Ever thought of writing your own bucket list… for your mental health?
I think working on our own mental wellbeing can be intimidating at times.
Therapy can be a lot of work, and it can be terribly embarrassing. Introspection can trigger painful memories.
And there are still many misconceptions around the idea of improving one’s mental health.
Mental health bucket lists are a way to make it fun. And yes, it is possible to make it fun. It’s a bit like working out — it doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
When you create a bucket list for your mental wellbeing, it helps you see the process as a challenge.
It also makes you really curious about the items on the list. It makes you want to do things that actually nourish your mind.
Prioritizing your mental health
In cases you didn’t realize: your mental health is an absolute priority.
Any issues related to your mental health are supposed to be addressed immediately. Like, right now.
And if you don’t have any issues in particular, it still makes sense to learn more about how our mind works and how we can deal with our own thoughts and feelings in a positive way.
The sooner you take control of your mental health, the better. Don’t wait!
I have been lucky enough to suffer from depression, anxiety, and panic in my early 20s. I use the word lucky because although it was horrible, it did teach me invaluable lessons.
Because of all the pain I went through, I was forced to become more aware of my own thoughts, and of how my mind works.
So today (about ten years later) I am actually grateful for all my previous mental health issues.
The good news: you don’t have to experience any serious mental illness to find the motivation to learn more about psychology.
But you must know that it’s a priority. So, again, my message to you is: prioritize your peace, and prioritize your mental health, no matter what.
It’s not a waste of time. It’s not a waste of money (whether you do therapy or buy books on the subject).
And I can tell you, the more you improve your mental wellbeing, the more it turns into a habit, the more you’ll want to do it.
Mental health bucket list: ideas
According to tradition, this is the practice that led Buddha to perfect enlightenment. He sat beneath a fig tree, meditated, and reached the highest level of understanding and awareness.
Now, you don’t have to reach enlightenment to improve your mental health. If you’re disciplined enough to practice meditation regularly, that’s more than enough.
And for those who are skeptical: you shouldn’t be. Meditation has been practiced for literally thousands of years, and its benefits are now proven by studies as well.
2. Have a sleep routine
When possible, wake up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Then every week. Then notice how it affects your sleep quality.
I am a light sleeper, and out of all sleep hacks and tricks I’ve tried, this is actually one of the most effective. And it’s as simple as it sounds. You just have to be consistent with a certain sleep cycle.
And sleep quality is vital not just for your mind, but for your health in general — one more reason to get your eight hours and invest in sleep quality!
Another simple but powerful mental health bucket list idea: journaling. The act of writing down your thoughts can be liberating, and it can help you get in touch with your thoughts and emotions.
Journaling also inspires you to be creative. You can ask yourself questions and write down the answers that come to mind, use journal prompts like these ones, or simply write instinctively.
And whenever you reach a new insight, a higher understanding of your own mind (e.g. an intuition about past issues) — write it down as well, and then go back to it and add notes if needed.
4. Cut out a toxic person
I think sooner or later we will all meet a person, or group of people, that is truly toxic to our mental wellbeing. That’s an opportunity to learn to prioritize your mental health.
Because although communication is key when dealing with people, sometimes you do want to avoid people completely.
Energy vampires, manipulators, abusive narcissists — some of them just won’t change no matter what you say to them. Don’t waste a single second on them — they are a threat to your mental health.
5. Try therapy
This is one of the items that may be a bit more challenging. Therapy can definitely be challenging. But it’s also very rewarding. And there is no real substitute to it.
If possible, go for face-to-face therapy. I know it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. By the way: you no longer need to do it for years. It’s not what it used to be. A few months will probably be enough to notice positive changes.
Therapy could literally change your life. Or, there may be better alternatives for you out there. The only way to find out: try it out! If you never try, you could be missing out.
6. Exercise every day
It’s no secret that physical exercise improves your mental health as well. So why not add it to your bucket list?
For example, you could challenge yourself to exercise every day for thirty days in a row, e.g. go for a long walk, or have a workout at the gym, every morning for a month or so.
Ever noticed how your mind seems to be clear, your stress levels seem to be lower, your happiness seems to increase right after you move your body? Make exercising a habit and notice how it improves your mental health.
7. Discover psychology/spirituality
Another bucket list idea: pick two or three books about psychology, or spirituality (have a look at the reviews online, and choose the ones that intrigue you), and read them.
Who knows — you may fall in love with them. It could be the beginning of a journey that never really ends unless you lose interest in it.
Think you don’t have time to read? You can always listen to podcasts or audiobooks, or watch videos instead. But there is something magical about reading an actual book — it’s almost a form of meditation.
8. Say “I love you” in the mirror
Can you confidently and comfortably say to yourself that… you love yourself? That you matter, that you are amazing? That you are enough? If not, add it to your mental health bucket list.
You cannot love anyone unless you first learn to love yourself. Too many of us struggle with toxic (and unjustified) feelings of shame and guilt. Too many of us suffer from low self-esteem.
Look at yourself in the mirror. Stare at yourself, even if it’s uncomfortable. Then smile and say “I love you”. If it doesn’t sound very convincing, say it again. And again.
9. Do nothing for an hour
If the thought of sitting still for an hour or so sounds terrifying, or boring, do it! The mind is used to constant noise, constant distractions. So it fears inactivity.
And when I say do nothing, I mean do nothing. Turn off your phone, don’t engage in any type of distraction, don’t talk to anyone. Train yourself to be comfortable with all the thoughts and emotions that may come up.
This simple exercise makes you realize that it’s possible not to be constantly distracted, that awareness comes naturally if you just stop for a while.
10. Go into hermit mode
For those who don’t know, this refers to a period of time in which you detach yourself from society (no need to go and live in a forest), usually a few days, or a week or so.
It’s a period of solitude, of voluntary isolation, where all your time and energy can be used to meditate, learn a new skill, focus on your health, or even reflect on your life so far and plan your life in the future.
Not all personality types are inclined to doing this — extroverts who crave external stimuli may find it too draining. And you definitely don’t have to do it. But for those who find the idea appealing, give hermit mode a try.
11. Write a manifestation list
This refers to a list of anything that you want to experience and accomplish in life (short term and long term). You basically visualize your dream life and then write it down in detail.
By the way: it’s harder than you think. Unless you write a list that’s totally unrealistic, it’s going to take time. As you write, you’ll find that some of your “manifestations” are actually not worth it, are actually not meant for you.
You’ll have to brainstorm and then actually pick only some of the things you have visualized. Not only that, you’ll want to follow a few rules to make sure you can actually turn your list into a reality.
12. Try power poses
I think the idea behind power poses is fascinating. I mean, animals do it (e.g. before a fight) and it seems to work. Just know that, at the minute, there is no actual proof that power poses work.
Wikipedia says: power posing is a controversial self-improvement technique in which people stand in a posture that they mentally associate with being powerful, in the hope of feeling and behaving more assertively.
But since this is a mental health bucket list, it doesn’t really matter if it works or not, right? Give it a try. You may find that by holding a certain power pose for a few minutes, your attitude also tends to change.
13. Try floating
You’ll be floating in a tank with no external stimuli for about an hour. Basically, an hour of no noise, no light, and virtually no gravity (the water is heated, and contains Epsom salt to facilitate floating).
This may sound appealing, or a waste of time, or a bit disturbing. Yet floatation does promote relaxation and mental well being. It also tends to enhance creativity, and may ease pain or tension in the body.
A floatation session in a spa will cost around $60 to $100, and you may be surprised by the benefits. Definitely consider adding it to your mental health bucket list.
14. Do a social media detox
Almost all of us have become used to (and probably addicted to) social media. We believe it’s totally normal to have a few accounts online where we post our comments, photos, videos, etc.
The issue with being addicted, though, is that we never really know whether social media is a good or a bad thing. Which, it’s usually both.
But if you take a break, you may find that the effects of social media on your mental health are actually negative for the most part. If you need inspiration or motivation, have a look at these quotes from people who’ve done it.
15. Do a phone detox
And for a complete detox (I’m referring to technology and screens), stop using your phone. It’s probably best to do this when you’re on holiday — typically, we do need to use phones in our daily lives.
If you think it’s dangerous, or if you think you won’t be able to do it, start with a few hours. Turn off your phone for, say, five hours. Notice how you feel, notice how you spend your time instead.
Those who did take longer breaks from their phones (including a few friends of mine) say it makes you realize how much time we actually spend in front of a screen, and how a big percentage of that time is just wasted.
16. Tell a secret
Another interesting idea for a mental health bucket list, provided you use common sense and tell someone you actually trust.
By the way, it doesn’t have to be anything too private, or personal. Don’t do it unless you’re comfortable doing it. Don’t do it if there is a chance you’ll regret it.
The reason sharing a secret can be so powerful is, it can teach you to be vulnerable. We mistakenly assume vulnerability is a weakness, but for the most part it’s not — it allows deeper, more meaningful, more fulfilling relationships.
17. Write down your fears
I’ve already mentioned how journaling in general can do wonders for your mental health. This is similar, just a bit more specific.
The idea is to grab a piece of paper and write down everything you are afraid of. Anything from certain animals or insects, to public speaking or certain social situations, past memories, disturbing scenes, death, anything.
If you’re brave enough to do this, if you’re brave enough to really dig deep and understand what you fear and why, you’ll be rewarded with a better understanding of your fears; some of them will tend to disappear as well. Have a look at this post to find out more.
18. Get a massage
The health benefits (mental and physical) of getting a massage are invaluable, and I’m surprised this doesn’t get mentioned when talking about mental health.
Because mind and body are interconnected, and depending on the type of massage you receive, you can expect positive effects on your mental health, in ways you probably can’t even imagine.
Relaxation, emotional release, a sense of inner peace, acceptance, relief from stress and anxiety, better mood — these and many more.
19. Find a reason to be proud
Or two, three, four reasons to be proud. Or fifty reasons. This is a simple exercise that will make you aware of all your strengths and positive traits.
We tend to forget them — we tend to focus on what we don’t have, what we lack. All the things we are not. Why not do the opposite, why not reflect on all the things that make you proud?
Similarly, you can think of things/traits that make you happy, that you are grateful for. As they say, focus on the good and the good gets better.
20. Set a goal and achieve it
Our brains like to achieve goals. When we feel we have achieved a certain result, it triggers a sense of euphoria (some illegal drugs actually mimic this type of feeling, which is why they cause addiction).
My last idea for a mental health bucket list: set a goal — any goal — and crush it! You can start with a simple task and work your way up to bigger goals.
The bucket list itself can be a fun goal. Crossing off the items on the list can be a goal as well. Having something you are working toward gives you a sense of purpose, no matter how insignificant it may be.
“Stop doing” lists for mental health
Mental health bucket lists can be fun, but I think stop doing lists are equally important, perhaps even more important.
Basically, a list of things that have a detrimental effect on your mental health; things you should not do.
A few examples, in no particular order:
- Quit coffee/stimulants
- Don’t watch the news
- Don’t sacrifice sleep
- Stop eating junk food
- Stop being a perfectionist
- Don’t compare yourself to others
- Stop overthinking/ruminating
What’s on YOUR bucket list?
Can you think of other ideas? What would you add to your own mental health bucket list?
Leave a reply below! 👇