Updated: May 12, 2021
I decided a while ago to start a daily feel-good list. I honestly can’t remember where the idea came from; I think I was just feeling miserable (global pandemic, mass suffering, no wine etc.) and decided I needed to change how I feel from the inside. So, most days daily for the last month or so, I have been generating a list of things that I think will make me feel good in the day. I try to start from scratch without looking at the previous days, although there are repeats. And all are an answer to the question, “What will make me FEEL GOOD today?”
Some things haven’t been surprising, but others have. Of course, there are things that would commonly bring joy like “lying in the sun”, “walking the dogs” and affirmations that give me confidence or calm. But a lot of what makes me feel good is also more associated with duty and just the daily responsibilities of living. What I have noticed is that all the things on my feel-good lists fall into one of the following categories:
2. Connection and care of others
3. Creativity / creation
4. Duty / “doing what needs to be done.”
Not surprisingly, a lot of what makes me feel good is just simply taking care of myself. Doing things I love that make me happy; gathering spiritual guidance and wisdom; challenging limiting beliefs, or activities that support my physical wellbeing like eating my veg and doing yoga.
2. Connection and care for others
I can be somewhat anti-social, and this whole lockdown business has put me in danger of becoming a total recluse. What I found often popping up on my lists were things like “reach out to so and so”, “check-in/msg/call so and so”. What I have realised with this exercise, is that while it feels an effort sometimes to connect with others, especially when I am feeling low, for the most part, it makes me feel good. Yes for me to connect, which we all need, but more importantly to have reached out to someone who might need to know they’re cared for and are being thought of. We all need it, especially now. My feel-good lists remind me of that when I feel like curling into a ball and pretending I am a family member of “Modern Family” and the world outside doesn’t exist. It does, and it needs me.
3. Creativity / creation
There is a wonderful film called “Where’d you go Bernadette?” about a female architect who loses touch with her creative side after having a child who was very ill from birth. In a quiet, unassuming scene in a coffee shop, a frank friend of Bernadette’s says:
“People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”
I don’t believe that only “people like Bernadette” (who is my new superhero) need to create though. We all do. Otherwise, we become a menace to society. So little acts of creation (baking, writing, making cards) always make their way onto my feel-good lists, and I have noticed that the less I do them, the more miserable a human I am to be around.
4. Duty / Doing what needs to be done.
This one surprised me. What kept popping up were things like: “give Gracie her meds” and “do the dishes early” and “pay the vet bill ”. It wasn’t so much that doing them made me feel good, but that not doing them made me feel bad. I learned a long time ago that procrastination is painful, so for the most part, I don’t do it. But avoiding little daily duties can creep up on one, and end up causing horrible guilt. So I pay more attention to them now, and when they start to slide, I put them back on my feel-good lists to get the momentum going again.
If you’re keen to give feel-good lists a bash, here are some things that I have found useful to stay on track:
1. Use paper and pens that you love. I started doing this in my journal with an ordinary pen. And then I realised I wanted a big, thick, fat pen (I use a thick permanent marker) on crisp, white unlined printer paper on a clipboard that gets moved about the house with me.
2. Be careful of the “shoulds”. After you have been doing this a while notice if you start to get routine about it, that’s when some of what you think should make you feel good but doesn’t really, ends up on the page. If this happens, the task will lose its magic. It’s about authentically identifying and doing what makes you feel good.
3. Notice what you write often, but don’t do – without judgement.
Lastly, this is not a cure-all. I have ticked off everything on my feel-good list in a day and still felt incredibly low. I see this as an accumulation over time, and a consistent commitment to, in the worlds of Jack Gilbert, being stubbornly glad in the ruthless furnace of the world.