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Setting Intentions

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Britney is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in mental health and animal-assisted social work.

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What are intentions?

Intentions help guide decision-making, problem-solving, strengthens relationships, promotes self-esteem and self-reflection, and can help you live a more fulfilling life.

What are some examples of intentions? They can be very broad or very specific. A broad intention can be “Today I intend to be kind to myself”. Each time you have a disparaging thought about yourself, remind yourself that “I am intentionally being kind to myself” and let the negative thought go. A specific intention can be “Today I intend to be more productive and clean up the house”. Then, you can set goals for the day that support the intention.

In short, intentions are how you plan to do something- how you plan to spend your day- how you plan to live your life.

What are the benefits of setting intentions?

Intentions are how you plan to do something. Interestingly enough, in the medical field, an intention is the "the process by which or the manner in which a wound heals". Setting daily intentions can help heal the wounds of the past and focus on the here and now- what we in the biz call “mindfulness”.

Mindfulness is the skill of using both the emotional and the logical parts of the mind. Many people have the misconception that mindfulness is meditation. IT can be, but it doesn't have to be. The idea is to be fully aware of what is happening around you at any given moment. The goal of meditation is relaxation or connecting to spirituality. But the goal of mindfulness is to ground you in what is happening right now. The human mind is easily distracted. Using a daily intention can help keep you focused on the present.

Being mindful and setting intentions can help to decrease anxiety and depression, as well as regulate your mood. This is because when the mind wanders, those feeling intensify with the lack of a solution. Anxiety is a useful emotion to help you plan and prepare. What happens when you can't plan or prepare? What happens when you have little to no control about what has or what will happen? That's when anxiety becomes problematic. When stuck in thoughts about the future, remember that the future doesn’t even exist yet. When stuck in thoughts about the past, remember that you cannot change what has already happened. Setting a daily intention can help keep you focused on what you can control- the present moment.

The great part about setting intentions is that is is easy, you can do it at any time, and it doesn't take long. It is simple to work intention setting into your daily routine.

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When and how do I set intentions?

This depends on you, your values, and your goals! You can set intentions daily, weekly, monthly, or even annually. You can even set intentions for specific events.

There are many ways to set intentions. Some professionals will give you a structure like, “I will [SPECIFIC BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]”. This kind of structure tends to be more of a goal than an intention.

Here are some other examples:

  • Daily Goal: Today I will smile at strangers.
  • Daily Intention: Today I will spread positivity.
  • Weekly Goal: This week I will go to bed by 9pm and wake up by 6am each day.
  • Weekly Intention: This week I will get enough rest.
  • Monthly Goal: This month I will wash, dry, fold, and put away the laundry on the same day.
  • Monthly Intention: I will be more productive with my time this month.
  • Annual Goal: This year I will improve my mental and physical health.
  • Annual Intention: This year I will keep an open mind and try to look for the positives in each situation.
  • Event Specific Goal: At this party, I will overcome the anxiety and talk to a new person.
  • Event Specific Intention: I will work on being less anxious in social situations.

Tips for Following Through:

  1. Writing your intention down makes it more likely that you will follow through with using it. If writing things down isn't your thing, try typing it or recording a voice memo.
  2. Try to schedule a time each day to set your intention, either in the morning for that day or in the evening for the next day.
  3. If you tend to forget or this is a new habit for you, try setting an alarm to remind yourself.
  4. Posting your intention in a spot that you will see throughout the time period can be helpful, too. If you're going to be out and about, save a memo in your phone or create a graphic to use as your lock screen.
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What is the difference between intentions and goals?

Intentions are not goals and they are not resolutions. Intentions are always occurring, whereas goals and resolutions have an endpoint; they are something to achieve. Intention is the action, the process, of achieving your goals. Goals may take time to come to fruition, intentions can occur in each present moment. Lastly, goals are often externally motivated, like completing a training course or obtaining a degree in order to get a job that you want. Intentions are internally motivated, meaning they come from who you are and are based on your personal values.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Britney

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