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Why Giving Credit to the Small Things Helps With Mental Health

The other day on “The Mighty,” I read an article listing ways to make yourself feel better about having bad days — bad days being either physical or mental, and in my case both. The part I took to was regarding to-do lists. It can be so hard sometimes when you feel like you aren’t contributing at all, or when you just feel so lousy you can’t do anything. In the article, it mentioned instead of writing to-do lists, write “things done. That seems like an amazing idea to me.

I’m a very type A personality. I’m also a bit — well, maybe a lot — OCD, and not this self-diagnosed ridiculousness many people have, but actual psychiatrist diagnosed. Anyway, lists are like my thing. I literally have a spreadsheet for everything. My lists go on and on: to-do, groceries, wants but not needs, ideas, bills … I’m pretty sure y’all get the idea.

Well, when I have a bad day — or worse, go through a bad rut — I get pretty disheartened that I don’t get anything done. And of course, that just hurts morale much more. So, I was super excited to try this new way of list making out.

Reflecting back after reading the article, I thought back to a dear friend of mine out in Lubbock. At Texas Tech I had a fabulous mentor, Sarah. She was so great. When I had my first major mental breakdown, leading to my array of mental diagnoses, she sat with me and told me it was perfectly fine, to take care of myself and the rest would fall into place.

One of the best pieces of advice she ever gave me was to give credit to the small things. Even if you get out of bed, or brush your hair, whatever it is, you “give credit where credit is due.” And OMG, that had a major impact on me.

I had to start journaling, also a great idea from Sarah, as a way to track my symptoms and stuff. Every day, I would start it off with a section to give credit where credit is due. And that helped. It made me feel good about myself, even when I was literally breaking down every day. Eventually, I got on track and stopped journaling.

But lately, because of how things are going, I picked that same journal back up and started writing again.

That’s when all this really clicked and I was like, “OMG that makes sense!” So off I went to Walmart, because of course its back to school time, and there are dry erase boards for everything. I had it planned out in my head to create two lists, side by side. I still wanted to have my to-dos because I enjoy having that list and seeing where I am with everything I need to do. On the other side, I wanted to create the “things done” list, so I could write down anything I did that stood out to help me feel good and realize how much I actually did.

whiteboard with to do list and things done list with inspirational quote above it

It’s not done yet. I still need to get actual tape to put down the middle — the duct tape I had just doesn’t look too pretty — and I may want to redo the border a different color, but overall it’s looking pretty good. And as you can see, I had a pretty good day.

So yes, it’s a little thing — something that, when you think about it, maybe don’t see why or how it can make that much a difference. But it does. Even if you aren’t a list person, I would recommend trying it out. You don’t have to go all extreme like me, but even if it’s just on a napkin corner, or on your phone, try it for a couple days.

Worst case, it doesn’t work for you and you wasted maybe 10 minutes of your day. But I’m hoping you won’t see it that way, and it works out great for you too.

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