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3 Ideas for Days When Nothing Sounds Fun

Here are some tips for tackling anhedonia.

Key points

  • Anhedonia is a loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities.
  • Withdrawal is a common reaction to anhedonia but can make it worse.
  • Re-engaging in pleasant activities is key to overcoming anhedonia.

Have you ever had a day when nothing sounded fun? It's as if all the color has disappeared, and the world has turned grey. Days like this are normal, now and then. For people living with depression, however, it can be a sign of a common symptom called "anhedonia."

Anhedonia is feeling a lack of joy in once-enjoyed activities. This lack of joy can lead one to stop doing things they normally would do for fun, predicting that they won't be able to appreciate it anyway. Yet, this reasoning is a trap. Withdrawal from liked activities often only furthers depression.

In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a strategy known as behavior activation is often used to fight anhedonia. This involves scheduling activities that are meaningful and following through. Often, we find more happiness than we predicted we would, and the activity can help counter the effects of depression.

Yet, behavior activation does not have to be random. In acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), behavior activation focuses on what is meaningful rather than how something makes us feel. By increasing meaningful action, we often improve our moods. A study of individuals diagnosed with late-stage cancer found that a course of ACT improved both symptoms of anhedonia and depression (Karimi Baghmalek et al., 2020).

The core strategy in this approach is to focus away from trying to control what we feel and zeroing in on what matters to us. Life is ever moving forward, and if we wait until we "feel like" doing something, we risk missing out. Interestingly, at times, when we take the camera away from controlling what we feel toward controlling what we do, we may find that how we feel changes, too.

What follows are three things you can do on those days that nothing sounds fun.

1. Experiment with something new.

Novelty sparks curiosity and creativity, two pieces that combat anhedonia. If you are finding that nothing sounds worthwhile, try to think of something you've never done before or haven't done in a long time. This could be as simple as attempting to write a poem. Or as complex as setting off on an adventure involving travel.

Remember, the goal here is to try something new. If you awake to a pleasant experience, that's wonderful. Yet, breaking routine can also fight anhedonia on its own.

2. Let go of expectations.

Tightly-held expectations are part of the recipe for anhedonia. We can get so attached to an idea of something being a particular way that when life shakes things up a bit, we can not find joy in the new experience. For example, you might think that if you are going to go to the zoo, then you must get up early enough to spend several hours there and see enough animals to make it worth your time. This rigid, rule-governed thinking can present a barrier to taking in the fullness of the pursuit.

If you hold on to those expectations, you might miss out. You might find yourself disappointed by the animals that were not available, causing it to be more difficult to seek animals out for you to watch. You also risk missing the opportunity altogether if you do not get up "early" enough. Letting go of expectations lends a chance to enjoy what is rather than an unrealistic need to change it.

3. Reach back to something you used to enjoy.

The things we found blissful as youth often still can bring us happiness as adults. Maybe you played an instrument or fancied bike rides as a kid. See if you can reintegrate these activities into your life. You might be surprised by how gratifying these sorts of activities remain.


Karimi Baghmalek, A., Jelodari, A., & Mahigir, F. (2020). Effectiveness of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy on Depression and Anhedonia among Patients with Terminal Stage Cancer. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 11(4), 33-40.

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