I love lists. I use them to manage every part of my life. But they do more than just help me itemize my goals for the day. New research shows that writing to-do lists can help your health in a bunch of surprising ways, from making you happier to upping your workouts (key right now). Here's why:
1. They're empowering
Every time you cross something off your list, it's like your own little pat on the back. "Surprisingly, lists help us reach our goals even when we don't accomplish everything on them," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Each time you cross something off, it's a mental reminder that you're making progress, an advance that's both gratifying and empowering. That might be why 50% of list makers write down tasks after they've been completed.
2. They boost brainpower
Jotting your chores down on paper cuts back your mental clutter. "You can keep only seven to nine different things in your working memory at the same time," says Lyubomirsky. "So when you try to remember all the errands you need to run, you use up your cognitive energy. But if you make a list, you free up brainpower to analyze your tasks and prioritize, delegate, or even eliminate some. Plus, you have a much better chance of actually picking up the dry cleaning."
3. They simplify decision-making.
If you're paralyzed by indecision, make a brainstorm list. Jot down anything that comes to mind, no matter how improbable. The no-rules quality of such a list can reveal themes and solutions you might not think of otherwise. The simple act of tackling the problem on paper can also help you feel better equipped to handle it.
4. They can turn around a bad day
Downer day? List your happiest moments, such as the day you first fell in love or bought your puppy. Then close your eyes and relive an event as though you were actually there. One study found that people who reminisced 10 minutes twice a day reported increased happiness after 1 week-and the more vivid the memories, the greater the gains.
5. They motivate you to reach a goal
Let your to-do list egg you on when you feel like giving up on a goal. People who compiled weekly gratitude lists exercised for 80 minutes more per week than those who didn't, perhaps because they were more enthusiastic about life in general, according to recent research at the University of California.
Track your progress, get motivated and reach your goals with this free online tool.
More Tips for Living Happier and Healthier from Prevention
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