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The Life Giving List – Healthy Ways to Spend My Time

I mentioned in a post last week how right now –  as I go through a pretty intense change of what my habitual way of living has been, and with that a whole slew of changes of thoughts and feelings – I am needing some extra “distraction.”  I am needing activities that I can do to literally take my mind off any coming anxiety and make the hours pass in a healthy way. That being said, using the word “distraction,” may not actually be the healthiest or most long-term way to think about this. Trying to find these “distractions,” I think, are actually a means of collecting new – or better – ways to simply spend my time, regardless of oncoming anxiety. This is a way for me to figure out the activities that I actually find live giving, rather than habitual or damaging or unhealthy. 

shoes on dock life giving

Its amazing how we can live with ourselves for 20…30…50… years and still not really know how to spend our time. For anyone remotely like me, having a lot of “free time” can actually be one of the scariest things offered to us. But with recovery, this is the motherboard of the work that needs to be done. We all must learn to be able to spend time in a way that is self-caring and life giving – without giving in to the pull to run to our unhealthy coping mechanisms or soul-sucking distractions (aka Facebook, instragram, iPhones and screens of all sort). I feel like when we are young, we just subconsciously have a whole list of things that we know we enjoy doing on our down time and we think nothing of it. But as we age (as careers and families and life pressures come into play), sometimes we lose ourselves. And with that comes a need to re-establish, re-learn or re-discover that list of things that we find truly, genuinely enjoyable and live giving. 

Scone journal life giving

The whole notion of “self care” is a funny one. I think even with self care – something that is supposed to be therapeutic – we can be easily pulled into expectations and societal norms.  For example, the stereotypical forms of self care are usually things like: 

Read a book

Take a bath


Paint your toenails

Eat ice cream and watch a movie

Visit a friend

While some of these are lovely notions and do make me feel better from time to time, in general, they do not work for me. I love the idea of sitting down for a whole afternoon and reading a book on the couch, but in reality? I’ve never been able to read for longer than 20 minutes. I get antsy and bored and unfocused and its just not an activity that I’ve ever found to really feel good. If it works for you? Amazing. I’m jealous. 

Same with napping and painting my nails. Nope. Never ever been into either of them. 

Not all self-care works for everyone. What works for YOU? #selfcare Click To Tweet

plays and salad life giving

I used to just make myself do one of these activities because I know they are “supposed” to be self care and should make me feel better. But why would I make myself do something that has never actually helped make me feel better? I’ve honestly always thought I was just crazy and weird and would be rather hard on myself for not being able to enjoy these lovely sounding activities that so many others embrace and enjoy. But then I was talking to a friend who also said, “nope! those things don’t work for me either!” Thank gooddddd. I’m not the only one!!

computer work kitchen life giving

Self care is and NEEDS to be totally unique. That’s the whole point, no? SELF – care?

So then I got brainstorming. What are the things that work for ME? What are the activities that truly, genuinely fill me up with a sense of fulfillment and have the ability to take up hours of my time? These are the things that 1) for now can act as literal strategies for distraction when I am feeling oncoming anxiety and needing something healthy to take up my time and 2) can be my go to list of self care activities when I am needing some soul therapy or simply find myself with free time.  

These things, for me, are what I find life giving. These are the things that truly make me feel at peace, grounded, and invigorated in life. Here’s what I think I’ve got. 

My life giving list of healthy activities and distractions… for ME:


Write – in a journal or a blog post when I am feeling inspired to do so

Have a conversation with my parents – ask them about their childhoods, their upbringing or about the lives of my grandparents 

Learn about my family history – read old letters from my grandparents, pulling out old family trees, asking my parents more questions

Watch home videos

Bake (even if just for someone else if I am overstocked)

fig oat bars life giving

Go through old photo albums, yearbooks and old diaries

Write an email to a friend (blog friends are PERFECT for this). Random and spontaneous… no need to even be a reply to anything. Or a hand written letter to an aunt or uncle. 

Write an email to someone I don’t know but has recently offered me something  –  just saying I enjoyed their latest performance, their restaurant, their hospitality etc. 

Go outside and take pictures

pink tree life giving

Play old music from my adolescence (90s pop FOREVER) as I clean/organize a room

Take myself to a new restaurant or cafe 

Make or write a card to someone

Make a list: Places I want to visit, things I want to cook or bake, restaurants or cafes to try, or blog post on life giving actives 😉

weekly goals life giving 

This list must run parallel to a list of activities that I know are soul-sucking: Those things that we all know we go to when we have free time and yet for some reason don’t choose to pull out the above life giving list and rather waste away hours in a way that is not fruitful to our being.  I wonder why that block exists? When we find ourselves in a moment of free time, why is it often hard for us to bring out this life giving list and actually get ourselves to do something off it? And why is it easier to just go to those soul sucking activities? Habit, I suppose. Ease and accessibility, perhaps. But then we always lament that we are not using our time wisely, or we are aware that we are wasting our time in ways that we’d rather not. And yet we repeat ourselves day after day. 

For me that soul-sucking list includes mindlessly streaming through Instagram, spending too much time reading blogs or other internet streaming, and going to the gym when I really don’t want to exercise. 

Notice how practically all of my live giving list includes no technology? Whereas my soul sucking list is primarily all to do with screens? Interesting. 

tea sunset life giving

I feel a little safer now having an actual list of things I know I enjoy and that ground me – because when I am not in a healthy state of mind or am fighting anxiety, it can be hard for me to think straight. And that is when it is easiest for me very simply slide into one of my unhealthy coping strategies or spend far too much time sucked into one of my soul-sucking distractions. When anxious or depressed, it feels just so much easier to go to that unhealthy list. But then I don’t feel better, and in fact, I just feel guilty afterwards for “wasting so much time.” Now with this list in front of me, I know that with just a simply push, I can start myself on an activity that will end up making me feel at least a bit more connected to myself. It could feel uncomfortable at first, but I feel pretty confident knowing that these things always end up turning me around. 

sun painting life giving

What is on your life giving list? What activities drain you? Let's choose the right list! #selfcare #healthy #distractions Click To Tweet

Tell me, 

What is on your go-to “live giving” list? 

What is on your soul-sucking list?

Need something to do in your free time? Send me a random email! Seriously. Mylittletablespoon@hotmail.com


  1. Kat | 1st Jul 16

    Love this post girl. It is so important to remember that we are each INDIVIDUALS and what works for me won’t always work for you. I think too often we try to follow “rules” or “suggestions” based off someone else, then freak out when it doesn’t work for us. We think we did something wrong or are “broken” because we don’t fit into a mold, but with each of us literally having a unique fingerprint, why would we have the same coping mechanisms or personality quirks? We wouldn’t! Individuality is so vital to who we are and that can get lost so quickly sometimes.
    Kat recently posted…Berry Breakfast PopsiclesMy Profile

  2. Sarah @ BucketListTummy | 1st Jul 16

    I think your message is great here, especially realizing that none of your activities revolves around technology. HOME VIDEOS – I love them! They always make me smile and laugh and bring nostalgic memories. I love the idea of journaling too – something so cathartic about putting a pen to paper. Similarly, your idea to email someone you don’t know is genius. You got this girl, these are great tips!
    Sarah @ BucketListTummy recently posted…Road Trip EatsMy Profile

  3. Emily Swanson | 2nd Jul 16

    I LOVE this post as well Cora, because you are striking at the heart of what it is to go on a health journey. It looks different for everyone, and I totally agree that the self care things on the first list aren’t really my first choices. I love to listen to podcasts, journaling, reading, praying, and just laying on the ground… um… doing nothing. My soul sucking list? Probably feeling like I need to go to 50+ blogs everyday and read. O_O However right along with that on the life giving list is taking time to read about 5-10 posts in depth and leave a thoughtful comment. Ok, so this is weird, but long lists often make me stressed out, but I love small lists. 🙂
    Emily Swanson recently posted…Birthday Cake Cookies (Paleo-ish) + Ice CreamMy Profile

  4. Kristy @ Southern In Law | 2nd Jul 16

    I am lovingggggggggggg this list, girl! We all need to make more time for life giving activities!
    Kristy @ Southern In Law recently posted…Recent Things: Puppy Craziness, Market Days and a Whole Lotta RandomMy Profile

  5. Susie @ SuzLyfe | 2nd Jul 16

    Echoing everyone else that we are all in love with this post. Nothing in life is one size fits all, and nor should it be–we are all individuals, and even with many similarities, no 2 stories are exactly the same. I am so glad that you are being so proactive and figuring out more and more what works for you.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…My Five Summer Fitness Goals 2016My Profile

  6. Lyss | 2nd Jul 16

    Love the idea of the weekly goal list! I want to start doing that. So proud of you for all the progress you’ve made recently Cora. I hope you have a great weekend!
    Lyss recently posted…Top 3 Friday 7/1/16My Profile

  7. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 2nd Jul 16

    I think you nailed it. You have to do things which give you pleasure even if they aren’t on the self care norm list. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, and I think it’s fantastic you’ve identified the things which make you feel wonderful and those that don’t.

    My life giving list is getting the baby up in the morning (I’ve never seen someone so excited to see me), working in the yard, going to farmers markets, doing an outdoor yoga class, reading my book, spending time with my family, enjoying a cocktail and getting in a lazy nap.

  8. Kate | 3rd Jul 16

    Yes I love listening to music from my adolescence! Recently I have been really enjoying music from when I was into country music as a preteen.
    Reading is so fun but I hardly make time for it. I really want to get into audiobooks because they’d be great for walks!
    It’s interesting how we like to relax/revive. Terry loves playing video games for hours. I love reading and sitting outside with music. Soul sucking for me is anything that has expectations and potential opportunities for comparison. I want to make my own list now!

  9. chasetheredgrape | 4th Jul 16

    I adore your list Cora – I was just listening to a 90’s hit mix whilst doing bits in the kitchen on Friday – I just hope my neighbours can’t hear me singing along! Haha!
    But you are so right, the generic self care actions, whilst great, don’t always work. I love to nap and read but in doing so I often feel so guilty. But if I do things like write, send emails or cook then I feel so much happier.
    I also love the fact that you are taking the time to get all those past stories out of your mum and dad – it’s something I love doing and find it facinating! The amount of people I know who literally know nothing about their parents pre their existence is astonishing – yes they did have a life before we came long!!

  10. Week In Review: Calming Down The Crazy - mylittletablespoon | 4th Jul 16

    […] I actually got out a third blog post: The Life Giving List […]

  11. masala girl | 14th Jul 16

    i love this so so so much, Cora. Definitely one of my favorite posts of yours <3 i think a lot of the activites you mentioned are things I enjoy, but need to devote some time to do them, an then, *actually do them*. pay attention to how i feel. i *do* love reading a book, but cant pain my nails or take a nap happily. but i also love list making, going to a new restaurant, baking and cooking, taking a walk, enjoying the scenery, and listening to some good music, and always, tea. thanks for the positive reminders <3
    masala girl recently posted…Dad’s GobiMy Profile

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