Morning Intentions For Happiness…Right?

There are a lot of things we are supposed to do in the morning.

We should write down our dreams, eat good breakfasts, and stretch. We should get hydrated, go for a jog, and meditate. Depending on who you ask, you’re a fool if you leave out one or more of these.

But what about morning intentions? Are they useful? Are we all supposed to do them so that we can be happy, shiny people bubbling with cheer and healthy bank accounts and perfect relationships in no time at all?

Here I’m going to re-explore the question of happiness and how to find it through morning intentions. There are no solid answers to be found here, only some things that have been helping me to feel less crazy lately.
Happiness: Hmmmm….

I’ve been reading a great book about happiness recently called “The Happiness Trap.” Undoubtedly, it will show up in more than a few posts from here on in. The main thing I’m gaining from it is the acknowledgement that there are various definitions of “happy.”

A lot of times, we take the word to mean “a pleasurable feeling,” and we seek it out to no end, beating ourselves up if we can’t achieve it.

The other definition has to do with living a meaningful life. Living a life that is in line with your values, and that is fulfilling. Such a life will not always meet the expectation of a “pleasurable feeling”.

Even the healthiest long-term relationship is bound to have some ups and downs, and a healthy life is not going to be bliss and cheer every step of the way. Acknowledging this is important. My morning intentions are not for bliss; they are for living a life that feels real and friendly to the person living it.

Which Things Always Create A Desirable Feeling?

There are certain things that I do sometimes that never fail to lead to me feeling good. Some of these include:

  • Running with the dog.
  • Reading a fictional book for at least a half an hour.
  • Looking at the sky or a natural surrounding for a few minutes without thinking too much about it.
  • Drawing, doodling, creating art with colors on paper.
  • Making up ditties on the guitar for characters in my short stories to understand them better.
  • Cooking a nice meal.

These things generally never make me feel worse, or more stressed, or more anxious, or like I wasted time.  They are things I love, things that nourish me and help me to improve a skill that I value. The problem is, on most days I don’t have time for each and every one of them.

So sometimes, in the morning or during the heat of my workday, I will commit to one of them; and do an intention that way. Instead of a complex list of things that are supposed to bring me some type of happiness, I’ll pick something that is likely to lead to inspiration and a feeling of working with a fulfilling life.

 

Respecting the Uniqueness of Each Day with Morning Intentions

Each day is a unique conglomeration of factors. Sometimes you feel like you are getting sick. Other times, you feel on fire with creativity. Your hand might hurt from yesterday’s writing episode, or your legs might hurt from yesterday’s workout. On certain days, you are booked with plans and on others, your schedule is blissfully open.  This is important too, I think.

No intention is going to work every single day of the week.

Listen to your body, to your mind, to the mood it is in. Listen to the weather and your schedule. Think of an intention based on those things; give yourself room to notice what the day is saying.

If you wake up and feel like you are coming down with a cold and you notice that it is rainy and chilly, perhaps the nature walk intention is not the ideal one to commit to. Perhaps today is a good day for the hot tea and bath intention.

Keeping It Simple

Sometimes it’s fun to make an elaborate plan. Today after work I shall finish 2,000 more words of my short story and I shall also run three miles whilst creating a slow-cooked turkey dinner with herbs from my garden! Yes, a perfect day in paradise! But all of that can lead to some rushing, some frantic energy, and a whole lot of lack in the slow enjoyment department.

Keep it simple. Maybe one intention a day is good. Maybe your intention is about your health.  “Today, I will smoke one less cigarette than normal.” or, “Today, I will get a vegetable that I have not tried in a long time.” Something small, easy, doable. Or, something vague. “Today I will notice how my body feels after each meal.”

Forgiveness, Acceptance, and Compassion

I am trying to learn more about compassion and how to use it in relation to my own destructive emotions. So far, I know that one thing that truly seems to work for me and troublesome or “negative” emotions is to welcome them. That’s easier said than done.

But I feel a bit closer to acceptance after asking myself:

  • Where does this emotion affect my body?
  • How would I explain this feeling in my body?
  • How long has this feeling been happening?
  • How long will it happen, can I time it?
  • What is happening outside of this feeling?

These things are not directly accepting or welcoming a feeling, but they do encourage curiosity which lets me see the feeling in a way that is more useful than just fusing with it and letting it dominate my awareness.

Do you have feelings that can get in the way of your creativity, your writing, your music, your joy?

The Best Morning Intentions For Happiness

Having wide intentions, broad strokes of awareness, and many things to pick from can be a great way to have each day bring you to a more healthy relationship with yourself & your community. Or at least, they do that for me.

Don’t try to be too “happy” and don’t assume that others are feeling that way, either. Don’t try to make a million intentions that you’ll never keep up with, or stay too focused on getting excess money and a perfect relationship. Stay real, stay here, look at what is happening now. Find those things that always leave you in a better place and do one of them every so often with abandon.

The Science of Morning Intentions

This will be an upcoming topic for a post. I am going to do some research on various things, including priming, memory, and adrenaline.

 

Do you use morning intentions? Do you use them to try and attract more money, or a partner, or to get healthier? Or something else?

Do you find that having some type of intention can help you with your writing, such as a set goal for the amount of words to do in a day? (Especially now that NaNoWriMo is coming up…)

Or is the whole business of “intentions” some type of hippie crap that is best left to the vultures?

30 thoughts on “Morning Intentions For Happiness…Right?

  1. Many thoughts come to mind.

    First: intentions are great in theory, but useless in reality. “Intention” is derived from the root word “intend,” which is defined as “to have in mind a purpose” by Mirriam-Webster. So far so good. But how do we get from point A to point B? Why do so many of our intentions fall short at the end of each day? Because we cannot intend to succeed with our intention unless we have determined both a realistic means of manifesting them — step by step — and we follow through with the implicit ACTIONS necessary to make our intentions happen.

    So many sociopaths intend to be more compassionate, but here’s a powerful & intriguing fact about that. By definition, a sociopath is INCAPABLE of feelings of empathy, as their psychological makeup is lacking the inherent concern for the well-being of others. Does this mean a sociopath is F.O.S. when they claim to have good intentions? Not necessarily. Recent studies are showing that because of the high intelligence most sociopaths possess, they very likely desire to behave in a manner that demonstrates their ability to adapt to societal norms; however, it is clinically impossible for a sociopath to behave acceptably based on a genuine desire to consider the feelings of others. Their brain cannot comprehend this. Sociopaths function from the ego-driven intentions. Whatever satisfies the ego gets precedence. Period.

    So are intentions useful? I believe they are necessary. But they are useless without a commitment to a specific goal of ACTION in order to carry them out. Only then are intentions worth their weight. (Like an abusive husband; “I intend to stop beating my wife.” Who cares? Just STOP! :) You catch my drift.)

    I’m sorry for rambling. I always do this dangit! But goodness gracious your brain sparks my brain and the fire blows up. I’m sorry if I took to much space here. ;)

    One quick thing… I absolutely begin my day with intentions. But I’m reminded of a great quote, specifying the distinction for me between the ‘power of positive thinking’ and the more accurate ‘law of attraction’: “You do not attract what you want; you attract what you are.” –James Lane Allen :)

    • Wow, that is an intriguing quote! I’m going to let it simmer in my brain for a bit.

      I am so glad your thoughts get sparked, it is interesting to think of the intentions that are actually meant to help people who are sociopaths or abusive partners, I was thinking of them more as intentions for people who already have it pretty good in the grand scheme but want to have it better. Now my brain is prying open in new ways thinking about a whole spectrum that I wasn’t even considering!

      And do not worry about the space you use- you could leave eight comments of that exact length on this one post and I wouldn’t be bothered in the least, ever.

      • Awesomeness. Squared. :)

        And I took that direction in my response simply because your post inspired me to dig deeply into what an ‘intention’ really means.

        When I got to thinking, the first thing that came to mind was all of the disappointment I’ve experienced by people who mistreat others, exploit them even, for their own personal gain. I was always a very self-aware, independent, goal-oriented woman. In my senior year at college, I would’ve laughed had anyone suggested that I’d fall in live with a sociopath and instantly become pregnant with twins, being abused and isolated from civilization — never planning to have kids. That sounds preposterous.

        But it happened. And six months after having twins, I became pregnant — AGAIN. I suddenly had no way out and no clue how I got there. Even crazier? This man was so cunning, so gifted and charming that he conned my family into taking out a second mortgage to invest in his “business plan” …$55,000 to build custom motorcycles. He blew the money on coke and hookers. I left him once my third child was 8 weeks old.

        I look back at how adept this man was at winning people over. His own mother, to this day, stands by him in spirit, claiming she has compassion because he “has good intentions;” in other words, he means well.

        I don’t give a damn if you intend to be less evil. Your intentions can kiss my ass, frankly. ;)

        And the effect that period in my life has had over my perspective is beautiful after everything’s said and done. Because even now, I have developed a sort of accountability of heart; if I say to my children “I intend to take you to the park today if you are kind to one another,” I’ve already COMMITTED myself to doing exactly that. I take my own intentions very seriously now. Because even if it’s only in the context of our own sense of self, your word is the only thing that no one can take from you. Integrity.

        I know it’s rather tangential from your original train of thought, but maybe it was a wavelength the universe wanted you to ride…

        I keep my intentions very simple, as you wrote. That way, I don’t take on too much and waste my efforts chasing myself around aimlessly. Because for me, morning intentions are promises I’m making to give each day a specific part of myself. Whether for pure self-nurturing (which is vital sometimes), or for accomplishing something for others. Intentions hold power, if you hold yourself accountable to them. :)

      • As far as that quote I shared, I have a practical example in which it applies:

        My to-do list is a sheet of intentions, right? Well, I don’t have to-do lists anymore. I have very short, concise, consolidated ‘Ta-Da’ lists. Believe it or not, the distinction helps. I rarely fail to accomplish each task. :)

  2. “Hippie crap best left to vultures” I can think of so many things that belong in that category – only I would exchange “hippie” for “theological” or “political” for many of them.

    This post doesn’t fit in any of them. As always, you deftly manage to make me reflect on my own daily rhythms. I think every day starts with them – it seems a bit unavoidable. I will connect with this person, spend time reading this book, grab some time for quiet contemplation, etc. But I find that rather than trying to chase them down like a cheetah, I tend to float towards them more like a jellyfish (minus stingers, let’s hope). Jellyfish don’t get up in the morning saying, “Today I swim fifty laps, tomorrow I go to Hawaii!” They can only propel themselves a little up or propel themselves a little down as they flow in the current. I think that’s my primal intention for each day, whatever other specifics I might add: to move in the divine rhythms of the day, what I like to call the “unforced rhythms of grace.” Then I’ll be ready for anyone and anything I encounter in that flow, and won’t miss out on divinely intended opportunities in experiencing this wildly unpredictable thing called life.

    Thanks for the post, Jennifer. You never fail to speak to me. :)

    • I am so glad that these posts speak to you! I love your method. The unforced rhythms of grace…that is definitely something that I could benefit from writing down and putting on the wall! I think of those rhythms as well, especially when something happens to show that they’ve been happening, you know? Like the post I made about David Byrne and Anne Lamott- it was like the subtle push towards picking up that book at that time led to such a massive awakening inside of me, and there was no way to actually get there on purpose. Such a good thing to think about, I love it! Jellyfish are going to be in my brain much more now, thank you for that inspiration!

  3. I think intentions are so important- not just for happiness and fulfillment but just to set a focus and let the universe know your direction so she can do her thing to help in anyway. I definitely have a hard time doing it daily but more go with ones that stick for a month or months at a time. Like now my overarching intention is to take time to breathe the fresh air and appreciate my surroundings throughout the day, everyday. Thanks for this thought-provoking post!!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I definitely have some intentions that are more over-arching, like monthly ones. And weekly ones, and daily ones…it is cool to see the whole spectrum! I think it’s harder sometimes to notice the success with monthly ones, at least for me, but maybe there’s some fun way to do it!

    • Can you give me the link to your FB page? I’m tellin’ ya, there are so many great pages on there that I just can’t find! I would love to read your flash essays, your poems always warm my heart.

  4. I try not to have intentions because I am my own worst enemy. I’ll say “after work I am going to ABC” and I start out the day excited about ABC. Somewhere around 2pm, ABC starts to sound like a bad idea that I don’t want to do anymore…

    I’m a winging it person.

    But I love all the thoughts you put here. Very well articulated and good for thoughts. I read most of the convo between you and Brandy and it got me thinking/

  5. As always your post brings to mind many ideas and thoughts. Very intriguing, motivating and thought provoking, however ‘hippie crap’ I do not believe this is. My opinion…I personally do not construct plans, intentions and other such ideals for the morning. I just go with it. Intentions in my view can be easily terminated by spontaneous occurrences in our lives. I realise that making some kind of list within our minds about the goals we have set for ourselves in the morning is a great way to prioritise and remember what it is that we wish to achieve at that particular moment in time, and I will not argue against that. However, in my view, if you construct an intention, then you almost feel obligated to do what it is that you want to, and if you feel as though this is something you don’t want to accomplish, then it fails to provide to you the positive feelings it was supposed to. Life perhaps was meant to be instinctual and spontaneous and sudden and continuously leave one guessing. In my view, creating an intention or a plan is like constructing a set of rules and obeying them.
    On the other hand, you make all of this sound so………..great! I mean, doing three things at once – running, whilst cooking, whilst writing two thousand words – pretty awesome stuff. I don’t know where you find the energy. Again, good post!

    • Haha I’m glad you liked it! I generally just pick one thing, and not even every day! Most days, like you said, are rather spontaneous. If I feel that too many days have passed where I didn’t do anything nourishing, that’s when I think my brain kicks in and is like “Dude, make an intention or something, so that we can get out of this rut!” and I’m like “Okay, Brain! Here we go..today, we shall draw a little picture!” and it gets the ball rolling again.
      Spontaneity is so key for everything, glad you reminded me of it!

  6. Great stuff Jennifer. I think personally that my downfall is that I get intention-paralysis. I have grand intentions to accomplish many things but end up not knowing where to start, so I don’t do any of them. If I am not mistaken, you are describing an intention as the conviction or desire to take some sort of action that will lead to a more balanced and fulfilling existence, correct? In this, to me, there is truth and what happens with me is that that balance is often lost to hesitation or the inability to execute the intention. This is an ongoing struggle for me, but hearing your thoughts on this topic are so helpful. Thank you very much.

    • I have had that as well. Sometimes in moments of my day I get the “intention paralysis” you speak of, and I have a book in one hand, the guitar in the other, a story in my brain and a dog to walk and it’s all too much! I think that’s sort of what I was also trying to address..that it can be really easy. It can be like, “today, I’m going to just take a walk because I want to be healthier.” and I think that NaughtyNefarious above helped me to realize that I tend to turn to this method only once I’ve been in a rut, and done nothing in some time to feel like I’m living a fulfilling and purposeful life (not in a super-deep sense, either).
      Anne Lamott’s book “Bird by Bird” sort of addresses what you are talking about, too, at least in terms of writing. The story was that her brother was working on a big project last minute about all of these different types of birds. He was panicking with books on the table, and hadn’t read any of them or even started, and he really wanted to do a good job. And her dad said something about taking it “bird by bird.” And I do think that’s a useful way to think about it sometimes. Don’t worry about writing the book..just open the notebook and get a line down. One little thing at a time :)

  7. To often I have woken up feeling more fatigued than when I lay down. Not looking forward to the day at all, plans from the night before seeming like the worst idea ever in the new light. Intentions. I shall try this, though it will take some thought, sadly enough, to come up with a few “feel good” acts or thoughts. I feel I may be starting on a new path, one paved with good intentions.
    Although not a writer of any note at all other than one published poem, I’m glad I stumbled onto your Blog. Insightful, funny and mind-opening. Cheers.

    • I’m so glad you like it! It’s not just for writers..that is more of a theme, but I don’t always stick to it :)
      I have bouts of that feeling as well, where waking up feels like a chore and so does the whole day. Sometimes I try to keep it as vague as humanly possible to avoid extra stress or anxiety. So like, “health” or “People” instead of “I’ll hang out with so-and-so and we’ll have a FABULOUS time!” it can just be, “I’ll call someone.” and then I not only have an easier time doing it, but it leaves room for spontaneity as well! :) Good luck, hope some sparks fly at some point!

  8. Pingback: Priming: The Science Side of Goals and Intentions « Enjoy Life For Once!

  9. Your posts always make me think, Jennifer. You offer that extra-special edge. I have thought about your priming post several times today. And will probably think about this one several times tomorrow!

    • I’m glad! That book is seriously amazing. I am reading it so slowly and really taking it in, and it seems like a book that I’d like to always be reading.
      If you do end up getting it, let me know what you think :)

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