If you’ve been living in any location other than under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the term ‘set an intention’. I hear it constantly, from my sister and her co-workers, from magazines and self-improvement books, and from the chick who voices over my yoga app. It was a phrase that I lumped in among with the other helpful-if-I-could-remember-to-use-them phrases….Like, ‘inhale, exhale…ease…and flow…’ or ‘do one thing each day that scares you’ or the classic ‘all is well’ (All was well until Walking Dead season 6 ended…)
It was only recently that I realised setting intentions is a really valuable tool, especially if you suffer from anxiety.
Setting intentions is a way of living purposefully. When you have a desire, or a goal, you intend to reach that goal. That’s an intention. And to set your intention is to act upon this goal. It’s pretty simple but very effective in terms of getting clear on what you want and purposefully moving towards it. The idea behind intention setting is that when you are aware of your hopes and dreams – aware enough to know exactly what they will look like and feel like – you can bring them into your reality.
But Lauren you crazy third-person-talking weirdo, what does this have to do with anxiety? Well. The mind is a helluva powerful thing, and the anxious mind even more so. My anxiety causes my brain to be constantly running a mile a minute, and I’m always so busy thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong in the future that I forget to slow down and live in the present moment. I try to work on this with my mindfulness training (for more of my rambling on mindfulness for anxiety you can check out this post) but there’s never any harm in using as many self-improvement techniques as possible. I really find setting an intention to be the powerful ham in my mindful sandwich. So to speak.
These days when I’m sitting down to do my monthly planning (which makes me sound super organised but really just involves me printing out cute calenders and writing on them in coloured textas) I write an intention list for the month as well. It helps me to understand what I want my life to look like and what to direct my energy towards that month – because it’s always changing. For example, this month I’ve set my intention towards going for afternoon runs with pig, finishing at least one book, and remembering to be present. Three months ago it would’ve been ‘be patient with myself, say yes instead of always saying no, go further in exposure sessions’ -tick! tick! tick! Gold star for me. When I set an intention I think about where I am right now, where I’ve been, and where I want to go – and for someone with anxiety that’s a really crucial exercise. Anxiety sufferers tend to think in terms of what could happen, and what they don’t want to happen. I might panic. I don’t want to panic. I might embarrass myself. I don’t want to embarrass myself. I’ll probably have a heart attack and die. I don’t want to have a heart attack and die. We catastrophize, we agonize, we expect the worst and we hope for the bare minimum of the worst. But we rarely stop to consider the best outcome, and what it is we actually want.
This is why setting an intention is a great tool for the anxious mind. Write a little note to yourself when you start the day, ‘My intention today is to…‘ and fill in the blank. My intention is to move slowly/be present/acknowledge the good/stop moping over the walking dead/eat something other than chocolate. Whatever you feel would move your life in the direction you want, pick that. Not only are you beginning your day with a positivity boost, but you’re keeping your goals and desires in the forefront of your mind instead of shoving them to the back beside ‘how to do fractions’ and ‘stuff I did when I was drunk’. It’s amazing the difference it can make to your day when you are clear from the get-go about what you intend to get out of it.
Do you set intentions for the day/week/month? Or do something similar?