I recently discovered that starting the day with an intention in mind makes me more aware of my thoughts, more likely to pause to reflect on daily events, and contributes to me having a better day. Now, we can all go and say, ‘yes I intend to do this and this and this today’. That is not the intention I am talking about, rather that is your crazy overwhelming to-do list.

The definitions of “intent”:

*Something that is intended; purpose; design; intention

*The act or fact of intending, as to do something

*The state of a person’s mind that directs his or her actions toward a specific object

*Meaning or significance

Tips for writing intentions:

*An intention is usually set in the morning (however, if you’re not a morning person then I suggest setting one before bed and write it somewhere you will see it first thing, like the mirror.) Try to use the actual words, “I intend to…” I don’t know the specifics regarding the effects of positive visualization, I just know that it can’t hurt! Also, the more you are prompted of your intention during the day, the more purposeful you will be, so set reminders on your watch or phone.

*Try focusing on what you do want to feel or have happen in the day as opposed to what you don’t want. Attract some positive energy.

*Don’t put too many expectations on yourself. We all get distracted from our best intentions. It’s a matter of reflecting on- not judging- our experiences to be mindful. I am so guilty of saying, “I hate mindfulness, I can’t do mindfulness” but we all can. Even if we just notice that we are not following our intention, we are still being insightful reflecting on why we are not or “can’t” follow this intention

*Be reasonable. “I intend to be happy” is extremely different than “I intend to find hopeful moments and write them down in my journal”. Shift to what is realistic for you, this day. I struggled with this one in the past naively thinking I could “intend” myself happy and it just doesn’t work like that. But focusing on realistic, what would make this day better, what aligns with your values, will all make living with intention more beneficial to your well-being

*I think the most important part is: reflecting on the day and how you did/did not live with intention. Not to shame yourself but to learn what worked and what was not so helpful. I really enjoy art journaling lately where I write my weekly (or daily) intention down on a page in my journal then doodle, write, collage, draw pictures, paint, etc. while reflecting on how my day is going/went. (You don’t need to be an artist to art journal. Trust me. And look it up on Pinterest because there are millions of ideas.)

One example of my own daily intentions:

I intend to listen to others with an open heart/mind and hear where they are coming from.

Not that I don’t listen to others with an open heart and mind, but you know, sometimes you miss what people are saying because you’re so focused on your own negative wavelengths. I didn’t know how I was going to apply it when I started the day but as the day continued, I found myself really listening and empathizing. A random man messaged me on LinkedIn offering me massages if I would help him come into Canada. Instead of laughing at the fact that people are so crazy and posting this hilarity on Facebook, I chose to think about how terrible this person’s home must be to make intimate offers with strangers and be apart from his loved ones, apart from where and what he knows, and even who he is. Thinking this way did not radically change anything inside me (or outside me) – except it made me feel grateful that I am safe where I am and to have compassion for others which is always important to me.

Living with intention is a lifetime journey not just a checkmark in a box. Life is always busy, we’re on the go and life is passing by, but by taking some time to breathe during the day we can remind ourselves what direction today is going in. It might be different than tomorrow, it might be the same. This is now.

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.