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You have come across the principles of self-monitoring . This is where you write down your activities and emotions each week, using a specifically designed worksheet . Self-monitoring , is so core to behavioural activation that you start it right at the beginning of your self-help programme, and continue to use it all the way through to the end. The leading authors of behavioural activation books report that there are eight main questions you can ask yourself through self-monitoring , which you can see below.

THE EIGHT MAIN QUESTIONS FOR SELF-MONITORING

1- How active am I?

You use self-monitoring to assess your overall level of activity .

2- What are the connections between what I do and how I feel?

You can begin to see how mood and activity are linked.

3-What sorts of emotions am I feeling ?

You can identify the range of different emotions you experience.

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4- What did I do that made me positive ?

Self-monitoring records can be used to see where you feel you have achieved something which activity has given you pleasure.

5- What sorts of things have I been doing this week?

You can examine the full range of things that you do.

6-What should I do more of to improve my mood?

You can use these records to decide which activities you should do more of, because they make you feel more positive.

7-What should I do less of to improve my mood?

You can also use these records to decide which activities you should do less of, because they mean you are avoiding important issues and making it harder for yourself in the long term.

8- How am I doing now?

Finally, you can use these records over time to evaluate your progress towards important goals you have set yourself.

It makes a lot of sense to know what you are doing now, before you start to put in place a programme of increasing activity . If you don’t carefully record a starting position , how can you know what would be a good thing to do ? How do you know what would be unhelpful? You might end up biting off more than you can chew .You might even find out that what you think is a good idea is actually not helping at all. As you can imagine , this could result in a big disappointment and your giving up. We call this”boom and bust”

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By taking a careful and planned approach to behavioural activation we can make sure you don’t boom and bust. You make decisions on how to proceed by analysing the sel-monitoring sheets. As first you want to know exactly what you are doing from day to day , week to week. Then you look at how what you do is related to your mood. When you are feeling depressed you may think that life is one big black cloud . Usually , however , when you look at a week or two of self-monitoring you see that your mood goes up and down and you experience a range of different emotions.

SELF-MONITORING EXERCISE : ACTIVITY AND MOOD

Try the following:

Think back over the last few days.Choose 24 hours period from midnight to midnight. Try to remember everything that you did. Have a think about how you felt at each time in the day . If you cannot remember that far back, just concentrate on today so far. Write down both what you did and how you felt at the same time.

To help you , look at the following worksheet !

In each box write the activities you engaged in during the hour , and how you felt . Rate your mood on a scale of 1 – 10 , with 1 being the least intensity of feeling and 10 being the most .

Day and Date :

Time :

Activity

Midnight 1 am

Mood

Activity

1-2 am

MOOD

Continue to write down the table till the following midnight as I showed above.

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Take a look what you have written . Ask yourself the following question:

Is there a connection between what I have done and my mood?

From your self-monitoring record it may be possible to identify activities that are associated with a better mood. Can you also spot things you were doing that were connected with a worse mood? As you identify these changes in your mood , have a think about the activities that occurred before , during and after them. Write these down on another sheet of paper.

Next, look at the oveall worksheet . Do you notice any patterns in the relationship between what you did and how you felt ? Were there some regular times where your mood was low? Was your mood always low when you were doing (or not doing) certain things? Are there similar relationships where your mood was better ? Make a note of these observations.

Finally, do you notice things that are missing? Maybe there are behaviours that you might have done in the past that would have had a positive effect on mood. We call these antidepressant activities (lots of things are antidepressant – not just medication!) Does your record show that you are not doing these things as often as you used to do them? Have your usual routines been disrupted ? Once again, write these things down.

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The point of this is to help you become very aware of the way your behaviours and your mood are linked. The above exercise should give you an idea of how to start. We suggest that you do this over a period of several days , even a couple of weeks . Although this example required you to think backwards and remember what you did and how you felt, our experience is that it is far better to fill in the self-monitoring forms frequently as you go along , hour by hour through the day.

Some people feel that writing a detailed record can be a negative experience in itself. They feel that it highlights just how bad things have become. They think that recording this might make the problem worse , and avoid filling in the recording sheet.

This is a classic example of negative reinforcement – how avoidance of an immediately uncomfortable emotions leads to more problems in the long term. Even though it is difficult , remember that the first step towards changing depression is to know where you stand with it. If you avoid this, you will find it very difficult to make a start with tackling your low mood. The consequence of not completing the record is that you then cannot move to the next step of solving the problem . So although it might feel uncomfortable , we advise you to continue and we hope you will feel a sense of achievement at making the first step towards your recovery.

When you have a good record of what you do and have seen how these different behaviours are associated with different emotions , you can start to plan activities that you think will improve your mood . But how can you decide what to do? To help yourself , you need to act like a scientist by examining the details of your activities and your moods.

Most importantly , you need to understand the functions of your behaviours. We call this a functional analysis . It is the second stage of BEHAVIOURAL ACTIVATION, which I will write about it in the next articles.

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