How to Improve Your Mental Health with a Life Bucket List

Are you feeling depressed, directionless, or disinterested in the things around you? A mental health bucket list will infuse excitement into your life and help you achieve something you’ve always wanted to do.

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I’ve been making lists for as long as I can remember.

Any time I’m feeling anxious or depressed. I’ll open my journal, scribble out a jumbled mess of thoughts, and then create an action plan to improve whatever I was so frustrated about.

But there’s one list that’s my absolute favorite.

The bucket list.

Although technically a bucket list is for everything you want to do before you die, I see it as an opportunity to live life to the fullest.

Because when depression tugs at your soul, sometimes you don’t feel like living at all. The days blur together. You lose interest in the things that used to matter to you. And you might struggle to find meaning in the day-to-day.

A bucket list minimizes those crippling effects by helping you make the most of the life you already have.

And every time you cross something off, you’ll remind yourself that YOU are in control of your life. Depression can take a back seat.

How a bucket list improves your mental health

Can a bucket list really pull you out of a negative spiral and get you excited about life again?

I think so. And here’s why.

1. A bucket list provides purpose for the future

When the pain of today dims the possibilities of tomorrow, it’s hard to imagine what your future will look like and how you fit into it. With depression in particular, your only focus is to make it through today.

A bucket list keeps you forward-focused. Since it’s the place where you write down all the things you hope to do in the future, this in turn, gives you hope for the future!

Never underestimate the joy of anticipating what’s to come.

2. A bucket list teaches you what you value most

As you make your bucket list, you’ll start to see a pattern of the types of things and experiences you want to have. For me (as you’ll see later in this post), most of my list revolves around travel and adventure.

This opens your eyes to what you want out of your life, which can guide you toward creating more of those experiences, even if they’re not the exact experiences on your bucket list!

Here’s what I mean: if you want to visit other countries and experience their culture, but can’t afford to make the trip yet. you could cook your way through a cookbook featuring classic recipes from every country in the world.

Something as simple as this can bring your big-dreams bucket list down to a more day-to-day level, which will add more spontaneity to your everyday life.

3. A bucket list gives you a great sense of accomplishment

Just the act of making a bucket list brings a TON of joy, but crossing things off is a whole other level. Especially if it’s something that pushes you outside your comfort zone.

Which, let’s be honest, feels really scary when you don’t even want to leave the house some days! But I promise, if you can do things scared, you prove yourself how much you’re actually capable of, which will strengthen your self-confidence.

proof This actually works

Just this past week, I had the opportunity to cliff jump at Crater Lake National Park.

Cliff jumping probably isn’t on most bucket lists, but I wanted to push past my fear and try it, even though I was more terrified I wouldn’t follow through than the actual jump!

But leading up to this moment were a LOT of hard days.

An assistant in my company left without notice, adding her tasks to my already full plate. I felt burned out from Instagram and a recent sales campaign. I couldn’t sleep. And I had more things to do than hours available to do them.

So I wasn’t sure I wanted to take an entire afternoon off of work to go cliff jumping.

But it was on my bucket list. When else would I have a chance to do this?

I’m so glad I went!

Because even though my stomach swirled as I stepped to the edge of the rock and it felt like minutes before I hit the water and I popped out coughing and sputtering from a last-minute involuntary scream that made me inhale all of Crater Lake (okay, not really), cliff jumping was one of my favorite memories from our 2022 season of RV travel.

Thanks to my bucket list, I was reminded that life is for LIVING.

How to Create a Mental Health Bucket List

If you don’t have a life list yet, but the thought excites you, start thinking about what you really want to do.

Not what you think you should do, or what others think you should do. What excites you? Feels impossible? Are there places you’d love to experience?

Pull out a piece of paper (or download this printable from The Brainbook Etsy Shop!) and think about:

Dream as if you have NO LIMITS.

Because you don’t!

When you’re finished, the things on your list might seem impossible to imagine right now (like flying first class to the Bahamas), but I bet there are some things you could complete sooner than you think, right where you are.

If you need some help in that direction, my book Practical Dreamer and the Six-Week Sprint Goal Planner provides a proven, plug-and-play framework you can use to reach your bucket list items.

No need to wait until January 1st!

A Peek at My Bucket List

Curious to know what dreams I have?

Here’s the running list of what I’d like to do in my lifetime. It grows every year!

  1. Take a trip to Europe – although to experience everything I’d like to see, I’m estimating at least 2 or 3 trips.
  2. See Phantom of the Opera on Broadway DONE 6/2012
  3. Visit Australia and hold a Koala bear
  4. Take a Caribbean cruise
  5. Own a house in Florida DONE 5/2014 || SOLD 11/2018
  6. Own a successful business I can do from home DONE 10/2015
  7. See the Grand Canyon DONE 6/2019
  8. Go cliff jumping DONE 8/2022
  9. Learn to Scuba dive – would love to combine this with the Australia trip and scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef.
  10. Swim with dolphins – not in an enclosed pen, but actually in the wild.
  11. Visit the Florida Keys DONE 8/2009
  12. Go on a whale watch DONE 9/2010
  13. Visit the New England states DONE 9/2010
  14. Hike the White Mountains of New Hampshire HIKED THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE 8/2021
  15. Go on an RV trip across the United States DONE 3/2019 (we’re still going strong!)
  16. Explore Prince Edward Island
  17. Run a 5k DONE 7/2011
  18. Write a traditionally published book
  19. Travel to Hawaii
  20. Mush a sled dog team
  21. Take surfing lessons DONE 9/2016
  22. Take tennis lessons DONE 6/2017
  23. Visit all 63 U.S. National Parks – I’ve visited 43 so far!
  24. See the Northern Lights DONE 9/2023
  25. Complete a Thru-HikeLooking at the Superior Trail
  26. Go on an African Safari
  27. See a penguin in the wild

As you can see, I’ve crossed a decent amount off already!

Your list will probably be completely different than mine, but as you make it, remember:

Your bucket list gives you something to live for.

And every time you cross something off, you will feel a sense of completeness and satisfaction. That you’re living a life without regrets. That you’re trying new things, seeing new places, and stretching yourself beyond your tiny comfort zone.

Depression can sometimes make you feel like you loathe your life.

A mental health bucket list will convince you to love it again.

want to share an item from your bucket lisT?

Tell me what you’re excited to accomplish most!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Rest assured, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. I nave never written down my bucket list…. didn’t even know what one was before I accomplished some things that would have been on it. One thing I always wanted to do even as a little girl was go to Europe to see castles. Well, I did. Three times! 15 days each of the first two and three and a half weeks the third time. You are right. It takes time. Even though everywhere we went would fit in the middle of our home state of Texas. I suggest watching Rick Steves travel videos and reading his books. Find the ones for the places you want to go. We planned our own trips all three times. Allow a couple of “free days” in case unexpected things happen. Also, keep a travel journal so when you get back and look at the photos you will remember where they were taken by the dates. We made a reservation for the first night there and the last night. The others we made one day ahead from wherever we were. Usually the local tourist office will help you with that.
    I’ve also wanted to go to the Holy Land, but the way things are now, I am reluctant to do so. Still might someday. Travel I suppose is one of the big things my husband and I would like to do. That, and have a few acres in the country with a much bigger garden than we have here in town, and some animals. So, I guess about 10 acres would be good. We do love to take road trips with our dog. Planning one to New England next Fall to see the leaves changing. I have been once about 20 years ago, but he hasn’t, so we want to do it together.
    I hope you do make it to Europe!

    1. You need to make the Alaska cruise a reality! I was really lucky and got to go on one with my parents and grandparents when I was in 7th grade. It’s soooo beautiful!

  2. I love how you walk us through these practical tips for making our big dreams come true. And the story of your own surfing adventure is such an inspiration to me! Not to mention all those green cross-outs with the DONE next to them. Way to go!

  3. I think it’s awesome that you’re so future-oriented and have crossed so many big goals off of your list! Way to go! Even though yours is completed, we share a common goal of creating a successful home based business, but I’m inspired to add a few more to my list based on yours! As a person who is naturally introverted and reserved at first, stepping outside of my comfort zone is a challenge, but I’ve learned that every time I do I’ve never regretted it! Thanks for such a great post!

    1. Thank you, Mary! That home-based business took 3 years before I saw any significant income from it, but that was before there were so many amazing resources about blogging—I truly think one can do it in less than a year if they really work hard!
      By the way, I had a chance to visit your lovely blog over the weekend, and I resonated with so much of your overall message. You have such a fun writing style, and I’m sure I’ll be back! 🙂

  4. This is one of my favorite posts from you, Kalyn! I love reading about your life, and how you ambitiously set goals and go after them inspires me to do the same. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Rachelle! It was a really fun post to write, and inspired me to start working towards those goals again myself. I’m curious to know what lands on your 30 before 30 list!

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