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Sitting quietly, I hear the sound of chimes that mark the end my meditation session. As I open my eyes, I say a phrase to myself without uttering a sound. “May joy fill my heart and may peace fill my life.” I say it several times as if it were a mantra or a prayer. I let the feeling of the words fill the spaces of my heart as I breathe in and out. I imagine my life as if it were already so. This is my intention for the day.

“When we change our thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs, we can change our biology. –Bruce Lipton, PhD”

When we take the time to set a positive personal intention, we are aligning ourselves with what we want to bring into our lives. We are affirming our commitment to that principle. When we return to it over the hours, days, weeks, and even months, it begins to take shape in our lives. Our lives begin to form around our intentions and we begin to notice how intention finds its way into action. We start to see our lives change shape before our very eyes. What we think, we become.

Our thoughts can actually shape our lives. Bruce Lipton, PhD, a biologist and author of Spontaneous Evolution, Our Positive Future, and A Way to Get There From Here, studies and writes about the impact of our thoughts on our cells. In this video interview he explains: “Before we blame the cells, we must first look at our thoughts, our beliefs and our behaviors because these are more important to our health than the genes.” He concludes: “When we change our thoughts, behaviors and beliefs, we can change our biology. We are the masters of our lives not the victim of our genes.” Creating our lives through our own thoughts can be conscious or unconscious.

Most often, throughout our day, we are creating unconscious intentions through our negative self-talk. By choosing a positive and uplifting intention, we shift from what holistic psychiatrist Daniel Amen calls ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) to conscious intentions that have a positive influence on our inner experience. When we set an intention, we are aligning with what we want for ourselves. By returning to that intention over time, we are shaping our thoughts. It is through our conscious intentions that we influence our own actions. What we repeat becomes a habit.

Research shows that it takes about 66 days to form a new habit. It varied for each person but somewhere between 2 and 8 months. The study, which was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, also found that it wasn’t an all or nothing process. Occasionally missing a day didn’t seem to make a difference, which seems to indicate that the body reflects the habitual and not the occasional. So what we do, how we move, what we eat, what we think, and how we feel most of the time is what matters. We have the power to create physical and mental habits that shape our lives. When we exercise, our shape changes and our blood pressure changes. When we think about something over and over, it too creates a habit that begins to affect the way feel and how we act.

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How to Create An Intention

  • Visualize something you want more of in your life.
  • Listen to and honor your authentic feelings. For example, if you are grieving a loss and your intention is to feel more joy, recognize that grief is a necessary part of your experience right now and gently hold your grief while creating a space for joy. Allow grief and joy to live side by side.
  • Never use your intention to trump your feelings in the moment. Embracing your feelings is as important as shifting them when they are no longer serving you.
  • Choose your words carefully so that they reflect precisely what you are trying to bring to yourself and your life.
  • Return to your intention(s) whenever you find yourself drifting away and lost in old patterns of thought or action.
  • Make them personal and actionable by empowering your intentions with “I” statements.

How long does it take for intentions to shift our thoughts and actions? Just like the study on habits suggests, it can vary from person to person. It seems that when we combine intention setting with mediation, or even with relaxation, we can bring more attention and energy to it. So try it at the end of your relaxation practice, or at the end of meditation if you want to amplify the practice.

Some Intentions to Try

  • I am filled with gratitude
  • I listen more deeply when I don’t give advice
  • I feel vibrant when I exercise everyday
  • I practice yoga each day to stay centered
  • I nourish myself with healthy foods
  • I let go of gossip to nurture compassion for all beings

How has changing the way you think changed your life?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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