Chapter 5: Do-Nothingism: How to beat it
Burns definition: “Lying around in bed all day long, staring at the ceiling and courting negative thoughts.”
Every depressed person has some kind of Do-Nothingism going on. Burns discards common theories coming from people regarding this severely frustrating issue like wanting to hurt yourself or pure laziness.
He explains that self-defeating thoughts ultimately trigger this behavior:
“There’s no point in doing anything. I don’t have the energy. I’m not in the mood. I’ll probably fail if I try. Things are too difficult. There wouldn’t be any satisfaction if I did anything anyway…”
This leads to:
“Self-defeating emotions: You feel tired, bored, apathetic, self-hating, discouraged, guilty, helpless, worthless, and overwhelmed.”
“Self-defeating actions: You stick to bed, you avoid people, work, and all potentially satisfying activities.”
Which leads to:
and so on…
=> Consequences: Isolation, increasing negative mindset and paralyzation!
The Cognitive Distortions from Chapter 3 are accountable for the behavioral triggers that chain you to bed. You could feel hopeless, helpless or overwhelmed. Perhaps you undervalue the rewards you get out of a specific action or you’re a victim of perfectionism thinking! Are you afraid of resentment or criticism? Feel guilty or blame yourself?
It doesn’t matter what thinking pattern keeps you from getting out of bed and doing what could make you feel better about yourself: Burns has many great strategical concepts for every problem and preference! I will explain a few of them for you:
“The Daily Activity Schedule”
Ask yourself what you would like to accomplish the next day. Plan these activities for every hour of the day (start with easy tasks like “eat lunch”, “shower”, etc.) and write them down on the left side of a chart (should take only 5min). In the evening fill out what you actually did (staring at the wall has to go in there, too!). Burns suggests to mark anything you accomplished with an “M” and anything you did for pure pleasure with a “P” and include a number from 1 to 5 for the feeling you got out of every activity. This helps you to recognize which activities you should incorporate more often because they make you feel better. Pleasure activities should also be included. They are crucial because your reward system has to get its rewards – otherwise it could leave you frustrated and overwhelmed!
Do this for at least one week! If it helps you: Keep logging your activities!
“The Antiprocrastination Sheet”
Write down the activities you procrastinate with a step by step breakdown. Now list the predicted difficulty and satisfaction of completing every step in %.
Now it’s action time! You don’t have to do every step right now but begin with the first one. After finishing a step write down how difficult and satisfying it actually was.
You’ll likely see that your prediction isn’t as accurate as you’d thought it would be. That could motivate you to take on activities without thinking of its potential difficulty beforehand.
“The Pleasure-Predicting Sheet”
Do you feel that doing things alone is not worth your effort? Then this sheet is perfect for you! It is similar to the “Antiprocrastination Sheet” but without the step by step breakdown of a task. You simply list every activity and with whom you’ll do it (“self” is great, too), predict the satisfaction level you think you’ll get out of it in % and later on write down what the satisfaction level really was like for you.
Burns: “Make sure that the things you do by yourself are of equal quality as those you do with others so that your comparisons will be valid.”
You’ll learn that some activities are more fun than you thought they would be and that alone-time isn’t necessary a reason to stay in bed. There are tons of things that can be fun doing alone and with this method you can discover them!
“How to get off your “But” – The But Rebuttal”
You could do your exercises if there wasn’t this big fat BUT in the way of your plans!
“1. I’m really too tired! 2. I’m just too lazy! 3. I’m not particularly in the mood, etc.”
Write down your special BUT and then the But Rebuttal: “I’ll feel more like it once I get started. When I’m done I’ll feel terrific.” Now comes your next BUT and after that the But Rebuttal and so on. This simply is a conversation with yourself but not like before without a But Rebuttal which was really unfair to begin with 😉 This goes on until you hopefully are convinced that doing nothing isn’t the best thing to do!
I highly recommend reading the book “feeling good” for more exercises, examples and detailed instructions!
I will stick to the “But Rebuttal” and the “The Antiprocrastination Sheet” because I think I will get the most out of these exercises! You could try every exercise if you are unsure which could help you.
Click here for Part 4 of my book summary!