environmental factors “(i.e., “road blocks” or obstacles that lead to excuses) are keeping them from completing their one-hour workout before going to work (e.g., staying up late, drinking alcohol late at night, oversleeping, hitting the snooze button, and sleeping in).

The individual would then set up an action plan to accomplish their goal:

e.g., to be in bed by a certain hour, set the alarm clock at an earlier time, pack their gym bag the night before, and prepare their morning meal and work clothes ahead of time, etc. in order to increase the likelihood they achieve their morning workout goal.

An individual utilizing a Behavioral Activation approach would also create a token economy earning a certain amount or number of “points” for each workout and ultimately achieve some type of desired incentive (e.g. new running shoes, workout clothes, bicycle etc.).

It is recommended that the individual would increase their commitment and accountability by setting up the token economy and an action plan with an exercise partner or other support person (e.g., spouse, family member, friend, coach, therapist, etc.).

In this BA approach, it is common for the individual to focus solely on environmental factors that contribute to unfavorable moods (e.g., anger, irritability, sadness, depression). The individual is encouraged to look at what behaviors the client possesses that maintain or worsen this negative and undesirable environment.

Then to enhance mental fitness and optimize wellbeing, an individual may take a Behavioral Activation approach to create the most favorable environment for the desired behavior to occur (i.e., identify road blocks, then reduce/eliminate these obstacles with an organized action plan and reward system – token economy).

When working with individuals that not achieving their personal best (e.g., underachievers, lacking drive or energy, depressed and/or amotivated individuals, etc.), the Behavioral Activation approach asserts that the maladaptive or unfavorable mood is often attributed to an individual having inadequate opportunities for positive reinforcement in their lives and utilizes the action plan and a token economy to present opportunities to the client.

  • Behavioral Activation uses organized plans and systems to motivate an individual towards an opportunity for positive reinforcement.
  • Behavioral Activation identifies obstacles and the avoidant behaviors an individual uses to cope in the short-term and then works to activate more helpful long-term coping behaviors.
  • Behavioral Activation is brief and focused.
  • Behavioral Activation has proven to be effective with individuals who do not yet possess the cognitive ability to be reached utilizing cognitive modalities (e.g., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Dr. Steve is available for consultation