This year, for New Years, we decided to forgo traditional resolution-making in favor of setting intentions. If you’re a wellness junkie like us, we’re sure your inbox and social feeds were flooded with newsletters and posts about why other brands, influencers, and figures did the same.
On a surface level, the tradition of making resolutions is great. There’s nothing wrong with having goals for the season ahead, as long as those goals are authentic to you. Unfortunately, it feels like we make the same promises every year, and upon a bit of reflection, we’ve found that the classic resolutions- get more fit, eat better, save money, etc.- don’t really move the needle or do anything for us mentally. In theory, all good things, but they’re also vague and often done to please others’ expectations. For example, “healthy” means a lot of things- what does it mean to you? Does it mean feeling stronger and more balanced from the inside out, or does it mean looking a certain way?
The classic, repetitive resolutions can be a major source of stress that ultimately cause us to get down on ourselves. You might hit the gym hard and eat “clean” more a month or so, but life happens and we shame ourselves further for missing a day on the treadmill or eating something we think we shouldn’t. This unhealthy and unrealistic pressure is likely to ultimately cause burnout and further self-shame, which are two things we’re definitely trying to leave behind in 2019.
We’ve been thinking, though; while it’s a great time to check in and connect with yourself and your goals, the new year is definitely not the only time for this sort of reflection. This is why we intend (ha) to take this practice into the new year and beyond as a supportive tool to guide, elevate, and reflect. Whether you made any sort of resolution or intention, or if it didn’t even cross your mind, intention-setting is available to each and every one of us whenever we might choose to use it.
Intentions over Resolutions
"intention setting is powerful for two reasons: first, it prompts your brain to look for opportunities that align with the intention that you declared, and the second reason is more metaphysical: if we believe that there is a quantum field responding to our vibration and frequency, setting intentions can help us say no to things that might derail us when we have ‘off’ days."
Intentions are gentle; think of them as the North Star guiding us to a destination rather than the destination itself. For example, rather than making a resolution to do lose 5 pounds and work out 5 days a week, we might say that our intention is to practice things that make us feel stronger. From there we can explore what makes us feel powerful from the inside out. They’re encouraging, not demoralizing, and if we feel off track, we can use them to guide us back on course. We can use this intention when making daily decisions. For example, we could ask ourselves, "which lunch will make us feel better and stronger today, the burger, or the Orbit Bowl from The Daily Beet"?
Noell Eanes, Spiritual Healer and Master of Acupuncture
“When you stumble (and you probably will if you choose something powerful), you can always fall back and ask yourself ‘what was my intention again?’ and then recommit!” our friend Noell Eanes, M.Ac., told us. Noell is a licensed acupuncturist, certified spiritual healer, and wellness coach. “Resolutions revolve around a ‘problem,’ or something that you want to change, which isn't necessarily ‘bad,’ it just energetically tethers you to something that you don't want.”
Intentions can also be more actionable. One might make the resolution to “be happier,” which is super big-picture and quite vague. An intention instead might read to seek and allow more joy into our lives this year, or simply just to laugh more. You could intend to spend more time doing things that you love and bring you joy, and if you don’t yet know what that is, set the intention to explore just what those things might be.
Noell added that “intention setting is powerful for two reasons: first, it prompts your brain to look for opportunities that align with the intention that you declared, and the second reason is more metaphysical: if we believe that there is a quantum field responding to our vibration and frequency, setting intentions can help us say no to things that might derail us when we have ‘off’ days.” So, instead of getting down on ourselves when we “fail” to achieve our goals, intentions serve to be inspirational and supportive, even when we veer off course, rather than a source of stress, anxiety, and low self-worth.
Setting Intentions Beyond the New Year
"[Setting Intentions] stop me from doing things that are out of alignment or feel obligatory."
Intention setting isn’t just something to do once a year; it can serve as a powerful tool to incorporate as a regular practice. Some set intentions for every new moon as a guide for that moon cycle, others at the start of the week or season, and many people do it each morning- some even set intentions multiple times a day!
“Intention setting is something I use daily to keep my focus on the direction I'm moving in the major categories of my life,” says Sheena Mannina, R.D. and owner of Raw Republic as well as host of the Vibrant-favorite podcast, Raw Talk. Working intentions into a morning or evening ritual can be incredibly grounding and inspiring; they allow you to check in with your mood, how far you’ve come, and where you’d like to go. Whether it is five minutes or five years from now. “[Setting daily intentions] helps me prioritize things that have the most meaning to me and stop me from doing things that are out of alignment or feel obligatory.”
That being said, don’t stress yourself out over it; if you’re beating yourself up over missing a day, or forgetting that it’s a new moon, that defeats the purpose! Set intentions simply whenever you feel called.
Where Do I Even Start?
Image via Max D'Avella
Intention-setting is all about going inward and trusting what comes forward. You can incorporate it into a longer ritual or just take a few moments here and there; it can take up as much or as little time as you’d like. Be creative! leen Currie, founder and perfumer at New Orleans-based Smoke Perfume as well as level three breathwork teacher and craniosacral therapist, works with intentions daily as well. While she does it often, it doesn’t always look the same, which we love! She described her practice to us, explaining how it even helps her to connect with her intuition:
How would I like to feel today? What can I do today to feel this way?
“I love setting intentions daily! Or before a big or meaningful event, or even something as simple as a workout! I typically just take a moment to pause, breathe into my heart or belly, and close my eyes if I'm able. From this quiet space I tune inward and ask what intention wants to come forth. It's something that can take even 30 seconds, gets easier with practice, and helps to also strengthen your intuition! If I have more time, I may make more of a ritual out of setting an intention...such as lighting a candle on my altar, journaling, meditating or pulling tarot cards. Sometimes I'll use the guidance of something else, like my breathwork practice or a tarot reading or some body work to help me tap into a deeper intention.”
Still need a little more direction? We put together a short and simple list of questions you can ask yourself, whether your brand new to this practice or a seasoned vet:
- How would I like to feel today? What can I do today to feel this way?
- Where am I now? Where would I like to go? What can I do today that will support that direction?
- Is this intention for me or for something or someone external?
- How will this intention help me to cultivate love, joy, and abundance?
Yes, a new year is a great time to consider where we are and where we want to go, but we can also do this anytime we’d like. Each and every day is a chance to connect with ourselves and our visions for the future, whether that future is five minutes or five years from now, and intention-setting is a beautiful way to do just that. Let us know in the comments if you have an intention-setting practice and what it looks like, or if you feel comfortable, share an intention you’re cultivating right now!
Noell can be found on Instagram @lovebasedmedicine or at her online coaching program, where you can sign up for a free virtual starter kit for FOF 2020.
Sheena can be found on Instagram @sheenamannina or @rawtalkpodcast, and get yourself some organic juice and snacks at Raw Republic!Kathleen can be found on Instagram @wellspringneworleans or @smokeperfume . You can find her products at Vibrant Market or via her website here.