Pleasant Activities Scheduling

We are grateful to Dr. Peter Lewinsohn and his colleagues for developing the Pleasant Events Schedule.2 Although we tend to feel balanced when we're doing both needed and pleasant activities, sometimes we fall into the habit of omitting pleasant activities from our lives. Perhaps they are given up during periods of great stress and pressure, or during very busy times when it seems like there is no time for pleasure. If we only do what is needed long enough, we might eventually forget what used to give us pleasure, or even assume that these events won't be fun anymore. Scheduling pleasant activities can restore balance. As we do things that are pleasant, we begin to feel happier and less distressed. Maintaining reasonable levels of pleasant activities also helps to prevent drops in mood, when we become more prone to anger.

The exercise that follows will both help you to discover (or rediscover) what is pleasant for you and to make a plan to do some of these things.

Step 1: Exhibit 9.1, the Pleasant Events Schedule, lists a wide range of activities. In column 1, check those activities that you enjoyed in the past. Then rate from 1 to 10 how pleasant each checked item was. A score of 1 reflects mild pleasure; a score of 10 reflects great pleasure. This rating goes in column 1 also, beside each check mark. For example, if you very much enjoyed being with happy people but didn't enjoy being with friends/relatives, your first two items would look like this:

_ _ 2. Being with friends/relatives

Step 2: In column 2, place a check if you've done the event in the past thirty days.

Step 3: Circle the number of the events that you'd probably enjoy (when you're feeling good, on a good day).

Step 4: Notice if there are many items you've enjoyed in the past that you are not doing very often (compare the first and second columns).

Step 5: Using the completed Pleasant Events Schedule for ideas, make a list of the twenty-five activities that you feel you'd enjoy most.

Exhibit 9.1 Pleasant Events Schedule

I. Social Interactions. These events occur with others. They tend to make us feel accepted, appreciated, liked, understood, etc.*

Column 1 Column 2

____1. Being with happy people

____2. Being with friends/relatives

____3. Thinking about people I like

____4. Planning an activity with people I care for

____5. Meeting someone new of the same sex

____6. Meeting someone new of the opposite sex

____8. Being at celebrations (birthdays, weddings, baptisms, parties, family get-togethers, etc.)

____9. Meeting a friend for lunch or a drink

____10. Talking openly and honestly (e.g., about your hopes, your fears, what interests you, what makes you laugh, what saddens you)

____11. Expressing true affection (verbal or physical)

____12. Showing interest in others

____13. Noticing successes and strengths in family and friends

____14. Dating, courting (this one is for married people, too)

____15. Having a lively conversation

____16. Inviting friends over

____17. Stopping in to visit friends

____18. Calling up someone I enjoy talking to

____21. Calmly talking over problems with people I live with

____22. Giving compliments, back pats, or praise

____23. Good natured teasing/bantering

____24. Amusing people or making them laugh

____25. Playing with children

*You might feel that an activity belongs in another group. The grouping is not important.

I. Activities that make us feel capable, loving, useful, strong, or adequate.

Column 1 Column 2

_ __1. Starting a challenging job or doing a job well

_ __2. Learning something new (e.g., fixing leaks, new hobby, new language)

_ __3. Helping someone (counseling, advising, listening)

_ __4. Contributing to religious, charitable, or other groups

_ __5. Driving skillfully

_ __6. Expressing myself clearly (out loud or in writing)

_ __7. Repairing something (sewing, fixing a car or bike, etc.)

_ __8. Solving a problem or puzzle

_ __11. Going to a meeting (convention, business, civic)

_ __12. Visiting the ill, homebound, or troubled

_ __15. Improving my appearance (e.g., seeking medical or dental help, improving my diet, going to a barber or beautician)

_ __16. Planning/budgeting time

_ __17. Discussing political issues

_ __18. Doing volunteer work, community service, etc.

20. Protesting injustice, protecting someone, stopping fraud or abuse

21. Being honest, moral, etc.

22. Correcting mistakes

23. Organizing a party

III. Intrinsically Pleasant Activities

_ _ 2. Relaxing, having peace and quiet

Exhibit 9.1 (Continued)

Column 1 Column 2

____4. A hobby (e.g., cooking, fishing, woodworking, photography, acting, gardening, collecting things)

____5. Listening to good music

____6. Seeing beautiful scenery

____7. Going to bed early, sleeping soundly, and awakening early

____8. Wearing attractive clothes

____9. Wearing comfortable clothes

____11. Playing sports (e.g., tennis, softball, racquetball, golf, horseshoes)

____13. Shopping/buying something I like for myself

____14. Being outdoors (e.g., beach, country, mountains, kicking leaves, walking in the sand, floating in lakes)

____15. Doing artwork (e.g., painting, sculpture, drawing)

____16. Reading sacred works

____17. Beautifying my home (redecorating, cleaning, yardwork, etc.)

____19. Reading (novels, poems, magazines, newspapers, etc.)

____24. Playing or singing music

____26. Pleasing my family, friends, employer

____27. Thinking about something good in the future

____30. Grooming myself (e.g., bathing, combing hair, shaving)

Column 1 Column 2

____31. Writing in my diary/journal

____36. Listening to nature sounds

____37. Getting or giving a backrub

____41. Feeling the presence of a Higher Power in my life. Praying, worshiping, etc.

____43. Talking about old times or special interests

Step 6: Make a written plan to do more pleasant activities. You might start with the simpler activities that you are most likely to enjoy. Do as many pleasant events as you reasonably can. We suggest doing at least one each day, perhaps more on weekends. Write your plan on a calendar and carry out this written plan for at least two weeks. Each time you do an activity, rate it on a 1 to 5 scale for pleasure (5 being highly enjoyable). This tests the idea that nothing is enjoyable. Later, you can replace less enjoyable activities with others. Don't be surprised if some of your old favorites are not so enjoyable at first, especially if your mood is low. Try some other activities, and then gradually try your old favorites as your mood lifts.

Some Additional Tips

• Tune into the physical world. Pay less attention to your thoughts. Feel the wind or the soap suds as you wash the car. See and hear.

• Before doing an event, set yourself up to enjoy it. Identify three things you will enjoy about it. Say "I will enjoy_ (the sunshine, the breeze, talking with my brother Bill, etc.)." Relax and imagine yourself enjoying each aspect of the event as you repeat each statement.

• Ask yourself, "What will I do to make the activity enjoyable?" Sometimes the answer is to just relax and enjoy it, without trying to control-it.

• If you are concerned that you might not enjoy some activity that you'd like to try, try breaking it up into steps. Think small, so you can be satisfied in reaching your goal. For example, start by only cleaning the house for ten minutes, then stop. Then reward yourself with a "Good job!" pat on the back.

• Check your schedule for balance. Can you spread out the "need to's" to make room for some "want to's"?

• Time is limited, so use it wisely. You needn't do activities you don't like just because they're convenient.

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