The Anti-Depressant Checklist
In the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) groups that I run, I ask participants to create an anti-depressant checklist toward the end of the program. The purpose of this is so that there is an actual paper to look at once the warning signs of depression are starting to surface.
Participants notice that early warning signs include things like; wanting to sleep more, avoid spending time with people, increase or decrease of appetite, more irritability, losing focus, heaviness in the body, increase in automatic negative thoughts, among other things.
The paper of the anti-depressant checklist begins with the statement:
“When you notice any of the signs of depression coming on, engage in one of these activities even if your mind tells you there’s no point.”
The reason for the second half of that statement is because when the mind is depressed, it will likely filter in a thought that has a bleak or negative outlook about the future. While the thought may appear believable and convincing, it is not a fact. We know this because if you were feeling better and events in life were the same, it would be a different thought.
The antidepressant checklist is filled with activities that represent two things:
Pleasure – These are things in life that you recognize in the past have given you a sense of pleasure such as spending time with friends, taking a walk, taking a bath, going to a coffee shop, etc…
Mastery – These are things in life that give you a sense of accomplishment. Mastery tasks do not need to be pleasurable, it’s more about getting things done. Paying bills or going to the post office may not be pleasurable, but it’s an accomplishment.
At times Pleasure and Mastery comingle as in connecting with a friend you’ve meant to get in touch with for a while or going on a hike you’ve been putting off. You’ve accomplished it and it was a pleasurable activity.
So, if you struggle with depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, you can make a list like this and have it close at hand. Because when the symptoms come on, you don’t want the automaticity of the mind to be making decisions for you, instead, pick up the checklist and allow your actions to do the talking for you.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.