Books, journals, sleep remedies, crystals, CBD products, bath bombs, the commercialized aspects of self-care seem limitless. And while the things we buy for self-care can help us tremendously, self-care doesn’t need to cost money.
Since free self-care can’t be commercialized, it isn’t publicized but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t add value. In fact, there is something to be said for self-care that doesn’t cost a dime.
Free self-care will have lifelong lasting positive impact on your general health and emotional and mental well-being. It will even help you appreciate the self-care that you buy.
In this article we are going to discuss what I consider the most important self-care practice—free or otherwise. It changed my life and that I think everyone needs to incorporate it into their life.
When put into practice, this self-care technique is going to:
- improve your mental and emotional well-being
- help you create connections
- build stronger relationships
- bounce back quicker (build resiliency)
- reduce stress
- increase your emotional intelligence
- stop taking things personally, and
- create healthy mental habits that will positively affect every area of your life including your physical health
In this article we are going to talk about….(drumroll)…:positive intent.
What is Positive Intent?
Positive intent is assuming people act from a well-meaning place and that they are doing the best they can with what they have.
So if someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of thinking “what the fuck, that person’s an asshole,” you would think “they might not have seen me,” or “oy, they must be a bad driver,” or “maybe they’re tired, I hope they get home and get some sleep.”
How to Practice Positive Intent
Last week I wrote an article about ghosting and why people ghost (check it out here). Ghosting is when someone stops all communication without explanation. It can hurt. And when we are hurt we likely look for closure.
If we are ghosted we may ask ourselves questions like: Why did they ghost? What did I do? Why would they act like that?
There are many directions your thoughts can take you but it is likely you will think the ghost is a “bad” person or you will think you are a ”bad” person and don’t deserve to have a relationship—yikes!
However, there is another option. You can assume the ghost is doing the best they can with what they have, they did not mean to hurt you, and you are deserving of love and a great relationship.
As you go about your day, pay attention to how you judge others and their actions. If you believe others have negative intentions, think of positive intent for why they did what they did.
Of course sometimes someone does something that is blatantly vindictive or rude. In that instance you can consider that they do not know any better, are doing the best they can, and that their actions are not something you want in your life. Bye, Felicia!
Benefits of Positive Intent
When we assume others are doing the best they can with what they have we remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can with what we have. When we come to this realization we slow down. We reflect on our actions. And we can decide to fine tune our thoughts processes to help us get in alignment with what we are trying to attract (our goals).
By giving others the benefit of the doubt, we generate a thought pattern that will increase our self-compassion. So when we make a mistake we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Just like others are doing the best they can, we are too.
No only will you have compassion for yourself and others, you will realize the underlying connection between you and others. Since humans are social creatures this is a primal need that you may ignore or reject in today’s world where we are encouraged to think in an “us” vs “them” mentality.
With positive intent there is no us vs them. There is us and them and we are all doing the best we can with what we have. This line of thought is going to help take away the stress of everyday life and to not feel you are alone or that the world is against you.
Because you are not alone and the world isn’t against you. There are kind people out there but the focus has been on the negative for so long you might have forgotten or never even known.
Positive Intent and Productive Thought Habits
Positive intent separates a person from their behavior. Instead of seeing people in all-or-nothing terms and instead of generalizing or labeling (all unproductive thinking habits) we see people as Beings who makes choices and mistakes just like we do.
This mentality leads to self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others. It also contributes to confidence and self-empowerment.
With positive intent you learn to accept the world as it is and you will naturally shift your focus towards the things you can control while reducing your reaction to the things you cannot control.
Related Podcast Episode: Ep26: Acceptance, Empowerment & Body Positivity
Physical Health Benefits of Positive Intent
Heart racing, blood boiling, muscle tightness, stomach ulcers galore, our mind and bodies are connected. And when you feel mentally stressed your body responds by releasing stress hormones and clenching up.
Say someone cuts you off in traffic. As you yell “fuck you asshole” your blood pressure rises. It likely will not go down once the other person drives off. You can end up coming home still rattled and full of stress hormones.
So it might just take you over the edge when you see your kid or your partner forgot to thaw out the chicken for dinner. Yelling or passive aggressive comments may ensure which can hurt your relationship and will contribute to more stress.
All this stress increases your stomach acidity which may cause heartburn that can keep you from sleeping properly. Oy. What a mess.
With positive intent you will keep your blood pressure in control while you think “eh, they are probably just a shitty driver.” So then the unthawed chicken will go into the microwave for a quick defrost or maybe it will be pizza for dinner!
No, You’re Not a Push Over
When you assume positive intent you will be more accepting, less affected by the actions of others and you will be more compassionate and forgiving.
This can get confusing. Because people who are forgiving and accepting can be misunderstood as weak or a pushover. In order to practice positive intent we need to remove the limiting belief that people who forgive and understand are being pushed over.
Just because you forgive someone for something they did does not mean you need to continue a relationship with them or you are allowing them to take advantage of you. For example, if a friend stole money from you and then lied about it you can assume they were desperate for money and then lied because they were ashamed.
You can forgive them and move forward, but you don’t need to still consider them a close friend. The connection can move to acquaintance level, or if you determine the relationship is bad for your health, you can decide to sever the relationship altogether.
Positive Intent for All
Since it cannot be commercialized free self-care is often overlooked. But positive intent is a life changer. It will help you generate a new perspective and positively impact your mental, physical and emotional well-being.
While it may sounds simple on paper, positive intent can be difficult in practice. It will be difficult for some more than others depending on where you are coming from. If you were encouraged to assume positive intent as a kid then positive intent may be easier for you.
But if you were like me and grew up in an environment where people were tough on you or assumed other people were unkind, then positive intent may take more effort and practice to become habit.
Similar to any new thought habit, practicing positive intent takes repetition and patience. So pay conscious attention to how you judge yourself and others. If you judge yourself or someone else harshly, stop yourself and find positive intent.
Remember, understanding isn’t agreement and even the villain in the story thinks they are doing the right thing.