My Spreadsheet of Happiness

A sample of the 700+ items on my Spreadsheet (OK, Podio App) of Happiness.

UPDATE: Podio now has the Spreadsheet of Happiness available in the Podio Apps store!

It’s been a turbulent couple of months for me, personally and professionally. I am normally a positive, productive member of society. But I do get episodes of depression that make even getting out of bed difficult.

There’s a stigma around even saying that much, but I’m open to writing about it, because maybe some of the tools I‘ve found that help me manage the depression could help someone else.

Like for example, my Spreadsheet of Happiness.

People who know me know I love spreadsheets. THEY ARE JUST SO ORDERLY AND SENSICAL IN A CHAOTIC AND NONSENSE WORLD. How could you not love them?

I mean, you have a right to not love them, I suppose. But you’d be wrong.

Anyways, I was feeling just horrible one day and decided to reach out to Facebook friends. I needed to see something outside of my mental state, so I asked them what are some everyday things that give them joy.

The list poured in. Coffee. My cat. Sunrises. Flowers. Books. Some were standard and expected, some were surprising and very specific.

Then I started making a list of my own. Morning light. Forests. The ending to Amelie. Old abandoned warehouses.

And the list kept growing. And growing. And before I knew it, I had more than 700 items.

One of those items: spreadsheets. As mentioned before, God, do I love spreadsheets. So naturally I made a spreadsheet out of the list, complete with categories I can sort, such as “does this thing cost me money” and “can I access this thing now or later.” If I am feeling broke and stuck and need something now, I have a filter that shows me all of the stuff I can do for free, right now. If I want to work toward a larger goal, say a reward for exercising three times a week (one of my other depression management tools), I can sort by the items that need some planning.

I also noticed themes emerge with my list, and I created another space to categorize the items by subject, like travel, connection and creativity. I came up with a handful of topics, which helped me see more clearly the kinds of things that excite me. If I’m feeling deficient in any of those areas, I can then sort the spreadsheet to see what can jumpstart that area of my life.

I let myself geek out, because I know I’m giving my brain doses of much-needed dopamine. I even import the spreadsheet into my favorite project management platform called Podio because GOD DO I LOVE PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND I LOVE PODIO EVEN MORE THAN SPREADSHEETS.

The act of sorting and sifting and importing puts me back in touch with the 700-plus things on the list, and each time, there’s a tiny dose of dopamine. Little by little, bit by bit. Item by item.

A trip to England. A blue sky. The view of the SF skyline. An inside joke. A window seat on a plane.

Now I have it set up where I can track each day if I’ve done any of the things on my Spreadsheet of Happiness (or really, the Podio App of Happinesss). Simply the act of remembering that yes, I just did this thing that makes me happy, makes me happy. Makes me present. Makes me refocus my brain on the positive, the here, the now.

Now, there is no quick fix, and this won’t work for everyone. It’s only one of many tools I’m using, and it only works for me because I know I was ready for it. Sometimes, honestly, I need to be in my depression fully and completely, without judgment, without the need to fix all the bad feelings. I let myself be sad if I need to, and I reach out for help when it feels too much.

In fact, the original post to Facebook that prompted the Spreadsheet of Happiness was my way of reaching out. And it worked, because I knew it came from a desire to take my “dopamine medicine.”

None of this is a replacement for a proper diagnosis and treatment for depression, of course. But any avenue I can use to reinforce a positive outlook is, in my case, medically necessary.

With depression, my brain has a bias toward the negative, and biases lie.

Well, since my brain is lying anyway, might as well balance this out with another bias, one that might actually get me out of bed in the morning.

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