The Smile Files - Sian Angharad Williams - camping

Why having a Bucket List is essential for your mental health

I’m Sian and you many know me as the lady behind ‘100 Things To Do In Wales’ on Instagram (some of my updates are shared via Life Seeker too here).

On my personal journey toward better mental health, I’ve been lucky enough to benefit positively in many ways. I’ve noted what works and what doesn’t work for me personally and the thing that sits above them all is working through a bucket list.    

Here, I share why I started the 100 Things to do in Wales, why I think everyone should have a bucket list, as well as providing you with some suggestions to create and live your own.

Have a pen and paper handy for this bit. To finish I’ll answer a few questions that were sent to me this week.

Why I started the 100 Things To Do In Wales

When I turned 40, just over a year ago I found myself spiraling into depression. I thought only men suffered with a mid-life crisis [cue stereotypical images of men leaving their wives of twenty years for a younger model and a faster car]. 

Yet here I was overweight, grey hairs, lines in my face and past my prime declining into crisis. I was stressed in my job and had to sell the family home due to a relationship breakdown.

I can remember sitting in the office staring into space whilst people were time lapsing around me. I’d cry uncontrollably and was irritable with everyone. I felt like a failure and these continuous negative thoughts led me to consider taking my own life.

Of course, I didn’t do it because I’m here talking to you. My daughter was the main reason I stuck around: I didn’t want to leave Bethan without a mother. I had my reason to stay but I still felt out of control with no understanding of how I was going to become well again.

My employer encouraged me, wrongly I feel, to take antidepressants and whilst these are the answer for some people I wanted a more holistic cure. 

A friend suggested that I work through the Wales Online ‘100 Things To Do In Wales Before You Die’ bucket list. I wasn’t dying but I was thinking about dying so why not?

I challenged myself to complete them all in one year and make myself accountable by recording them on Instagram.

Kicking the bar in Aberyswyth

The benefits of bucket lists for our mental health

Many of us have a schedule that looks very similar: work, family, eat, sleep, repeat. Keeping a bucket list helps us remember what is truly important regarding our own sense of self-fulfillment. Our health is positively impacted when we spend time doing things that bring us joy.

  • Writing down goals helps you to be successful – Writing down your goals increases your chance of achieving them because you have committed yourself on paper to being in the game. Also, having your goals on paper helps clarify what you want and motivate you to act.
  • You feel a great sense of accomplishment – What a great feeling to cross off goals on your list! Your life satisfaction improves because you are achieving what you want in life. You can also add to your bucket list things that you have already accomplished to see how many great things you have done in your life already, giving you a head start on the gratification meter.
  • Helps you create a better, more fulfilled life – You have something to strive for, to look forward to, expanding your knowledge and making you a happier, more fulfilled person.

 

Facing my fears

Create your own bucket list

A bucket list doesn’t literally need to be a list of things to do before you die. It can be a list of things to do this summer holidays or this year or before you reach a certain age.

Sitting down to write the bucket list will make you think about what you really want to do. Not what you need to do or what you think is expected of you by someone else. Its about what you want. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.

So grab a pen and a piece of paper and start to think about what you’d like to do as I work through this list. You don’t have to answer every question but if a question sparks an idea then write it down.

  • Is there something you’ve fancied doing but too frightened to try?
  • What is your favourite kind of scenery? (sea, mountain, woodland?)
  • Is there something you have always wanted to learn?
  • What kind of event or party you have always wanted to attend? (masked ball, Glastonbury?)
  • What food have you never tasted? (go to a restaurant or look up the recipe and give it a shot. Don’t be picky!)
  • Can you think of a way you would like to volunteer your skills and time?
  • Did you love to read as a child?  (make it a goal to read a new book every month) 
  • Were you previously artistic?  (consider taking an art class, or showing some of your pieces)
  • Would you benefit from some regular humor?  (find a buddy to go to a comedy club with you or catch up for chats and giggles with friends). 
World Bog Snorkeling Championships

Start living your bucket list

Hopefully by now you’re feeling inspired to make a plan and when you’ve done that (no matter how small your list is), start taking action to schedule some of these things into your diary.

  1. Try to prioritise things on your list that you feel are easily achievable
  2. Invest your time into making these activities happen
  3. Note down how each one made you feel afterwards
  4. Keep adding ideas to your list as you get into the swing of things

  

Acknowledge your achievements

The truth is that a bucket list is not about dying but about living. At the end of the year, I had completed 54 out of the 100 challenges.

Initially disappointed my mind changed when I realised that I’d completed 54 activities that normally I wouldn’t have done.

I’d entered the World Bog Snorkelling championship, hiked up Offa’s Dyke and wild camped alone, saw puffins and dolphins up close on the Pembrokeshire coast, kicked the bar in Aberystwyth and embraced the beauty and culture of Wales which gave me a greater sense of belonging.

Aside from all that I’d met some fantastic people on my travels and through Instagram. I’m lucky in that every person on Instagram has been positive and encouraging along my journey.

Take note of how living your bucket list has positively impacted your life and acknowledge that sense of achievement, no matter how far through the list you are.

 

Sugar Loaf mountain with my family

Tell me what you’ve been up to!

 As you know, I’m continuing my bucket list journey as part of my everyday life and so I’m really keen to hear about your experiences and how they’ve helped you personally.

Please share them with me, underneath this article in the comments section or via my Instagram account @100_things_to_do_in_wales

Author - Sian Angharad Williams

Author - Sian Angharad Williams

Founder of '100 Things to do in Wales' on Instagram, exploring ways to manage her mental health by embracing the culture, beauty and traditions of Wales. Interested in community wellbeing, online safeguarding, body positivity and all that influences mental resilience.

follow Sian on Instagram

This story is part of the Life Seeker newspaper

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