No Time To Meditate? Try Intention-Setting Instead
Mindfulness is a big part of my life. I practice yoga, consume consciously, and believe in meditation—in theory. The problem is time, or lack thereof. I'm a mom of three and have a new business. Between calls with my web developer, meetings with my business partner, school runs, and cooking for five, there is truly no way I could consistently carve 30 or more minutes out of my day to focus on my breath and release my thoughts.
Still, the benefits of meditation are indisputable and numerous—it lowers stress, improves brain function, and can make your interactions with others more meaningful. I want all of that in my life (um, who doesn't?) so I've come up with a practice called Intention Setting that's to meditation what the seven-minute workout is to fitness. It's simple, effective, and takes only a minute.
Here's your step-by-step guide to Intention Setting:
1. Pick a time and place.
For me, if I can't make an activity part of my daily routine—for example, working out or making a healthy, protein-packed lunch—it's not going to stick. I need to do something consistently for it to become a habit, and the good thing about a habit is that you don't even have to remember to do something. You just do it.
My time for Intention Setting is immediately after I finish my workout and drink my protein powder. It's now part of my routine, so I never forget to do it. I also like doing it after my workout because I do that in the morning, first thing (so it sets me up for having a great day) and because, thanks to the exercise, my body is already coursing with mood-lifting endorphins. Even before I sit down on the stretching mat at my gym or on my rug after a run, I feel good. So I'm already in the right frame of mind to take the next step in my Intention Setting practice.
One note: I do my Intention Setting sitting cross-legged, with my eyes closed and palms resting open, face-up on my knees—but you may find you prefer to do it lying down or with eyes opened.
2. Form your focus.
Intention Setting after my workout helps me translate those good vibes into concrete thoughts.
My father always used to tell me, "Your thoughts become words, and words become actions," so I've grown up being able to connect the dots between having a positive attitude and leading a happy life. With Intention Setting, I focus on using my thoughts to bring about (or "attract") the things in life that I want.
For example, if I feel overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities and goals, I tell myself I am capable of doing everything that I need to do: I will be present when I am with my children, loving with my spouse, productive at work, and handle it all with grace and goodwill. "You are more than capable," I tell myself. "You were born to do all of these things, and you are great at them. You can do this."
Sometimes I've messed up in life—binged on ice cream late at night or been impatient with one of my children—and I feel remorse. Then, I set an intention the next morning to stop the negative script in my head, forgive myself, and do what I can to resolve the issue. Maybe it's going back to eating the correct foods for my body or having a heart-to-heart with the child whose feelings I may have hurt.
And then there are times when my Intention Setting has more to do with a specific event, like preparing for an interview or a meeting that I want to go well. In those cases, I envision the event going well and myself being well-spoken and assured.
3. Carry it with you.
Many people probably assume that this is the hardest part of the process. How on earth do you take all that positivity and keep it with you so it can work its magic in your life? My answer? Let go a little. Have a little faith. Trust that these thoughts will root themselves within you and be with you even when they aren't front of mind. They are there. Feel free to return to your intention many times a day, as I do, when I remember, but in the same vein, don't stress if the only time of day you do think about your intention is when you are setting it. That's OK, too.