“Just Do It” Doesn’t Work When You’re Depressed

And not being able to take that advice can make you feel worse

Karla Starr

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The well-intentioned Brad Stulberg, a performance coach and author, has recently written some pieces on “Behavioral Activation,” a premise revolving around the idea that motivation and energy follow action. Don’t wait until you feel like doing something, he says — just do it. The old adage “Move a muscle, change a thought” is one of the hallmarks of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and recovery. (The Behavioral Activation System, or BAS, played a key role in the chapter on confidence in my first book.) As he writes:

The extreme example of clinical depression is useful. For many people, it manifests as a feeling of nothing mattering, an intense apathy, a fatigue so bad it is painful. But depression hates a moving target. The best way out is to force yourself to get going, even, and perhaps especially, when you don’t want to.

Got that? If you’re depressed and can’t do anything, simply force yourself to do something. As someone who has suffered from clinical depression, I can say:

“Force yourself to get going” is great advice for some people, but the one thing you cannot do when you’re depressed.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

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Karla Starr

Speaker & author x2, inc. Making Numbers Count (w/ Chip Heath). Behavioral science, cultural history, numbers.