How to Make Opposite Action Work for You

September 21, 2020 Martha Lueck

When you are feeling down, it can be easy to act in a way that represents how you feel. Unfortunately, doing this only prolongs the negative emotion. However, a technique that I find to be very interesting and valuable is called "opposite action." This post will teach you about the benefits of opposite action for mood disorders and how to practice it.

What Is Opposite Action?

Opposite action has three parts that come into play: feelings, thoughts, and actions. This skill helps you identify your feelings, acknowledge your thoughts, and choose healthy actions. Here is one personal example. When I was about to go on a date with a boy I really liked in high school, he canceled at the last minute. This made me feel really sad. Instead of brushing it off, I ruminated on it and thought I did something wrong. I spent the rest of the weekend crying. 

To many people, my behavior might have sounded typical for a teenage girl. However, it was still not healthy. When this happens now, I try to use opposite action by telling myself that even though being stood up hurts, it is not the end of the world. It was not my fault. Thus, I am better at accomplishing daily tasks, knowing that my sadness will dissipate.

Of course, I am not perfect at this skill; nobody is perfect at it. Emotions are complex, and they are valid. Opposite action simply helps you respond to emotions in a healthy way.

5 Steps to Practice Opposite Action

If you have tried to take opposite actions and have found it difficult, you are not alone. Here are some ideas that can help you make this strategy effective.

  1. Acknowledge your emotion. By taking a moment to acknowledge a painful emotion before you react to it, you will avoid making a regretful decision. For instance, when your coworker refuses to work on a team project, you might feel so frustrated that you want to yell at the person. If you acknowledge your frustration first, you can tame the emotion and come up with a new solution in an appropriate manner.
  2. Give yourself a pep talk. When a friend is nervous about something, you give that person a brief speech for encouragement (commonly known as a pep talk). This can work to boost your self-esteem as well. You can do this in your head simply by thinking of a few positive affirmations. If you are comfortable with it, you can also give yourself a pep talk in the mirror before you start your day.
  3. Do an enjoyable activity. While enjoyable activities can seem like distractions from negative emotions, tasks, or circumstances, they can actually be very beneficial. Think of enjoyable activities as stretching between sets during a workout. They prevent you from getting burned out too quickly or making the wrong actions. After a few minutes of doing enjoyable activities, it will be easier for you to continue a task in a safe and proper manner.
  4. Visualize yourself making progress. Some tasks can seem difficult or boring. Letting them sit there for a while will not change that; it will only add to your stress. By pushing yourself just a little bit to get started, you will be one step closer to an accomplishment. Every moment that passes is a moment closer to crossing something off your to-do list.
  5. Treat yourself for accomplishing difficult tasks. Taking opposite action definitely requires effort. Everyone deserves to be rewarded for a job well done. You can reward yourself by going to a movie or trying a new restaurant. If you are able to achieve opposite action for a certain period of time, treat yourself to something more luxurious such as a vacation.

Have you achieved opposite action? If not, I challenge you to try it next time you are feeling down about something. Feel free to share your insights in the comments.

APA Reference
Lueck, M. (2020, September 21). How to Make Opposite Action Work for You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Martha Lueck

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