Shape Your Thoughts to Shape the Life You Want

Learn how setting a positive personal intention can have tremendous benefits to your health and wellness.

Medically reviewed in November 2022

Research shows that it takes about 66 days to form a new habit. It varied for each person but it was somewhere between 2 and 8 months. The study 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.

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.

Your thoughts can actually shape your life. Bruce Lipton, PhD, a biologist and author, 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.

Do you find yourself using negative self-talk throughout the day? By choosing a positive and uplifting intention instead, you can shift from what holistic psychiatrist Daniel Amen calls ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) to conscious intentions that have a positive influence on your inner experience. When you set an intention, you are aligning with what you want for yourself. By returning to that intention over time, you are shaping your thoughts. It is through your conscious intentions that you influence your own actions. What you repeat becomes a habit.

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 will it take for intentions to shift your 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 meditation, 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

Looking for other ways to live a healthier, happier life? Reverse heart disease and diabetes, lose weight and reduce stress with these tips from Dean Ornish.

This content was originally published on Ornish Living.

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