I was gearing up for a short run yesterday and I wasn’t feeling up for it. My mind was racing with all my chores and my energy level wasn’t optimal before a run. Since it was a short run and I almost always feel energized after those, I decided to change my mindset through setting intention. As I tied my laces and went through my warm up, I simply asked myself what I wanted this run to be, knowing that setting expectations would increase my odds at enjoying the run. I told myself that I just wanted to enjoy the movement of my body even if the run felt awkward or uncomfortable. After computer work all day, I needed to push my heart and muscles. I told myself the run would clear my head and leave my worries behind me. I set the intention then and there that after the run I would feel grateful for moving my body, doing something for my wellness practice, and pushing through the uncomfortable phase for a greater sense of stress relief and physical fitness. Guess what? IT WORKED. I felt lighter on my run, less clunky; happier, freer, checking in with the nature around me, and imaging the spring breezes at my back, helping me along.
I’ll admit, I used to be a little bit of an eye-roller at those the social media posts about setting intentions where the subject yoga-poses expertly atop a mountain with a sunset in the background. There’s often a quote on the picture like, “Let your heart lead you,” or “What’s your intention today?” I didn’t get it. You’d think that my competitive soccer days would have taught me a thing or two about how vital mindset is to athletic performance, but it was something under the surface for me; a muscle I never really got in touch with or learned to flex until later. Instead, I battled with negative self-talk back then, and a lot of frustration when I didn’t perform as expected. It wasn’t until I really dove into stress prevention, that I began to understand the life boosting power of setting intentions before actions.
We’ve talked about how key mindfulness via meditation or other practices is to any long-term wellness practice as it builds up resiliency for our stress prevention. Today we’re talking about mindset, and how setting intentions before actions can boost our performance and even increase our enjoyment. I want to distinguish this from positive thinking. There’s absolutely a place for positive thinking, but mindset is more about accepting the present moment AS IS, rather than sweeping anything under the rug. We accept it, but we challenge it with our own intentions as we know the mind will believe almost anything we tell it! I used to think that telling my mind something that wasn’t true (for example, “I want to run today!” when I didn’t feel up to it) was a joke. How would my mind turn things around if I already KNEW I didn’t want to run? It’s pretty simple. Our mind takes thoughts and words like a computer reads code. The more we feed it intentional thoughts, the more it believes them. I promise. The reverse is true for negative self-talk. Our minds will believe those negative thoughts if we repeat them over and over again to ourselves or let someone else repeat them to us. Break the cycle by practicing positive intention setting!
On a more personal note, I decided to apply this concept of intention and mindset to my chronic back pain. I used to wake up and evaluate the pain immediately, giving it power over my morning from the get go. Throughout the day, I’d give my pain a number like a doctor makes you do, and constantly think about what limitations I had based on my pain level that day. I won’t lie to you and say my pain is all gone. Instead, I replaced that constant pain evaluation–which is a completely normal part of chronic pain, by the way–with one simple phrase and it’s made a huge difference in my life: “My pain doesn’t matter.” With this simple phrase, I literally shrug my shoulders and smile when I think or say it. I remind myself that even if I have pain, I live my life how I choose and my pain isn’t here to stop me; it’s a conversation I’m having with my body. I have no problem acknowledging a physical limitation, but I remind myself it’s my CHOICE, not my back’s choice. I realize it may sound odd, but let me tell you, it’s freedom for me. It’s released my mind from that circuitous, endless evaluation which, to be honest, I can’t do squat with and it’s exhausting. Once I gave my pain a number, then what? I mostly would fall into negative self-talk or just feeling bummed that the pain was so high. My pain doesn’t matter. My intention does.
I asked some fellow coaches and friends how they set intentions for inspiration and ideas:
Each Morning as I lie in bed, I set an intention visually. I see myself doing all the activities of my day with enjoyment and ease. In doing so, I have created a map for my mind to follow throughout the day. When I take the time to do this, my day flows beautifully. –Laura Wall, Nourishment Coach
I often consult a book of affirmations that have samples of intentions I can use for the day. They are broken up by category, such as intentions for abundance, family harmony, etc. I also speak intentions that come to mind as I apply certain essential oils over the energy centers of my body, such as, “I release all tension in my solar plexus,” or “I invite in the infinite wisdom into my crown chakra.” –Michelle Harvey, Young Living Essential Oils Independent Distributor & Life Coach
Every morning I set my intentions while I’m driving into work where I know I’ve got to put my best mindset into action. At night, I review my day and my intentions to see where I can improve. -Kelley K.
You can Google sample intentions for lots of ideas and Amazon has cards and books as Michelle mentioned above. IT WORKS! Stick with it even if you aren’t “feeling it.” The brain absorbs the intention and will work with it, rather than against it. It takes practice like anything else, and you’re worth the effort! So is your long-term wellness practice. Happy intention setting, y’all!
I am not a licensed nutritionist or dietitian. You should always consult with a nutritionist and your primary care provider before changing diets in any way or your doctor before trying out any supplement or medication. This article is not meant to cure, heal or otherwise solve any medical conditions whatsoever. It is based on personal experience and research.