A mantra is a word or phrase repeated again and again, normally during meditation. But don’t worry, we won’t be doing any yoga, drum beating, chanting or dancing in the streets today. However, please feel free – if this floats your boat.
Mantras can be a sound (like “OM” – we’re not going to use this) or they can be a simple sentence to replace the incessant thinking of thoughts (we’ll use these).
A positive affirmation is a term often used interchangeably with mantras; yet the two have different origins and applications. But, hey – who cares what they’re called or where they come from. They worked – for me. They helped relieve my anxiety and panic attacks.
This might come as a surprise; we all have mantras that we repeat over and again. Perhaps you’re not aware of yours – yet. Hopefully your lucky and have positive mantras like “I am simply gorgeous”. Or, like many of us, your mantras tend to be negative, “I’m too tall”, “My nose it too big”. These are the negative thoughts that shape our view of ourselves and are cemented by repetition.
Are you aware that your mind is perpetually spinning, generating constant (often negative) thoughts?
The beauty is, that once you do become aware, you can change this. You can introduce positive mantras. You can switch your negative thoughts to positive ones… and take my word for it, this will have a profound affect on your life. Mantras are known to both uplift you and help to keep you focused. In other words, they’re designed to change you, your self, your mood and your negative thoughts.
Mantras also give your brain a little workout. And they can transform you by uttering them time and again. Don’t believe me? Remember (from my other posts on stress relief etc) when I told you that I tried everything? I. tried. everything! Repeating my mantras was one of those weird and wonderful – out there – techniques that I found to be beneficial. I used to sit, eyes closed; headphones on, listening to water and dolphins with music, and uttering one or other of the mantras (to myself – I didn’t want the boys thinking I’d totally lost it). You can laugh!
But, get this. Neuroscientists, equipped with advanced brain-imaging tools, are beginning to quantify and confirm some of the health benefits of this ancient practice, such as its ability to help free your mind of background chatter and calm your nervous system.
In one study recently published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, researchers from Linköping University, in Sweden, measured activity in a region of the brain called the default mode network—the area that’s active during self-reflection and mind wandering—to determine how practicing mantra meditation affects the brain.
From a mental health perspective, an overactive default mode network can mean that the brain is distracted—not calmed or centered (Yoga Journal)
Of course, there’s lots of myths about mantras. But it is widely acknowledged that the more you repeat a phrase, the more it becomes a part of you. Your mantras can reinvent your inner chatter. This is why they are used for more severe mental conditions such as anxiety. The more you repeat the mantra, the more you reframe your thinking and abide by it. This replaces the old negative message which used to repeat in your head with the new more positive one (Rachel Yahne, Huffpost.com).
Here are some of my favourites which you might want to try – you can google some more or just make a mantra up to suit yourself. It’s not just what you’re uttering in itself that’s beneficial, it’s the repetition too.
- “This. too. will. pass.”, Eckhart Tolle – this was especially beneficial to me when I was heading towards a panic attack. I still use this when I’m feeling out of sorts.
- “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”, Laura Silva – I used this a lot and found it helpful, and still do.
- “I am in complete control of determining my emotions”, Aisha Moktadier.
- “I choose to be happy”, Rachel Yahne.
- “I change my thoughts, I change my world“, Norman Vincent Peale – oh boy, don’t get me started on this one.
- “Be the change you wish to see in the world“, Gandhi.
- “Let It Go” I used this on the exhale when I was practicing breathing techniques.
It’s hard not to hear Elsa belting out the lyrics to “Let It Go” (from Disney’s “Frozen”) when I hear these three words, but this phrase offers wisdom for everyone, not just those cursed with a syndrome that makes everything into an icicle. It’s especially helpful for when you get caught in obsessive thinking, ruminations that take on a life of their own says Therese Borchard, Sanity break.
Mantras are a great tool you can use to calm your mind anytime and anywhere i.e. in the lift on the way to an interview or on the way to sit your driving test. Feeling agitated, lonely, excited, stressed? Pick a mantra and utter it silently and constantly for a few minutes. As with anything new, the more you practice, the better able you are to reap the benefits when you most need them.
These methods work better for some than others. We are all unique and you should use what feels most nourishing to you. You choose your positive mantra and practice it often.
Understand that your mind will drift. That’s normal. Your mind is constantly fluctuating. You’ll go off on a tangent and start thinking of other things. Don’t fret! Just relax and shift your focus back to your mantra.
Over time this part will get easier and easier!
It takes 40 days for the transformational power of the practice to create a permanent shift in your consciousness. During that time, you may also notice that you have a more positive outlook on life, improved concentration, greater self-awareness and less judgment toward yourself and others, Bhakti Marga.
“The more you chant (repeat your preferred mantra), the more self-confidence, joy and happiness will be inside of you”, Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda.
And don’t knock it ’til you try it.
Have you ever practiced any of the above? Did it work for you. Are you willing to give it a go? I’d love to hear your thoughts.