02/06/2013 11:07 pm ET Updated Apr 08, 2013

Lists and Lists and Lists


Making lists has become a new form of therapy for me. They are not necessarily to-do lists, but lists that can continue infinitely and don't make me feel like I have goals to meet. For example, one list I am working on in my notebook is titled "names." Items on this list include names of people I've met, names of people I want to meet or names of future children. Writing these down provides a distraction for me. I don't think about anything else going on in my life but the matters on my list.

An article on NPR, "Reasons Why We Love Lists," explains why people love lists so much and enumerated ways that lists can be beneficial in our daily lives. Some of these ways and reasons are only applicable to to-do lists, but others can be functional for the long lists that I make. One concept that the article mentioned which immediately caught my eye was reason number eight: "Lists relieve stress and focus the mind."

At 10:00pm, I will often be sitting in the study, finishing my homework, whether it's chemistry or algebra. During this time, I admit, I have a severe lack of concentration. My mind wanders, and I begin thinking of my lists that I add to and create before bed. Should I make a new one tonight? What should it be about? I have to remember to add Vietnam to "places I want to go."

I can't wait to get to my lists after homework. It gives me an incentive to finish. Once I've showered and snuggled under the covers, I grab my notebook and a pen and write more lists. No list needs to be "finished," because mine are infinite. I don't do "top 10" lists because I feel limited. This lack of pressure allows a nice change from the usual stress deriving from the anxieties of school and sports.

Creating lists also adds the element of focus. As I add to "ideal life," I write down objects that I want included in my future. The list includes words like "London", "journalist" and "travel." Since I have such single-mindedness for discovering those words that I want to add, there's nothing else for my brain to process. I am constantly motivated to make my lists longer, and I concentrate for quite awhile to fill in ideas that I originally missed.

Another point that the NPR article mentioned in "Reasons Why We Love Lists" is reason number 4: "Lists can be meaningful." I was adding to my "dream careers" list when my dad came into my room a few nights ago and asked me, "Why don't you make a list about all the good things in your life, things you're grateful for?"

I realized I had not yet made a list that didn't have something to do with my future. I wasn't really being appreciative of that kind of "in-the-moment" thinking. Therefore, I made a list titled "good things." I listed all of the good things that I had going for myself, such as friends, family, health and abilities. It made me recognize how I shouldn't be solely thinking ahead to the future, but also to the past. I needed to be grateful for things that already happened to me.

Every single list that I make is uplifting, because I feel that it helps enhance the therapeutic portion of list-making. One final point that the article in NPR made was reason number one: "lists bring order to chaos." No matter what is going on in my life, I can take five minutes to look over my lists and add happy thoughts to them. My lists keep me optimistic about my future, as well as the present.