What Is a Reverse Bucket List?

For years, we’ve all been building our bucket lists, talking about our bucket lists, and announcing, “I crossed another item off my bucket list.”

It’s a great exercise to set goals, to dream, and to plan for new and exciting experiences. It helps us imagine a future where we’re productive, fulfilled, adventurous.

But what are we doing when we say this? That we aren’t currently - or never have been - fulfilled? That we haven’t achieved plenty already?

Enter the reverse bucket list.

Happiness In Reflection

We caution against ruminating on the past too much; it feeds that negative thought cycle we’re always working to break free of. Mindfulness is the practice that most effectively thwarts the cycle.

But also, we can shine a light on the past with a reverse bucket list. It’s a list of all of our accomplishments and happiest moments. It’s not entirely unlike a gratitude journal, where we list things we have that we’re thankful for.

Yet with a reverse bucket list, you can reflect even further back into your past. What does this do for us?

Because our brains are wired for negativity, actively engaging in positive reflection helps flip the script and access happier trains of thought more easily.

One study published in 2014 supports this theory. The study’s subjects wrote down three positive aspects of the last 48 hours every day for a week. When the study was through, those participants reported an enhanced sense of well-being.

The researchers concluded their experiment with the following: “Our results suggest that exercises like the gratitude 3-blessings treatment may train cognitive biases that are salubrious to subjective well-being.”

In plain English, that means that recounting events with an attitude of gratitude gives our memories a positive spin, and that makes us feel better.

How To Build Your Reverse Bucket List

So, if you want to do one great thing for your health this week, revisit the past with a new attitude.

First, understand that this can’t be done with your mind alone. You must bring your reverse bucket list to the physical world by using a pen and paper to build your list. This way, you can look back on it when you notice your thoughts getting too stormy, or when you recall something that should be included.

Now it’s time to focus. No accomplishment or happy moment is too small to warrant a place on the list. Did you win a ribbon for good attendance in the fourth grade? It goes on the list. Were you over the moon to receive a certain birthday gift one year? Write it down.

Eventually, what you have is a curated collection of your life’s most rewarding moments. The time you rode a rollercoaster even when you were scared to do so, or that time you passed an exam in a subject you don’t like.

Suddenly, the mishaps and missteps don’t loom so large, do they?

The reverse bucket list has become much more useful to our mission for peace and happiness than the regular bucket list. And we’d love to know what you’re including on yours! Comment below to share the joy.


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