Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

How to Cultivate Happiness: Be Positively Intentional

Be Positively Intentional

I woke up with a heavy heart one morning not too long ago.  I rarely watch violent television or movies.  But a few months back, I caught an episode or two of a popular drama with some especially vicious scenes.

Now, months later, a savage character from the show appeared in my dream, triggering a raging heartbeat and automatic muscle constriction.

As you can imagine, it took awhile to fall back to sleep.  When I woke in the morning, these thoughts arose:

  • “This world is hopeless.”
  • “Why do we allow writers, producers, and advertisers to imagine such a grotesque world and undesirable future for us?”
  • “Why do people find violence entertaining, so much so they’re willing to spend millions of dollars to watch it?”

Instead, we could imagine:

  • A happy world.
  • A peaceful world.
  • A beautiful world.
  • A bountiful world.
  • A nourished world.
  • A world without violence.

Why not?

We Are What We Think

It might be tempting to downplay the impact of our individual and collective imagination, but these positive visions aren’t just Pollyannish dreams.  They could be so!

Consider what the Buddha said,

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind,
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind,
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakeable.

Of course, right action needs to come into the picture too, but everything begins with our thoughts, intentions, and our imagination.

Simple Ways to Be Intentional

Here are some simple ways to shake off habitual patterns and be intentional instead:

  1. At the start of each day, set a positive intention.
  2. At the  start of each new action, set a positive intention.
  3. Examine your intention or any action for its potential impact.  Will it help on the short and long run or will it bring harm in any way?
  4. Check in briefly throughout the day to see if you’re on track with your positive intention.
  5. Review your day before falling asleep.  Did you stay true to your intention?  If you’ve done well by your intention, pat yourself on the back.  If it was rocky, don’t be hard on yourself.  Just set an intention to do better tomorrow.

Direct Your Intentions for the Greatest Good

Intentions can be practical and encompass anything from losing weight to running a marathon to getting a degree.  In fact, many people these days promote “intentional living” as the best way to create your very own perfect, cozy life.

Until it falls apart for one reason or another. Now, I don’t mean to be negative.  It’s just the truth of this impermanent universe:  whatever comes together will eventually part.

Besides, I feel the power of positive intention can go far beyond personal preferences and desires like these.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using positive intention on the practical side to lead a happier and healthier life. But let’s also make it a priority to direct our positive intentions for the good of others as well and even for the good of all.

Here are a few positive intentions you could try out for a day, a week, or a month – one at a time. Make an intention to:

  • Be Patient
  • Be Generous
  • Be Kind
  • Be Friendly
  • Be Helpful
  • Be Consoling
  • Be Thoughtful
  • Be Forgiving
  • Be Affirming

What do these positive intentions have in common?

They’re other-directed.  The simple act of decreasing attention on the self can put your woes in perspective and by doing so liberate you from a ton of unnecessary concerns.  These types of intentions open your heart and cultivate a sense of connection with others, sparking joy and fulfillment instead of constant self-obsession.

As you can see from the aftermath of my dream, I sometimes feel hopeless myself.  The problem isn’t what arises in the mind, however, but whether we hop on the negativity train.  I’m not perfect at it yet, but I try not to get stuck in hopelessness or negative thinking for too long.

It takes practice to be positively intentional in all that you think, say, and do.  But slowly, slowly, if you begin, you’ll succeed and as the Buddha promised, “Happiness will follow you, as your shadow, unshakeable.”

Do you feel like you’re intentional in your life?  I would love to hear.

Thank you for reading!  I so appreciate your presence.  I’d love it if you could take a moment to share this article on social media and spread the goodness. Thank you!  With love, Sandra

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22 Comments

  1. Sandra,
    You had me at Positively 🙂 And you know why….
    I’m completely in love with what you have said here and agree with a 100%. Its been my dream to make everyone envision a positive happy world…no matter what life throws their way. We can NOT change the world, but a positive shift in our own perceptions can make our own life so much more rewarding and happy. We CAN and should focus on what we have control over, rather than what we have no control over.
    I’m so with you about TV and Movies being grotesque…Over the years I have reduced my tv time to a bare minimum. I have even stopped watching the news. cause the negative energy generated in those so called debate shows over there is SO harmful.
    I prefer painting my world with butterflies and rainbows….while I stay grounded in the reality of what life is, for the sake of my own inner peace and sanity I focus only on the positive.
    Love you and this post SO SO much!
    Z~
    p.s. thank you for the link love!!

    **please use this comment and delete the previous one. Thx 🙂

    • Dear Zeenat,

      I couldn’t help but think of you the whole time I wrote this post, of course! I was going to call it “Be Intentional,” but then I realized that didn’t contain the full meaning so I needed to power “positive” from you!

      I love hearing the explanation and logic behind your philosophy. This is so true. And the funny thing is, when we’re positive, sometimes we do have a positive impact on the world too.

      I haven’t watched news for eons either. But like you say, I also try to stay rooted in the reality of what is. You could say I’m a realistic optimist.

      I know you positive messages have helped me tons. I love and appreciate you too. Keeping sending all those butterflies and rainbows out into the world.

  2. Hi Sandra,

    I too dislike shows, movies and books that promote violence and stay away from them. I have always appreciated positive thinking, love for all and benevolence but I am sorry to say our best efforts get a boot, many times.

    Sometimes your good, pure intentions get thwarted by the people around you. They happen to be your own people, your kindred, your friends, who spread negative energy, who misinterpret your intentions…what do you do with that? However hard you try to be positive, they reintroduce negativity into your life. Would you suggest patience and let your own mind burst?

    I agree with Zeenat. Positive perceptions do help us but if they are ineffectual for people around us who keep adding to our woes. Our thoughts do make us but not the world because it is full of all sorts of people. Sorry Sandra, I am in very bad mood today, surrounded by negative energy and see how it can affect us. I am trying to be intentionally positive though.

    • I’m so sorry you’re having a tough day, Balroop. I’m sending you my love and support so at least you might feel you are not alone.

      I have my tough days too and I’m not a perfect angel either. Negative energy can be contagious and sometimes the best solution is to take a step away for awhile and nourish and strengthen ourselves in whatever way works best for us. Then sometimes we can re-enter a negative situation with more clarity. But sometimes we may just need to stay away.

      I think we have to start where we are. We can’t manufacture patience necessarily if our head is about to burst in frustration. So we need to understand and take care of that first.

      When he says that with our thoughts we make the world, I think what the Buddha means that even thing depends on our perception. We all live in our own little world and we build that up by how we perceive. Sometimes, we can’t change an external situation. But sometimes we can change our perception of it, for example by giving rise to compassion or patience or love and that changes our perception of the world around us.

      That’s not necessarily easy, it takes a lot of practice. And, of course, we’re going to have days like this when we get in a bad mood and it’s not easy to get out. They happen to me to. That’s when we need to be gentle, loving, and kind with ourselves. Sending you love.

      • Thanks dear friend for the love and support. I feel valued. I feel it is not always our fault. Days do go bad and we need the skill to shake those moments out. I can feel the good vibes emerging from your words. Thank you. Love you!

  3. I totally agree with this entire post, Sandra! We really do create the life we think we deserve (so we had better work on our deserving issues 🙂 and to start the day with gratitude is a sure way to stop the negative and fearful thoughts in their tracks! I use gratitude to set intentions because it always leads me to a wonderful intention! If I am grateful for this, then I set the intention for that which I am grateful in advance. This is how it works ideally, but of course, I get lazy and fall back into old patterns and so on. BUT if I can just start the day out with gratitude before any trolls arrive, I can shut the door on them (or maybe transform them into good fairies 🙂 before they do their mean little trollie things to my mind and spirit . Hope that makes sense, Sandra.

    • You always have the best suggestions, Jean! I agree that gratitude is powerful. It’s interesting how you use gratitude to set an intention. Of course, we all fall into old patterns, me too. But the main thing is that we’re moving in the right direction. I love the idea of transforming the trolls into fairies. How sweet and whimsical and sensible!

  4. MaryJo Comins

    Sandra, this is “positively” the perfect post for me to read this morning. I awoke to a glorious, sunny, Oregon day and didn’t want to get up. I couldn’t think of one thing I wanted to do, nothing sounded at all interesting, and I felt like I don’t even know how to have fun. That last came as the result of a new doctor’s visit a couple weeks ago for a mysterious physical issue. He asked me what I do for fun and I was stumped. I told him I acted in a community theater production a couple months ago and that was fun.

    This morning I did get up because I didn’t want to stay in bed. I put one foot in front of the other, fed cats, went through my bathroom routine, dressed myself, made myself breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, brought in the newspaper and read a few Sunday comics that were actually amusing today.

    Instead of diving into my morning journal pages, I turned on my computer, opened email, and found your inspiring and timely post. Recognizing the opportunity for an intention to have fun today, the first thing I wanted to do was to let you know that I accept your invitation to turn my day around. Also, I want to note that writing this comment IS fun! Next, I’ll have fun writing my journal pages. Then I’ll call my daughter across town and see if she’d like to go with me on a walk through Hendricks Park to see how many of the abundant rhododendrons are blooming.

    My intention seems to be working, thank you…

    • Mary Jo,

      I completely resonate with your challenge as fun has eluded me for so long too. I’m always looking for a way to spend more time in play although it seems like foreign territory.

      I’m delighted my post inspired you and that you’re setting an intention to have fun and even inject fun in whatever you do today. Thanks for accepting my intention and inspiring us all to see how you are successfully shifting your mood! Please enjoy your walk in the park.

  5. Oh Sandra this is such a co-incidence. If I believed in them!

    Only today I was talking to my hubby about not saying how unhappy I am with something that’s occurring in the world but how happy I am now that….and replace the unhappy something with a happy new thing.

    What a difference it makes.

    In our household we no longer watch the news and if we catch it inadvertently only to hear someone say…and the news of the day is… we will add, something like, the world was filled with smiling happy people and quickly turn it off before they try to persuade us otherwise!

    I think we have enough to do managing our own experiences as positively as possible without piling on the woes via tv shows! I’m with you 100%. 🙂

    • How interesting, Elle! I think you’re quite the pro at this. Still, it really help to have the support of a partner cause the world is always giving us new opportunities to fine tune our positive intentionality. I appreciate how committed you are in staying on purpose with kindness and positivity.

      That’s an important point: how we already have so much to work with without piling on more drama and intensity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Dan

    Very timely (for me personally) article Sandra, thanks for writing.

  7. Hi Sandra, I can totally relate to your experience with watching a violent television show. There’s a show I used to watch up until very recently when I realized that it was just too violent and negative for me. I realized that it was actually having a negative effect on me so I decided to be intentional and stop watching it. This is why I also stopped watching the news many years ago too. We are absolutely affected by the things we consume and I love your message about being intentional with what we allow into our lives.

    • Hi Lisa,

      I’m so glad you tuned in and felt how you were affected by that television show! Like you, I think these kinds of programs can really get into our brain and under our skin. I love your point about being careful about what we consume because especially in this digital age, we consume more information than ever, and it’s not all beneficial for us by any means.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

  8. Very glad I’ve found this blog. I really avoid watching violence for entertainment. I don’t understand why it’s so popular. My son and I talk about this sometimes because he has to learn how to navigate himself in a world where so many boys ( and girls) now play games like GTA ( an extremely violent, saddistic video game). It’s not always easy. I encourage him to guard his senses, and to make good choices out of respect for his own well-being; to find ways of being himself despite the pressure. The good news is that he does seem to be finding his own way. Thanks for sharing your perspectives – it’s nice to hear that other people share similar feelings.

    • Welcome, Carina! I’m glad you’re here. That must be so challenging for your son! He’s lucky to have a mom like you who can offer such healthy advice. I’m happy he’s finding his way.

      It’s so sad to hear about this game. I don’t have children so I don’t come up across this aspect of the dilemma myself. I just can’t imagine what the world will become if we train our children in violence this way. I guess there’s always been some level of violence even in the early days of t.v., but not it’s become so extreme.

      I’m sure many people share our perspective and so there is hope! Thanks for sharing your story

  9. As much as we have evolved in technology, I don’t feel we have evolved in humanity nearly as rapidly as we are capable. We still need the wisdom of the ancient sages such as the Buddha to help us grow out of our juvenile collective mind set which seems to be a little stuck.

    I have to remember it starts inside of me, so I don’t participate in violence as entertainment, because it spills into real life. By the way….I think the “news” is for entertainment, but that’s another subject.

    We are not separate, not even from what could be called fiction or just acting.

    I think when you don’t participate you can really see how shocking violence is to the system….like it shows up in dreams. Sort of like when you stop eating sugar for a while and take a drink of sweet tea, it almost tastes shocking.

    We get used to things that are not always for our highest good. Thanks for sharing. Yep…..”well within” that’s where it starts, and thanks for being a steady reminder:)

    • Such a thoughtful comment, Laura. Thank you so much. I think you’re right that we get used to things that are not always for our highest good. They just become part of the background of our life. This is an interesting point about how if you don’t participate, you see how shocking the violence is and it can show up in dreams for example.

      I so agree with you when you say we need ancient wisdom to help us in these moderns times. I find it as relevant today as it must have been back then.

      Thanks for your meaningful contribution to the conversation.

  10. I can say I am intentional since despite the stressful surrounding, I choose to be happy. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this. Very enlightening.

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