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In Praise of a Seasonal Bucket List

For those in the northeast, winter means staying inside, watching the snow through the windows, cozying up with a blanket, and reading a book while you listen to the whirr of your spaceheater. That is, it’s like that if you make a conscious effort to feel that way and create that scene. Realistically, winter looks like this cozy scene for sixty seconds while you take a photo for Instagram (#sundaymorning), and then you go back to being cold and coping with mild seasonal affective disorder. For most people in climates where winter is really a challenge, there’s a way to make the most of every season of your life: having a seasonal bucket list.

Let’s rewind: this past summer was the best summer I’ve ever had, and potentially one of the happiest periods of my life. It’s not because I was in a great new relationship (I actually swore off dating for the summer) or because I took a thrilling international vacation (I spent most of my free time hiking in western Massachusetts).  It’s because I sat down and wrote out a “sand pail list,” or rather, a summer bucket list.  I made a list of the specific things I wanted to do that summer, like go to art museums, go to the ballet, go see live music, read certain books, take a weekend vacation by myself, and start and finish a pleasant professional project. I kept my summer bucket list on my desk where I could see it every day. I bought tickets to shows, I wrote down on my calendar when I was going to which museum, and I carved out time to read. When that time came, I read or went to museums or I went to shows.  It was astounding to me how pleasurable it was to take all the things that I enjoy doing or wanted to try but “never got around to” and made plans to actually do them.

Excluding those who are avid skiiers and those who really, really love Christmas, winter isn’t most peoples’ favorite season. For those who struggle with mental health issues, the dark afternoons and cold temperatures aren’t helpful: the setting foments staying inside and isolating.

So, send a surge of power to your happiness circuits and make a winter bucket list (we can call it a “salt bucket list”).

If you’re not sure where to start, consider all the times you say to yourself, “I love ‘x,’ I just don’t seem to do it that often anymore’ and put them right on this list. If there is an activity that you enjoy, but it tends to require a bit of planning or a bit of outside-the-Saturday-night-box thinking, like going to live comedy shows or live jazz, it belongs on this list. If there’s a hobby you want to try, put it on the list!

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If there are big tasks you want to accomplish and you sense that you’d feel amazing once you got them done, put them on the list, too. But, try to avoid letting your seasonal bucket list become a to-do list or full of resolutions. Instead, it’s about the sheer pleasure of identifying the things you really want to spend your free time doing, the meaningful fun, and finally doing them. To make finally doing them actually happen, schedule them. Once you have your list, sit down with your calendar and etch out what you’ll actually do when. Then knock down the walls of your comfort zone and go have fun!

In case you want some inspiration/ a place to start, here’s my 2017 Winter Bucket List:

  1. Go to the movies once a month
  2. Practice one new kind of self-care once a month, like getting a facial, going to the mineral baths in Saratoga, or sitting in the dry sauna at the gym)
  3. Practice a low-key form of self-care once a week, like doing an detoxifying face mask, taking a bubble bath, watching a movie (something I never do–I usually can’t sit still at my own home long enough to watch a movie, so this counts)
  4. Cuddle up with a blanket and a book for an hour once a week
  5. Outline Core Desired Feelings/ Goals with Soul for 2017
  6. Winter hike at White Rocks in Bennington, VT
  7. Go skiing as soon as soon as it’s sufficiently snowy
  8. Make epic New Year’s plans
  9. Go to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
  10. Plan 2017 trip to California

 

Want Self-Esteem? Do Something Esteemable

When we think about self-esteem, often we think in terms of how to change the way we feel about ourselves. But my favorite fast-acting strategy to boost self-esteem takes an outside-in approach. If you want to experience higher self-esteem, do something that makes you feel strong, competent, compassionate, self-compassionate, brave, and upstanding. If you want self-esteem, do something esteemable.

Whatever the problem is—you want to be more confident at work, you’re worried that you’re coming off needy in a relationship, you’re feeling anxious, you’ve been feeling anxious all the time, you’re hungover—start by doing something that will make you feel like you’re in an upward spiral. The desired feelings may come sooner than you think.

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10 “Esteemable” Things You Can Do Right Now:

  1. Take on a longstanding nagging task, finish the task, and scratch it off your mental to-do list
  2. Look up that local organization that you’ve been wanting to volunteer with, and actually take five minutes to call them and get the process started
  3. Call an elderly relative to talk
  4. Text a younger cousin who could use a good grown up, just letting them know that you’re thinking of them
  5. Make a conscious effort to be friendly and warm hearted with literally every person you interact with today
  6. Go to the drive-thru—Starbucks, McDonald’s, whatever—and pay for the food for the car behind you in line
  7. Offer to give a coworker a hand if he or she seems swamped, even if you could totally get away with kicking back and playing on your phone right now
  8. Reach out to a professional you’ve recently met who is new to your industry or younger than you and offer yourself as a resource to them for career advice
  9. Catch up on email. Get as close as you can to hitting inbox zero.
  10. Sit down and read a book in print. If it’s not something you do regularly, reading will make you feel like an owl wearing glasses and a graduation cap.

What “esteemable” things could you do today?

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