Renew You Challenge: Create a wish list

Are the days blurring together? Here’s help filling your calendar with fun and meaning.

LIz Wallace
Mature woman staring out a window.

The Renew You Challenge is the newest health and wellness experience from Renew by UnitedHealthcare® to help inspire you to take charge of your well-being every day. Every weekday in October, we’re sharing new ideas to help build up your body, mind and spirit.


Quarantine fatigue is real. We all miss seeing loved ones in person like we used to. Many of us have had to cancel vacation plans or put regular outings and activities on pause. But just because there’s been a shake-up in our routines doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to. 

That’s where wish lists come in. These are exactly the kind of days when it’s helpful to look ahead and make some fun plans for the days and weeks to come, says clinical psychologist Lewina Lee, a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. 

“Research studies have shown that being able to see yourself in the longer-term future is beneficial to our well-being,” says Lee, whose expertise is in healthy aging, stress and optimism. 

But it’s not as simple as fantasizing about your post-pandemic adventures all day. “It’s important to balance this long-term perspective with a focus on the present and what we can do at the moment,” she says. 

Not exactly sure how to go about that? We’ve mapped out some simple guidelines for creating a wish list that can help you get from “woe is me” to “I can’t wait!” 

Rule #1: A Wish List Is Not the Same Thing as a Bucket List 

Staying in the present helps you take care of yourself. When so much of what’s going on outside of your home feels beyond your control, focusing on what you can take charge of is empowering, says Lee. 

And something that’s definitely within your reach is filling your time today, tomorrow and in the next few days and weeks. In other words, don’t confuse a wish list with a bucket list. Save that bucket list for bigger lifetime experiences you hope to have. 

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Rule #2: Focus on the Here and Now

Now that you know what a wish list is not about, it’s time to grab your pen and paper and come up with some things that you can put on your calendar. Make two columns: one for ideas you can do fairly soon, and one for things that you’ll enjoy a few days or weeks out. 

When you sit down to make your list, your mind might draw a blank about what to put on it. “One useful strategy is to identify your core values, such as family, friendship, self-care, spirituality, giving back or community life,” Lee says. 

As you start to think of ideas to fill your columns, ask yourself: Is there anything I could do in the next day or two that would be fun and fulfilling in terms of my values? Next, repeat the question while looking a little further out in time. 

Rule #3: Keep It Real

The key to making a useful wish list during a pandemic is being realistic, says Lee.

When you’re filling out your columns, take into account travel restrictions and other outside factors (like crowds), as well as personal limitations, such as your mobility. “Think of ideas that are feasible right now, but still enjoyable and meaningful to your core values,” says Lee. 

This means you shouldn’t put “fly to Rome” or “go to an Oktoberfest celebration” on your wish list because you simply can’t do that now. But you might be able to take part in a virtual kickoff of a local fall festival. And if you weren’t in shape to go for a hike before the pandemic, a walk through a scenic park might be a better weekend idea than journeying to a nearby trail.

Rule #4: Get Creative

Struggling to fill out your list? Lee suggests investing some time in researching new ways to enjoy yourself. Now’s the time to be open-minded, she says. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Make your weekend feel like a weekend. Sleep in late. Order groceries or takeout for a special dinner or brunch, set up a chair outside for a relaxing change of scenery, and make a pitcher of iced tea. Then lounge.

Get cooking again. Experiment with a new recipe (from your cookbook collection or your favorite cooking show) once a weekend, say every Sunday afternoon.

Explore the arts. Visit the websites of local museums, symphonies, dance troupes and theaters, to see what virtual performances or talks are coming up. Mark events that interest you on your calendar. 

Schedule family time. Put regular video chats on your calendar and bring coffee and pastries to make the catch-up feel a little more like breakfast together. 

Reconnect with friends. Schedule a call for afternoon tea with friends every month. Mix it up every now and then with a mocktail happy hour.

Picnic. Find a time to join one or two friends outside. Bring some folding chairs and a few lunch items, and enjoy both the great outdoors and your close relationships.

Prioritize yourself. Brainstorm a list of fun activities you always wished you had more time for, like playing Scrabble, doing a jigsaw puzzle or sending a greeting card to a friend. Schedule time on your calendar for this kind of fun, too.

Enjoy your favorite authors. Read more. Put those authors’ new releases on your calendar, and preorder the books online or request the e-book from your library. 

Start a virtual book club. Once you’ve made your list of books, send a group email to a few friends who might be interested in reading along with you. Set a date for the meeting. Look up book club guides online for help making a list of thought-provoking questions to discuss.

Fill Your Free Time With Fun

Want more ideas on how to help boost your happiness? Find a variety of inspiring activities from Renew. Sign in to your plan website and go to Health & Wellness. Then type Inspiring Activities into the search bar. Not a member? Learn more here


Research your family tree. Connect with loved ones by discussing family history (over the phone or via video chats) and sharing stories and old photos. Mark out time to put together a photobook, compile family recipes or work on a genealogy project.

Move more. If you’re not already engaging in regular movement, write down activities you enjoy that get your body moving. Set a goal to start doing them once or twice a week. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your health care provider or a fitness professional for some simple and safe ways to begin. Or try one of the Renew You Challenge workouts. They’re fun and suitable for many fitness levels. To find them, sign in to your plan website plan website and go to Health & Wellness. Then type Renew You Challenge into the search bar. Not a member? Learn more here.

Sketch out a day trip. Is there a nearby town with lots to see? Or, if it’s possible for you, plan an overnight visit with a family member who has been practicing social distancing as well. 

Start a long-term project. Find a home improvement, arts or outdoors task that might take months to finish, then lay out weekly and monthly goals to check off.


Catch up with the Renew You Challenge:

Download your Renew You Challenge calendar here

Day 1: Strengthen Your Core

Day 2: Eat More Real Food Today

Day 3: Do These 6 Important Health Checks

Day 4: Help Your Hips

Day 5: Reframe a Negative Thought

Day 6: Help Improve Your Posture