April 23, 2018

Intentions can be life changing—they’re a force that can help guide our interactions, help us make decisions, and help us set and reset our mood throughout the day. But we tend to think “intentions” are reserved for the person seated in lotus pose, in complete silence, in a salt cave, and/or floating on a whole new frequency. If we lead a busy life, taking time to breathe, focus, and find a sense of direction seems out of reach.

But for those of us who can’t get to that 6 a.m. sunrise yoga session, we can still make intentions a part of our day-to-day—we just have to get creative about it.

Intentions = Your Daily GPS

“An intention is a positive call to action about something you want to do,” Diana Raab, Ph.D., explains in Psychology Today. “Setting an intention is about giving direction or meaning to our lives. It also could mean changing an attitude about something as a way to transform or change.”

Intentions can help you live less on autopilot and more with purpose. It’s like setting a destination on your internal GPS. If you set an intention, then you can steer your actions to reflect that desire and protect your energy and attitude as necessary.

Intentions can help you live less on autopilot and more with purpose.

For example, when I set an intention to feel more calm during my busy workday, it reminds me to look out for opportunities to make that a reality––I make sure I get outside for fresh air during my lunch break or focus on my tasks one at a time.

Setting daily intentions can also help you stay grounded and focused on the present. When you take a moment to set an intention, it gives you the chance to check-in on your emotional state, accept it, and then focus on how you want to feel and what will help you get there.

But when does one set an intention? The best way to make it a habit is to integrate intentions into things you already do.

Here are some unexpected moments throughout your day where you can build in an intention practice:

7:00 a.m.: Brushing Those Teeth

After hitting the snooze button for the fourth time, you finally bolt out of bed and hurriedly get ready for the day ahead. Maybe those two minutes that you take to brush your teeth will be the only time that your feet are planted in one place for the rest of the morning. Take those few moments to set an intention.

As you brush those pearly whites, ask yourself: How do I want to feel today? Think about the mood you want to evoke from your day—then, recite it to yourself (it’s OK if a little toothpaste hits the mirror). “Today, I will feel calm.” “Today, I will feel capable.”

8:45 a.m.: Riding the Elevator

Perhaps you’re on your way up to your 12th story office. The elevator is crowded, but everyone is quiet and still in a morning haze.

During the ascent, set an intention for how you want to approach your work today. With a little more creativity? A little more confidence? A little more space not to finish everything?

10:00 a.m.: Nature Calls

By this time, your bladder is screaming or maybe your morning coffee has moved things right along. Instead of scanning Instagram while you, uh, do your thing, use those few precious minutes alone in the restroom to get centered.

Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now, as I power through my day? How can I feel a little more direction as I hustle? Maybe it’s setting an intention to prioritize the most important thing, or taking a few deep breaths to get back to the feeling you want out of your day.

Check in with yourself, and see what you need to feel a little more grounded. Then, don’t forget to flush.

3:00 p.m.: Before the Big Presentation

You’ve been working on a presentation for weeks and, in a few short moments, your bosses will walk into the room. You’re reasonably nervous because you’ve put in the work and don’t want to trip up.

As the door swings open and they walk into the room, take one deep breath and reaffirm your sense of self-worth. “I intend to believe in myself.” “I’m ready for this moment.” Or, maybe “All I can do is my best—and know that’s enough.”

7:00 p.m.: Cleaning Up the Kitchen

Yes, even as you wash dishes, you can take a moment to ground yourself.

As you scrub that dirty mug or load the dishwasher, ask yourself how you want to wind down your evening. Do you want to have a cozy night in or do you want to catch up with friends?

Whatever you need to do for your energy, do it. “I intend to create inner and outer peace.” “I intend to nurture my relationships.” “I intend to enrich my appreciation for the arts (perhaps through an evening Netflix session).”

8:30 p.m.: Garbage Time

Taking out the trash might rank as one of your least favorite chores (it’s certainly one of mine), but think of it as a metaphor as you take a moment to set an intention.

As you walk from your door to the bin to literally get rid of the ick, ask yourself: What negative energy do I want to get rid of to make room for positivity in my life? Maybe it’s a bad habit or negative self-talk.

Once you’ve thought of it, take a deep breath (preferably when you’re far from the trash can), let it go, and tell yourself: “I intend to seek out positive influences.” “I intend to be open to new friendships.” “I intend to speak lovingly to myself.”

9:00 p.m.: Prepping for Zzzzs

By this time of the evening, you’re probably exhausted and ready to crawl between your warm, cozy sheets. The only thing that stands between you and those sweet Zzzs is your bedtime routine.

As you change into your pajamas, wash your face, and brush your teeth, ask yourself: What good things happened to me today?

Maybe someone gave you their seat on the train or you randomly got a free coffee at your local cafe. Perhaps you received a really affirming text from a friend. Take these quiet moments to reflect on the day’s positive moments––then tell yourself: “Today, I intend to be grateful.”

These are just a few ways to work intentions into your schedule—but the choice is yours. Maybe your go-to time is when you're cooking dinner, getting dressed for the day, walking the dog.

What matters most is finding a time that works for you, and then letting that activity become a reminder to check in with yourself. All it takes is a few seconds to get a little more centered.


Read next: How to Harness the Power of a Personalized Mantra