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 all the things 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:
- Destinations you’d love to visit (this book gives you 1,000 ideas)
- Fears you want to conquer
- Experiences you want to have
- Events you want to attend
- New skills you want to learn
- Or you can simply reference these unique bucket list ideas
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 provide a proven, plug-and-play framework you can use to reach your bucket list items.
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!
- Take a trip to Europe – although, to experience everything I’d like to see, I’m estimating at least 2 or 3 trips.
DONE 6/2012 See Phantom of the Opera on Broadway
- Visit Australia and hold a Koala bear
- Take a Caribbean cruise
DONE 5/2014 || SOLD 11/2018 Own a house in Florida Own a successful business I can do from homeDONE 10/2015 See the Grand CanyonDONE 6/2019 Go cliff jumpingDONE 8/2022
- Learn to Scuba dive – would love to combine this with the Australia trip and scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef.
- Swim with dolphins – not in an enclosed pen, but actually in the wild.
DONE 8/2009 Visit the Florida Keys Go on a whale watch DONE 9/2010 Visit the New England states Hike the White Mountains of New HampshireHIKED THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE 8/2021 Go on an RV trip across the United StatesDONE 3/2019 (we’re still going strong!)
- Explore Prince Edward Island
DONE 7/2011 Run a 5k
- Write a traditionally published book
- Travel to Hawaii
- Mush a sled dog team
DONE 9/2016 Take surfing lessons DONE 6/2017 Take tennis lessons
- Visit all 63 U.S. National Parks – I’ve visited 39 so far!
- See the Northern Lights
- Complete a Thru-Hike – Looking at the Superior Trail
- Go on an African Safari
- See a penguin in the wild
As you can see, I’ve crossed a decent amount off already!
printable PDF planning insert
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Your list will probably be completely different than mine, but as you make it, remember:
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.