Making an App for Depression Better

PAJ 2.0 Activity screen

Pleasant Event Scheduling (PES) can now be done on your personal smartphone with a mobile app called Positive Activity Jackpot (PAJ). PES is a term that psychologists use for “brainstorming for healthy activities” – a behavioral health exercise for depression that’s traditionally done with pen and paper. And unless you’re privy to all the clinical research to know that it’s a solid and clinically valid tool for depression, it’s an exercise that on the surface could seem almost trivial. But for many, coming up with healthy activities or diversions can make the difference between recurring depression or hope and a reason to keep going and reengaging in life again. PES works. But I wondered – could a mobile app make this exercise easier and better? Turns out, it can.

Since most of us carry our phones everywhere, the PAJ app means that PES can easily be done anywhere, at any time, even when you don’t have a pen and paper handy. The PAJ app enhances the PES activity by using your phone’s GPS to find nearby activities and diversions, and suggesting friends from your contact list who could join you. PAJ activity suggestions include everything from listening to the sounds of nature, playing chess, or talking with an old friend, to larger activities such as whitewater rafting or planning a trip abroad.

In our new version, PAJ 2.0, we’ve stepped up some of these great features. The app has an updated and streamlined user interface and an enhanced tutorial, making learning to use PAJ a snap. Inviting a few friends to join you in an activity is easy with a new Groups feature. The activity finder now has multiple modes including map and list views, making it easy to get the information you need on nearby activities.

Personally, I just love that PAJ got my creative juices going and just the idea of doing some of the activities made me start to daydream again. I found myself scrolling through the activities and came across “go kayaking or canoeing” – exactly the prompt I needed for a little family adventure! By using the “find local options” button I could immediately see all nearby rental places, including on base (which was really slick). For me PAJ removed a barrier and that was all I needed to make a fun activity happen.

So pick up your phone (I know – you’re already on it) and download Positive Activity Jackpot and find something pleasant to do. If it turns out the app’s not for you, share it with someone you know battles with depression – it just may be the extra nudge of hope they need.

Suzanne Williams is a project manager for the Emerging Technologies Program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Mrs. Suzanne Williams