Busy Lives Can Feel Daunting: 3 Steps To Start Living Intentionally And How It Can Help.
Intentional living can change your life... It not only alters your experience of life, but how you view the world.
It’s so easy to fall into the day to day busyness of life. Running around, taking care of errands, children, chores, work demands and on and on. These things can seem like they are pulling us in a hundred different directions, all of them demanding our full attention when we just don’t feel we have more to give.
What is intentional living anyway?
All the while, we are having a million different thoughts that influence our emotions and vice versa; thoughts within a split second create a moment of frustration, a moment of relief, a moment of happiness, a moment of sadness, a moment of frustration and around the merry-go-round we go.
Our reactions to thoughts or emotions are typically automatic; an angry thought equals angry emotion and possibly angry behavior. Insert any emotion into the pattern. Yet this could not be further from intentional living.
What is intentional living anyway? First, what’s an intention? Merriam-Webster’s definition of intention is, a determination to act in a certain way. In other words, making a choice to behave and do so in a chosen way regardless of our thoughts or emotions.
However, again, most of us live in a reactive way. The definition of reaction is, a response to some treatment, situation, or stimulus; resistance or opposition to a force, influence, or movement. In other words, allowing thoughts or emotions to dictate how we behave and what we do. It also means to resist; resist the reality of what is.
...kind of like resisting a traffic jam or resisting the weather… a true waste of our precious energy.
So, kind of like resisting a traffic jam or resisting the weather… a true waste of our precious energy. Here is an example: I might wake up one morning with plans for a day at the beach, look outside and see the rain pouring down. My thought might be, “wow this sucks, just my luck”, the emotion following may be frustration or irritation, the behavior might be calling my friend and complaining about how awful the weather is and, all the while, getting more agitated. The cycle is likely to repeat through the day, maybe resulting in snappiness toward the husband, dropping things because I’m distracted by my angry rumination… and on and on.
Intentional living is the opposite: I have big plans to spend the day at the beach, yet wake up to pouring rain. I may feel angry or frustrated at first. However, I ask myself, what did I hope to create today? I hoped to create relaxation and calm. Then I choose a thought to have about the situation that is centered in relaxation and calm, “I know I can’t go to the beach like I wanted, so I think instead I’ll open the window and listen to the rain”. Even if I still feel annoyed, I’ll open the window, take a few deep breaths and listen to the rain. From there I begin to create relaxation and calm throughout the day regardless of my foiled plans. I may hug my husband, I might do little chores easily, paying attention to my actions because I am calm and centered…
Which way of living would you prefer?
What is your intention for how you would like life to feel.
Intentional living is a daily practice. At first it may seem arduous, however, I promise, if you are persistent it will begin to come naturally. Here are three steps to beginning your practice of intentional living.
One. Set an intention. Some people like to set intentions every morning. This is kind of like a goal, such as, “my intention for today is to handle all of my responsibilities with patience”. If this is your practice and it works, by all means, stick with it. However, I like to get a little broader. What is your intention for how you would like life to feel. If life feels chaotic or frustrating right now, what would you rather if felt like? Peaceful? Happy? Joyful? Calm? Choose a way of being you’d like to experience more often than not every day. This will be your intention for life, your mantra, if you will; I am peaceful. I am happy. I am joyful. I am calm.
Two. Surround Yourself With Your Intention. By this I’m referring to your environment. What you see in your surroundings day in and day out affects you… a lot. If your intention is to be joyful, your living environment needs to match that. If your first response to this is, “yeah, right, not with my kids”, I get it. I have a family, I have a busy life. This will not be perfect and that’s okay. The intention was not perfection… the intention was joyful. So, in your current world, what would a joyful environment look like? Would your bedroom be clean and organized when you wake up in the morning? Would your home be decorated with colors that make you feel uplifted? Would you have affirmations scattered around for you to read at random? Would you have pictures that bring you a sense of joy when you see them?
Apply this to your car (what do your bumper stickers say? Do they communicate your intention?), your office, even your garage. Everywhere. If you’re traveling, what can you bring with you that reminds you of the intention? Some people like crystals or stones, throw blankets or a specific hat, a playlist on the phone or affirmation cards. Pack it and take it with you.
Let’s take this further. How would you dress if you were living within that experience; what colors, what patterns… etc? What jewelry would you wear? If you wear makeup, how would it look?
...it’s important to set aside a short period of time to clear your head and get ready for the day.
This may seem extreme or daunting, however, there is no need for it to be. In fact, the process in itself can begin creating your intention. Simply choose somewhere to begin, your bedroom is always a good starting point because it’s the first and last place you see in the day. Complete one area and then, when you are ready, move on to the next. It will begin to feel like a natural progression of your intention.
Three. Create a Morning Ritual. So often we, as busy Americans, wake up in the morning on the go. We are quick to jump into our hectic lives without a thought about how we’d like the day to go. However, this only sets you up to stray away from your intention. In the morning, first thing, it’s important to set aside a short period of time to clear your head and get ready for the day. Rituals are a great way of doing this.
A ritual is a routine practice that you maintain over time. The practice can be a spiritual one, a meditative one, a cleansing one, whatever it is that helps to sustain your intention. If yours is happiness, what morning ritual could start your day within an air of happiness? Is it an uplifting daily reading? Is it looking through your favorite pictures? Is it writing in a gratitude journal? Is it sitting on your porch with a good cup of coffee?
My intention is peace. Every morning I sit in silence on the couch and just allow myself to wake up. I have a cup of coffee and, if the weather cooperates, I sip it on the back porch overlooking the garden. Then I will sit in meditation for fifteen minutes to one hour, depending on the amount of time I have that morning. Every day it’s the same thing. My ritual sets the tone, however, what follows is not always rainbows and unicorns living in utopia. Of course not. Yet, the way that I handle the frustrations or challenges that arise throughout the day is within an air of peace rather than a wave of frustration or stress.
Intentional living can change your life in so many ways. It not only alters your experience of life, but how you view the world. Living with intention gives you the opportunity to find happiness in the everyday regardless of things that may occur along the way. Starting the practice is easy. Just simply start where you are right now and your process of change will begin.
Sarah is a psychotherapist and life coach. She specializes in anxiety, body image, eating disorders, and trauma. If you're interested in working with Sarah, contact her for a free consultation.