On Setting Intentions


I’ve been having fun setting intentions lately. I don’t put too much thought into coming up with the perfect intention each morning; I just write down the first word that comes to mind. Today’s word is “wonder.” To me, that means approaching the day with curiosity. Yesterday’s word was “smile” and Tuesday’s word was “trust.” I often forget my intention soon after I write it down. It’s not until later in the day when I come across my word (it’s on my Chrome homepage) that I realize that I have been doing just what I set out to do.

Last Friday, I wrote down the word “learn.” My intention was to have a beginner’s mind—to put aside everything I thought I knew and become an open vessel ready to soak up knowledge. And dudes, guess what! I learned so much! And I’m really excited to share two of the things I learned with you.

#1. Swearing helps us tolerate pain and express anger or frustration. People who were allowed to repeat a swear were able to hold their hands in ice water for 40 seconds longer than people who repeated a non-taboo word. But, it’s still not okay to swear in a lot of contexts so we come up with all sorts of euphemisms. Instead of saying “shit,” we say “shoot” or “shucks” OR “sweet peaches in the biscuit batter.” Apparently the “pa” and “ba” sounds help us let off frustration all while saying a phrase filled with innocent words.

I’m trying to make this a thing and I’d love your help. Let’s create a world where people shout “Sweet Peaches in the Biscuit Batter” when they stub their toes.

#2. Parts of our brains grow and shrink in response to stress. This makes a lot of sense. When we use muscles, they grow and when we don’t use them, they shrink or atrophy. The same thing happens with our brains. When we’re stressed, our amygdalas (the part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response) get a workout. Our amygdalas get stronger—and bigger—in response to all this hardcore “training” and we get better and better at living in fear. On the other hand, stress makes the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning) shrink and potentially atrophy. This means that constant stress inhibits our ability to take in new information, but makes us really good at living in a constant emotional state of fight or flight. Yikes!

This becomes even more yikes-worthy when we recognize how many people are in a constant state of stress: Ten percent of Americans suffers from depression, 18% have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work. That’s a lot of buff amygdalas and defunct hippocampi.

Do you set intentions for your days? How have those worked out for you? Share in the comments.