We’ve been talking about self-care. Or in other words, the ways in which we take care of our own needs rather than expecting others to do it for us.
The second part of my self-care recipe is “living with intention”. This is also known as living “on purpose.”
When we live intentionally, we know the reason for doing what we’re doing. We have guidelines for living that we create for ourselves. We design our life the way we want it, rather than being pushed and pulled by the stressors of life.
Living without intention is much like driving without GPS to a place you’ve never been but think you know where it is. Sometimes you get there, and other times you circle around a bit trying to find it.
Here are a few signs that you may not be living with intention:
- You answer the phone every time it rings, no matter what you’re doing.
- You over-commit to your church, your child’s school, etc.
- You find yourself engaging in social activities that you dread.
- You text and drive.
- You eat while watching TV/surfing the internet.
- You over-eat.
- You drink too much alcohol.
- You spend more than an hour a day on social media.
- You find yourself saying, “I just can’t help it,” More often than you’d like.
- You get sidetracked easily or have difficulty completing a task.
Intentions can make even routine things more enjoyable and purposeful. Everything you do can have an intention. Even seemingly mundane things like doing dishes or changing a diaper.
Here are a few ways you can start living with more intention:
1. When the phone rings, or the text bell goes off, think for a moment about whether or not you need to respond to it right away.
We all do it. You’re sitting a lunch with a friend, and the phone makes a noise, so you grab it and look…just in case it’s important. I’ve even had patients during a therapy session who check their phone each time it makes a noise. We’ve been conditioned to respond like Pavlov’s dog every time we heard that “bell”.
Change your notification settings. Silence your phone until you’re available. The iphone even has a setting called “Do Not Disturb” where you can have your phone silent unless it’s someone you designate such as your babysitter or child’s school. With today’s technology, we can be overwhelmed or in control. It’s really up to us.
2. When faced with a mundane task such as laundry or dishes, (my personal two least-favorites) think first about why you’re doing it and set that intention.
I usually remind myself that by taking the time to fold this laundry, I’m caring for the people I love. Additionally, by leaving my daughter’s clean laundry in a basket on her bed, I’m intentionally teaching her responsibility for folding her own clothes and putting her things away.
3. When you’re overloaded with too much to do, make a list of everything cluttering your mind.
Then cross off the things that absolutely DON’T need to be done right now, as well as anything that isn’t your responsibility. Then look at what’s left and set an intention or each- a reason for doing them before you do them, and then remind yourself of that reason if you’re tempted to get sidetracked.
Today I needed to write this blog post. I set aside time to do it and reminded myself why I was doing it: to help others and keep interesting content on my website. It’s easy to get distracted, so I turned off my phone, as well as my email alerts on my computer. Just for an hour. If I don’t, I might decide to check that one email that just popped up in my line of vision and then down the rabbit hole I go…checking email, surfing the internet, mindlessly scrolling through a facebook newsfeed. All because I decided to veer from my original intention.
4. Set rules for yourself.
I learned this from author, Gretchen Rubin in her book, The Happiness Project. She created her own rules for living, which I encourage everyone to do. These will be unique to you, and everyone’s list is different. Here are a few of mine:
- Eat in the kitchen, while seated. (this stops me from mindless eating in front of the TV, and encourages me to just sit and eat, rather than multitask; both of which can lead to over-eating because I’m not paying attention to whether or not I’m still hungry.)
- When asked to commit to something in the future, give the answer, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” I’ve learned the hard way that if I commit to something right away without first checking with my family, and making sure I really want to do it, I usually regret the decision.
- “I don’t want to.” is a good enough reason. This took me 40 years to learn. Women, especially, please listen to me when I say this:
It’s ok to say no, AND it’s ok to not want to.
Living with more intention and purpose doesn’t happen overnight, but with practice, you can do it. I think you’ll find it helps you relieve stress and take better care of yourself.
If you need help living a more intentional life, contact us. We can help.