How to Reclaim Joy in Your Life: A Guide to Activity Scheduling

The activities we engage in have a profound impact on how we feel. However, when depression takes hold, we often find ourselves unable to do the things that used to bring us joy and meaning....

Activity Scheduling

The activities we engage in have a profound impact on how we feel. However, when depression takes hold, we often find ourselves unable to do the things that used to bring us joy and meaning. This is where activity scheduling comes in.

In this article, we will explore the power of activity scheduling as a crucial aspect of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. We will introduce you to tools and worksheets that can help you schedule activities to improve your mood and reduce emotional distress or depression.

What Is Activity Scheduling in CBT and Therapy?

Clients with depression often stop engaging in activities that used to bring them enjoyment or a sense of achievement. This inactivity reduces opportunities for mastery and pleasure, leading to negative thinking and a downward spiral of triggers, negative emotions, and behavior.

Activity scheduling is a key component of behavioral activation, which aims to help clients become more active and engaged in their lives. It involves understanding negative thinking cycles, tracking daily activities, identifying goals and values, scheduling enjoyable activities, and using problem-solving to overcome obstacles.

Swimming activity

Let's take a look at two real-life examples to better understand activity scheduling:

Example 1: Sally reviews her schedule and starts activity scheduling

Sally's therapist discusses her daily activities to understand what has changed for her. They explore why she spends more time in bed and realize that it doesn't make her feel better. They then discuss Sally's past routine of running or swimming and plan to reintroduce these activities three times a week. Sally commits to the plan and agrees to give herself credit each time she follows through.

Example 2: Diane's level of activity is impacted by her worsening mood

Diane, a recently divorced woman, experiences a progressive worsening of her mood. After tracking her activities and associated moods, her therapist suggests that scheduling more pleasurable activities might be beneficial. Together, they create an activity schedule that includes going to the movies with a friend. By replacing activities that lower her mood with more positive ones, Diane can track her progress and experience better coping and more positive feelings.

Does It Work? 4 Proven Benefits

Activity scheduling has shown effectiveness in reducing symptoms of various mental health conditions, including anxiety and eating disorders. It is a vital element of behavioral activation commonly found in CBT treatments. Additionally, it has been found to promote motor functioning in Parkinson's disease.

Does it help with depression?

Activity scheduling is an effective behavioral intervention for clients with depression. A study of an inpatient depression program found that planning and performing activities associated with positive moods increased engagement in life and improved recovery chances.

How to Do Activity Scheduling: 6 Tips

How to do activity scheduling

When working with clients to schedule and carry out activities, consider the following six tips:

  1. Identify the activities to participate in:

    • Make a list of activities you used to find pleasant.
    • Specify how, where, and when you will do them.
  2. Make a commitment:

    • Schedule specific times during the week dedicated to enjoyable activities, including social ones.
  3. Create a clear plan or arrangement:

    • Identify and plan for any obstacles that might hinder your activities.
    • Seek help when needed, such as arranging childcare or making reservations.
  4. Stick to the plan:

    • Implement the plan to gain control over your life and meet your needs.
  5. Reflect on the outcome:

    • After each activity, reflect on its impact on your mood.
    • Decide whether to schedule it again or replace it with something else.
  6. Increase social support:

    • Strengthen existing relationships or form new ones by planning social activities.

Remember, activity scheduling is a behavioral experiment that helps you discover what improves your mood and increases the frequency of positive activities.

6 Best Templates & Worksheets

To assist you in implementing activity scheduling, we have prepared six helpful templates and worksheets:

1. Will Behavioral Activation Be Helpful?

Use this worksheet to assess whether scheduling pleasurable activities is likely to be beneficial for you. Reflect on a series of questions to gain insight into your triggers, levels of enjoyment, and sense of meaning.

2. Understanding Vicious Cycles

This worksheet will help you understand the events, emotions, and behaviors that contribute to your depression. By identifying triggers and their associated emotions, you can create a more effective treatment plan.

3. Tracking Activities and Mood

Track your activities and accompanying moods over a week. This worksheet will help you identify patterns and understand which activities improve your mood.

4. Up and Down Activities

Summarize the patterns and relationships between activities and feelings to identify the activities that positively impact your mood. Incorporate these "up" activities into your regular routine to enhance your overall well-being.

5. Behavioral Activity Motivation

Use this worksheet to reflect on an activity you have planned or are considering scheduling. Visualize participating in the activity and address any negative thoughts or obstacles that may arise.

6. Activity Scheduling

Plan mood-enhancing activities using this worksheet. Schedule specific times for each activity, mark them as complete, and record your mood after each one.

Are There Helpful Apps and Software?

Activity Scheduling Apps

Technology-based tools can be highly effective for treatment engagement, especially in CBT. Here are three popular CBT apps you can explore:


This app recommends mind-boosting activities based on your feelings, including emotion, behavior, physical, and thought-based activities. It helps you engage in positive activities when experiencing low moods.


Moodfit assesses moods and tracks daily progress towards user-defined goals. It helps you identify what affects your moods and suggests new behaviors and activities for symptom improvement.


Happify allows you to track various aspects of your life while understanding your moods and emotions. Each game is backed by science and CBT interventions.

Useful Resources From

At, we offer a range of resources to help you manage negative thoughts and develop more positive behaviors. Download our free CBT tool pack, which includes powerful tools like Strength Spotting by Exception Finding and Reframing Critical Talk.

You can also find free resources such as the Behavioral Experiments to Test Beliefs Worksheet and the ABC Functional Analysis Worksheet. For more comprehensive tools, subscribe to the Positive Psychology Toolkit©, which includes resources like the Diary of Better Moments and the Daily Exceptions Journal.

A Take-Home Message

Our activities significantly impact our emotions. By engaging in enjoyable and meaningful activities, we can temporarily experience happiness and joy, alleviating negative moods.

Activity scheduling, as part of behavioral activation, encourages the repetition of positive activities and plays a vital role in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. If you're struggling with depression, activity scheduling can help you rediscover joy in your life.

By working with a therapist and using the worksheets and tips provided in this article, you can identify and schedule activities that improve your mood, boost your well-being, and increase your overall sense of fulfillment.

We hope you found this article helpful. For more information, don't forget to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free.