How to use lists to improve your well being

Man making a list

Lists are my secret happiness weapon…perhaps they can help you too?

Updated: January 7th, 2022

There is no doubt about it, I am a list man.

I have to-do lists for daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and lifetime activities.

I have a list of life mantras and goals, a bucket list, a list of things that I enjoy, a list of books I have read, and a happiness tracker. I have a family movie list, a family bucket list, and on and on.

I think you get the point by now. I love to make lists.

Lists contribute to my happiness.

Make a list to remind you indulge in the things that you enjoy

IMO all lists are good. But I like to make lists to help me to remember something or inspire me to do something.

And there is one list that I have found has a direct correlation with my happiness, and that is a list I have called “Things that rejuvenate me.”

Every time I do something on this list, I try to check it off and ensure that I am doing these things.

Things that rejuvenate me:

  • Hiking – x x x
  • Going on a long walk – x x x x x
  • Hot tub – x x x x
  • Golf – x x x
  • Going to the Movies – x
  • New Restaurants – x x
  • Massages – x x
  • Reading a good book – x x x x x x x x x x

This is just a simple way to eyeball what I enjoy and see what I haven’t done in awhile. From there, I have to remind myself to actually do the things that give me energy and rejuvenate me.

Using lists to help get out of a funk

But in life you often get into routines and inevitably you get into ruts. I have found a good way to bust out of that rut is to consult your lists.

Looking at your Bucket List once you have one, is a good way to refresh yourself with things that you’d like to do during your lifetime.

But because Bucket Lists’s often have expensive or once-in-a-lifetime type things, it sometimes is too pie in the sky, and so that is where a Yearly Bucket List really shines.

On this list, we have come up with a list of things we want to do as a family each year. Then we check in and ask:

Are we on track?

Have we planned out what we want to do so far?

If we want to go to a basketball game, we should probably go before the season ends.

Ok, let’s buy tickets to that game and get it on the books!.

Checking in with your list can help you to remember the things you wanted to do, and help you to do them.

Using lists to explore new things

But perhaps your rut is deeper than that, and you want to explore some new activities and try different things? Here are some prompts to help with that (from The Artist’s Way):

  • If I didn’t have to do it perfectly I would try…. [list 10 things]
  • If I was 20 and had money … [list 5 things]
  • If I was 65 and had money … [list 5 things]
  • List 5 hobbies that sound fun
  • List 5 classes that sound fun
  • List 5 things you’d personally never do, but sound fun
  • List 5 skills that would be fun to have

The above types of lists are exploratory type of lists. They are perfect to help you think of things that you wouldn’t normally consider and hopefully inspire you to get out there and do something new/different.

If you are interested in doing further exploring and introspective work, I highly recommend purchasing and completing The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition by Julia Cameron.

The above prompts come straight from this book, and while you may think that you aren’t an artist, I have found that the book and its messaging and prompts are useful to anyone who is looking to explore themselves further and improve their happiness in the process.

Lists that everyone should have:

These are just a few, but IMO you should have these lists:

  • Bucket List
  • Yearly Family Bucket List (if you have a family)
  • Life Goals List
  • Yearly Goals List
  • Travel/Vacation Lists

Today, my wife just happened to pull out her Bucket List from 15 years ago, while I was working on this post, and it was amazing to see that she had completed about 50% of her list!

Whether she knew it or not, her Bucket List was helping her to subconsciously go out and do the things she wanted to do in her life.

And as if I haven’t already overloaded you with all of my list loving ways, I am going to make a list of all possible lists that you could make..

Let’s make a list of lists:

  • Bucket List
  • Book List
  • Movie List
  • To-do List
  • Life Goals List
  • Life Mantras List
  • Monthly Goals
  • Yearly Goals
  • Things to do this year
  • Vacation Ideas List
  • Family Bucket List for the Year
  • Things That Rejuvenate Me List
  • Things to do with my kids
  • Gardening Log
  • Smoker Log
  • Beer Lists
  • Wine Lists
  • Things That I will never do again list

I think you get by now that list ideas are endless.

Building lists, accomplishing items on your list, and checking them off is an instant dopamine boost. There is unlimited happiness to unlock there.

Lists are my secret happiness weapon. What is yours?

More from Accidentally Retired

AR Recommends


  1. I love making lists! Mostly it is to-do lists, but that list helps me organize my day and week. IWhen I worked I had lists on my white board in the office and a separate list on a piece of paper. Originally I hand wrote the list but then I got smarter and typed it up (so I wouldn’t have to repeat the list when I ran out of space on the paper). Since being retired I used the Todoist app to keep track of my lists. I am constantly adding to my list but instead of feeling discouraged, I am often excited about the many things I get to do to keep me occupied. My list is like my bible of what is going on in my life.

    1. Same! In fact, before this blog, I was keeping a giant list of everything in my life I wanted to track, remember, or do. I kept it in the Notes app on my phone. Now, a lot of that ends up on the blog, OR in Evernote. Cheers to lists!

  2. Fantastic post! I’ve found lists as sort of a therapy for me. It just makes me feel better to get things I have to do out of my head and on paper. I really like the idea for making a list of things that rejuvenate. I’m going to have to make one for myself. My wife and I have bucket lists that we update once a year or so. And I do a daily short 3 item list of what I’m grateful for each day.

    Im glad to see an article on this. I think there’s a ton of people out there who would benefit from such a simple thing like making a list.

    1. Yeah, I have found the “Top 3” things I am grateful for each day as a solid mood booster and generally just nice to reflect on the good things that happened that day vs. dwelling on the bad.

      Glad you liked the post!

    1. Yeah, I am not an atheist, but I also am not very religious. I focused on the other messaging in the book and mainly on doing the actual activities/process.

      I found the work more productive and insightful than the text for the most part.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *