Setting Intentions in Addiction Recovery
How setting intentions rather than goals can reinvigorate your physical well-being
Setting intentions in addiction recovery can be very beneficial to your health and wellbeing. If you’re treading the path of addiction recovery, this is more important than ever.
Fitness plays a large part in this, both in allowing for physical and mental wellbeing, and in aiding you to build up positivity as you seek to put the chaos of active addiction well and truly behind you.
Intentions are incredibly important in determining the success or our fitness plans. If you have a concrete goal to strive for, you will be far likelier to succeed than if you simply go through the motions hoping for the best.
A lot can be said for SMART goals and the like. However, that’s not what I want to talk about today. If you’re going through recovery, your mental wellbeing is likely far more important than your physical development.
We will still honour the principle of specificity, but the kinds of targets and intentions I want to explore are more to do with mindset than physical outcome.
As a brief example, somebody might want to lose weight. A traditional SMART approach might be to work out how much weight they needed to lose and to give them a time frame for doing so – 6 kg over three months, at 0.5 kg per week, for example.
The beauty of this kind of goal is its inflexibility. It cannot adapt to real life circumstances, so must be adhered to. This, however, can also be its downfall. Real life happens and beating yourself up trying to hit a concrete goal may be untenable; it may be quite mentally detrimental, as you watch yourself struggle in vain.
This is where setting intentions in your own addiction recovery can be extremely beneficial.
Adopting the correct mindset can boost both mental and physical health
Instead of a specific goal, an intention might work well, here. Rather than telling yourself you must lose 6 kg in three months, it might be better to set an intention to live lightly and healthily. This should encourage you to eat delicious yet healthy food in relatively small portions, to be comfortable with the idea of a weightlessly unfilled stomach, to walk and practice yoga and do all the other things that lead both to improved mental wellbeing and to weight loss.
Or, even better, rather than beating yourself up trying to lose weight, you could look at setting intentions in addiction recovery like: “This year, I’m going to be kinder to myself; I want to aim to nourish my mind, body and spirit”, rather than shooting for any set goal or ideal; “I will value myself as I am”
Either way, we are looking at a far less black and white way of thinking. In this way, intentions are divorced from any specific outcome. Rather, they simply allow you to experience life as you truly want it, as opposed to holding yourself to an unattainable mark.
Letting go of the desire to be perfect serves most people well
Instead of telling yourself that you will go to the gym five days per week, train to run a half marathon, get your six-pack showing, you might just commit to moving more, being more active, energising yourself through movement. This still gives you direction and motivation but in a freer, less prescriptive way that allows you to experience life to the fullest whilst enabling change for the better.
What we’re aiming at in the long run is setting up the lifestyle that you want for yourself, rather than simply going for goals to hit.
You cannot fail at your intentions in the same way you might fail a SMART goal. If you end the year unable to run a half marathon, you may view this as failure. Likely, you will feel rubbish. However, if you end the year having moved more, been healthier, been more active, experienced more of your potential physicality, you will have succeeded no matter how large or small the change may have been. Where you place your focus is pivotal to what you view as success and failure. Focusing your kind on accomplishments is far more nurturing than focusing on specific goals that were missed.
There is an argument for being vague, here, and I personally find it very compelling.
How to setting intentions in addiction recovery can lead to a healthier, fitter you
When it comes to setting well-being intentions, applying vagueness isn’t the same as being wishy-washy. We still want to take our intentions seriously, which means setting about them with the right mindset and the right tools at our disposal.
There are certain things you can do when setting intentions that will make the difference between living your best life and maintaining an undesirable status quo.
First things first, spend some time thinking about your intentions and planning how you will achieve them – What changes would you like to see in your life? What would make the biggest difference? What would help you to become who you want to be?
Then write them down. Get a journal and write out everything you want to achieve. Write a one or two sentence intention as part of this. Without doing this, you run the risk of losing sight of your intention.
This will also help you to visualise your intentions. Which brings us onto our next step: you need to think of practical, actionable things you can do to bring you towards your goal.
If you want to eat more healthily, commit to making the majority of your food yourself, and to buying healthy ingredients. If you want to get moving more, commit to walking to work, or going to the gym a couple of days per week, or joining a couple of fitness classes.
Visualise what all of this looks like, and aim for that. Again, this is about lifestyle change, not simple, short-term fixes. When you are setting intentions in addiction recovery, visualise them coming into fruition. Imagine how your life looks with your intentions in place, with you achieving them, and work to bring it into being.
Aim for clarity when setting your intentions for a healthier recovery
Though the intentions themselves may be slightly subjective, we are aiming for clarity at all times. With regards to your fitness, ask yourself what kind of physical activity you want in your life, what you can see yourself doing, what will bring about positive results and what it is you enjoy. Ask yourself how this will fit into your life, how much time you want to devote to it, how much you can, and how varied you want it to be.
Extend this to each individual workout, if appropriate. Ask yourself what each workout should deliver. Be honest with yourself about what you’re able to achieve. Push yourself hard but recognise when you need to pull back and go for a gentler session. None of us can bring our A-game every day!
What to do instead
Rather, identify what feelings you want from your workout. If you’re tired, it could be relaxation or rejuvenation. It could be that you want to tear yourself apart if you’re full of beans! When you’re stressed, catharsis may be perfect. Tailor your workout accordingly – figure out what style of workout would be most appropriate.
For example, I lift weights three times per week. I walk miles every day with my dog. I practice yoga near enough daily. Though my weightlifting sessions are always tough ( with a great deal of variation as needed), my walking and yoga are very adaptable. Some days I may fancy ten miles of hill walking. Other days a gentle stroll around my local park is perfect. Some days a full yoga flow with plenty of chaturanga is just what the doctor ordered. Other times, gentle flows, yin yoga sessions, or even simple meditation are needed.
This is because my intentions are very different between weight training and everything else. Weights are to build myself up, to test myself, to grow through fatigue and adversity. Everything else is to take care of myself – aiding my recovery from the gym, of course, but also keeping me mentally balanced and relaxed.
Honour setting intentions by holding yourself accountable in your addiction recovery
To help you stick to your intentions, you will want some accountability. No matter how positive your goals, a bit of guilt is always healthy (as long as it is just a bit!)
Tell those around you of your intentions. They will naturally ask how you are getting on from time to time. Make sure you have something good to tell them! They will hopefully cheer you on; maybe they’ll get involved themselves. We all need support systems, so reach out to yours.
In this way, you will be able to stay focussed. You will be able to honour your intentions, which in turn will allow you to prioritise your values and desires, to build the life you want to build. Setting intentions in addiction recovery regarding your exercise make it very sustainable when you do this – it becomes a matter of positive self-care, rather than the self-abuse into which many training systems can risk falling.
Author - James
- Goal Setting and Action Planning for Health Behavior Change - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796229/