What does it mean to have an intentional lifestyle?
One of my tag lines for C’est Christine is creating an intentional lifestyle, yet I’ve realized that I’ve never taken the time to define what that means to me.
Living with intention is being purposeful and joyful, in being present and aware. Yoga plays a bit part of it, simply because the physical practice of yoga is often helpful in teaching us how to pay attention to our breath and focus on the moment. But it’s also about leading a simple, healthy lifestyle that creates more space for happiness–like eating real foods and cultivating gratitude (like my good things jar of 2014!). Here are the key tenets of my intentional lifestyle:
Be purposeful with your relationships.
This is something that has been honed over many years: I switched schools a bunch as a kid, I lived out in the boondocks during high school, I spent the years after college traveling and living abroad. I’ve rarely had those enduring, easy, casual friendships where you live next door to each other and can build up a friendship purely on proximity: I’ve had to be intentional with my friendships.
That means mailing birthday cards and just-because cards, scheduling Skype catch-ups or coffee dates, sending an article or a recipe. I’m incredibly grateful for my boyfriend, my super supportive parents, my hilarious group of girlfriends in NYC and scattered over the globe; I try to make sure that they know it, whether it’s through consistently carving out quality time, writing a hello! note or simply telling them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. It’s one of my favorite quotes, a reminder that getting excited about something can make all the difference in a roaring success or a crushing failure. But on a more quotidien level, I think that it’s about fostering an attitude of contentment and gratitude and trying to find life’s silver linings. I find it so depressing when I deal with people who only concentrate on the negative, who nit-pick and complain or are just never quite pleased. I’m certainly guilty of slipping into bad moods, but more than anything, I want to be the sort of person who gives energy instead of drains it. Living an intentional life means not only paying attention to the little things but celebrating them.
Make time for the things that make you happy.
I’ve realized that there are few things that consistently make me feel good in a deep, real sort of way: getting eight hours of sleep, eating a mostly vegetarian diet made up of unprocessed foods, practicing yoga and meditating regularly, burning a fancy candle while reading or journaling before bed, treating myself to fresh flowers and weekend getaways, allowing myself the space to indulge occasionally without feeling guilty.
I try to make those things a priority, to not let myself be tempted by short-term pleasure (i.e. a big night out or a greasy hamburger) when I know it won’t really make me feel good in the long-run. Even when I do choose the sugar rush, I don’t let myself beat myself up over it: part of it is accepting what’s done is done, without rehashing negative happenings or feelings. It’s about recognizing the things that are good for you and the things that aren’t–whether it’s a toxic relationship, a soul-crushing job, an addiction to fast food–and trying to trade in the bad for more of the good. Making those choices takes courage and intention.
Meditate in everything that you do.
I set aside a few minutes every morning to meditate. But I also try to bring that sense of stillness and the power of breath into (almost) everything I do throughout the day. It’s mostly about being mindful and being present, about focusing on how you feel and what you’re doing in the moment. One of my biggest challenges is to stop multi-tasking and to stop running a constant to-do list in my mind; taking long, deep inhales and counting my exhales helps me do that.
My favorite “meditation” is baking; I prefer to measure, to stir, to scoop alone and in silence. I like to focus on nothing but the task at hand, to establish a sequence and develop a rhythm. There’s a certain beauty in being able to apply the principles of meditation to all the places and all the things, in listening without label and noticing without judging. Bonus: I can give those sweet (healthy-ish) treats to the people I love to show them my appreciation!
Be aware of how you’re treating your body.
Full confession: I ate Nutella straight out of the jar as I wrote this post. Like I said before, I don’t mind the occasional indulgence and I refuse to let guilt simmer. I mostly eat real, whole foods that I cook myself; unlike the rest of the New York City population, I rarely order delivery and I only eat out a couple of times a week (usually on a date with my boyfriend or as a way to catch up with girlfriends). I’m not a big fan of diets or forbidding foods, but I do think it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting in your body. For me, that means trying to stick to fruits and veggies and foods where I can recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients and sticking to no more than one cup of coffee a day. It also means implementing some Ayurvedic morning routines, getting regular acupuncture and massage therapy, avoiding quick-fix pills and Western medicine as much as possible. One of my goals for 2014 is to wean off my chemical-laden skincare and makeup products and start looking for quality all-natural alternatives.