I call myself a “seeker of intentional living,” because I am working hard each day to be an intentional being, but it’s hard!! So while I seek it, I definitely don’t always achieve it. I’d give myself a 25% rating. I’m probably successful a quarter of the time. Maybe this time next year I’ll rate myself closer to 50%, but I’m not there yet. It’s a journey!
This weekend, I called out my husband for being very unintentional, but it was really the pot calling the kettle black. We were over at my parents’ house to celebrate my mom’s birthday this week (Happy Birthday, Nana!) and we were playing in the backyard with the kids. At some point I turned around to see him pushing a toddler on a bike while talking on his cell phone and laughing. I tilted my head a little to imply, “Who’s on the phone?” He told me it was his best friend and I could tell from his mannerisms that they were just catching up and chit chatting, nothing major was being discussed. I flashed him a look (I’m ashamed, but I have a very intense “look”...) and he got off the phone and got back to engaging with the kids and the family without complaining.
I was annoyed that once again cell phones were barriers to us being as intentional as we want, but like I said, this was the pot calling the kettle black. Just earlier in the weekend, while he was setting the table for us to sit down and eat dinner as a family, I didn’t notice him talking to me because I was busy sending an Instagram DM about a yoga class on my phone. It was 7pm on a Friday evening. This was definitely NOT an urgent message and it was causing me to ignore my husband and not be present at the dinner table. He called me out on it, too. Guilty. If he and I continue to have multiple daily encounters like these, where we aren’t present and aren’t engaged, we will lose our connection little by little. This applies to relationships in general, not just marriages, but right now Nick and I are really working on intentional habits in our marriage and family.
While we mess up a lot, we get it right some, too! And when we do, the difference is noticeable and wonderful for both parties of the relationship. We actually notice that we are spending time together or that our kids did something sweet. The other person feels loved and cared for when you actually pay attention to them. Ever noticed a parent on their phone ignoring their child who is eager to show them a picture they painted? Or someone holding the door for a person who strolls through without noticing? These are all small moments of human interaction where we can be sharing a smile, words of praise, or acts of gratitude. We can be engaging, spreading joy, or instilling feelings of comfort or support. When these moments start to slip away, so do little bits of our joy, love, and security.
So, what are some habits that we are trying to help? Here’s my top 5 favorite habits at the moment:
1. Have a Set Bedtime
Lately, I’m aiming for 9pm and happy if I’m asleep by 10pm. What does this have to do with being intentional? Obviously, it means that you are more well rested during the day so that you are more engaged in your day. But more importantly, you limit your ability to perform non-beneficial, distracting behaviors. You get the essentials done like dinner, shower, cleaning and prepping for the next day, and then you go to bed. No extra computer time, Netflix, phone scrolling, etc.
2. Limit Smartphone Time
While this one is pretty obvious, it’s hard to do (as evidenced in my story above), depending on your level of pre-existing addiction to your phone. Move all your social media and game apps to a group on the last page of your home screen so that the first page only has the essentials. Set all your apps (except for text, email, and GPS) to not use cellular data. This automatically stops you from scrolling other distracting apps when you’re not on WiFi. Feeling anxious waiting for an appointment and need something for your hands to do? Use your Notes app to write down a list of things you are grateful for, but don’t scroll your email or Facebook! And the one I really have to work at- avoid it around dinner/bedtime. Last but not least, put it down when people are talking to you.
3. Limit TV Time
I have changed my habits over time. I used to be someone who had TBS on in the background ALL. THE. TIME. I subsequently watched a lot of Friends, King of Queens and Big Bang Theory. But when we moved into our current house a few years ago we got rid of the TV in our bedroom. We stopped leaving the TV on anytime we are in the living room and we stopped Netflix binging. We found that sooooo many evenings were “wasted” vegging out on the couch watching a show that we just couldn’t turn off. So along with that meant we weren’t talking and connecting, we weren’t exercising, we were snacking and drinking, and we were going to bed too late and losing sleep. Bad bad bad. I missed it for a few weeks, but now I don’t miss it at all. So when we watch a Netflix show now, we limit ourselves to one episode at a time.
4. Practice Minimalism
I’ve been on a minimalism kick ever since I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve never done a full-on purge (check out her Netflix documentary), but I want to one day. I’ve definitely purged little areas of the house little by little. The kitchen, playroom, and bedroom closets are where I see the most benefit. But practice minimalism in other aspects of your life, too. Like decorating for the holidays perhaps. Do you really need every corner of your house decked out? It takes tons of time to pick out and coordinate the perfect decor, time to set up and take down, money on lights, batteries, storage boxes, and more. Lately I just do some candles, garland on the fireplace mantle and front door, and a tree. The end. It hasn’t changed my outlook or joy for Christmas surprisingly! And my attic is much more tidy the rest of the year too since I only have a few boxes now.
5. Develop a Journaling Habit
Each day we take a few minutes in the morning to sit down and write in our journals. My format is read a reflection/quote, jot down three gratitudes, and write down my thoughts/reflections/prayers. This resets my mind and lets me think about my priorities for the day and for life. It helps me manage my time so I’m more focused and intentional about the things I put on the to do list. Also, this is my time to sit and drink my coffee/tea. This was a joy that I previously lost when the kids were born (how many mama’s actually finish a cup of coffee?!), but since we get up early to do this, I actually get to savor the warmth, aroma, and silence.
These are my current favorites, but there are definitely more I’m finding on this journey. Stay tuned. I’ll share them one day soon!