How to Reap the Benefits of Positive List-Making

Get inspired by lists that are so much more than “to-do.”


Posted in , Feb 20, 2019

Making a positive list

Is there anything as eternal, as never-ending as a “to-do list?” The satisfaction of crossing something off the list is profound, but if you’re like me, each time you do, you also find yourself with three things to add. This isn’t a bad thing—to the contrary, it is helpful both for organization and for feeling like each day has structure and purpose. 

But to-dos can cast list-making in an entirely practical light, making it easy to forget that listing out thoughts, feelings and experiences can leave us with a tangible, inspiring record of our best efforts to live our most positive lives.

There are myriad positive lists you can make. Here are just a few to get you started.

Gratitude List
From huge topics like improving health, loving relationships or meaningful work to smaller graces like finding a parking space, visiting the grocery store to find no checkout line or finally locating your reading glasses, a gratitude list can give you instant perspective on the vast number of positive things in your life. Gratitude lists may even have health benefits. One research study showed that 15 minutes spent writing down things you’re grateful for can help reduce pre-sleep worry and improve sleep quality overall. 

Strengths List
Strength is much more than a physical attribute. You have emotional strengths and intellectual strengths, in addition to the weights you can lift or the exercise class you can persevere through. Are you creative? Patient? Kind? Witty? Sensitive? Listing the positive qualities you have to offer is an excellent exercise in and of itself—coming back to that list when your confidence is wavering is even more uplifting.

Goals List
Your life today may or may not be as you imagined it would be. But no matter your age or stage of life, it is always a positive thing to contemplate your goals for the future. Imagining a positive future has been found by researchers to reduce anxiety and improve longevity and overall health. Maybe you dream of completing a project, reuniting with a long-lost friend or family member, traveling to a meaningful destination or recording your life story for future generations. No matter your goal, having your eyes on a positive horizon will inspire a positive outlook at each step along the way.

Support List
Everyone feels lonely sometimes, and when life is challenging, it can be all too easy to feel you are facing the tough times alone. Creating a support list of all the people in your life who lift you up in one way or another—from the trusted counselor or clergyperson to the postal worker who takes the time to greet you by name—provides you with an inspiring catalog of the resources you can lean on when you’re struggling. You might even jot down different types of support, like “Joan can always make me laugh,” “Dr. Flapman can clarify confusing medical information I read online” or “James knows when I just need some quiet company.” Support comes in many forms, and the more closely you look for it, the more you will find in your daily life.

Do you practice positive list-making? What types of lists inspire you most?

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