What Is A Mantra?
Anxiety and stress can be overwhelming components of our daily lives that we may not realize are pervading our thoughts and can feel impossible to overcome. For centuries, Buddhist and Hindu practitioners have used mantras - a repeated rhythmic phrase - in meditation to calm the mind through drawing all focus to the chant. One of the most universally practiced and long-established mental exercises, mantra meditation can be an incredibly effective method for relieving stress.
How Does Mantra Meditation Calm The Mind?
In a recent study it was found mantra meditation can generate a reduction in activity in the cerebral cortex - the largest part of the brain that controls senses, thoughts, and movements.The reduction is found to impact mostly the default network of intrinsic, self-related processes.
The default network of the brain is also referred to as the "busy mind" and is the generator of wandering thoughts about your past, present and future - often anxious thoughts. The gentle reduction in activity in this network gives the mind a break from overwhelming thought processes, which can also lead to whole body relaxation.
In simple terms, when you are stressed, this is a physical and chemical reaction to a perceived threat. By talking to yourself in a gentle, positive way you can help your body understand the ‘threat’ has passed and help the relaxation response kick-in.
Use An Ancient Mantra For Relaxation and Clarity
One of the most well known sounds associated with mantra meditation is OM, it’s also the most well used due to its simplicity. OM, pronounced “aum” is a Sanskrit syllable considered a sacred primordial sound common to Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. Chanting OM mantra has been found to cause stabilization of the brain through rhythm and vibration which is said to lead to harmonization of our systems including heartbeat and breathing.
Modern Stress-Busting Mantras
Selecting a word or series of words that resonates with you, and repeating it in the form of a mantra helps to affirm the meaning of the words and allows you to influence your subconscious to shift negative habits into positive habits. Having some go-to phrases in your stress-busting tool kit can make a huge difference in controlling stress and negativity.
Here are some of our favorite stress-busting mantras:
- I can control my stress response and I choose not to let it overwhelm me.
- Even though I feel stressed, I love and respect myself.
- Breathe in, breathe out, slow it down.
- Not everything has to be perfect, I have done enough.
- I am grateful for …
- I will approach all situations with peace and love.
- Peace and serenity are within reach.
- All experiences are opportunities to learn.
Create Your Own Mantra For Personal Growth
A modern approach to mantra meditation suggested by psychologists and yogis is the use of personal mantras. Creating personal mantras can help in affirming existing positive aspects of ourselves and aspirational goals, while we benefit physiologically from the mentally calming effects of repetitive speech.
Dr. Andrea Pennington explained that “Personal Success Mantras” can help people to get on top of their plans or get back to a more powerful perspective to achieve goals. Creating your own mantra can be done in three stages:
- List your top three achievements from last year, explain how they were achieved and then reduce this down to a single clear statement that affirms your capacity to achieve your goals.
- Make a list of three disappointments from last year and how they could have possibly been made successes. Write a short statement which affirms your capacity to make successes in the future.
- Out of the two, choose the most impacting statement that will help you focus on your new goals for the year.
The personal mantra is most effective when it is a positive statement said in present tense.
When And How Often To Use Mantras
Yogis suggest using and repeating mantras as often as possible over a dedicated practice period or ‘Sadhana’ which is often a 21 or 40 day period.
Creating a routine with regular intervals of practice can allow you to be more conscious of your mantra, aiding in the effectiveness of the process. Morning (upon waking) and evening (before going to bed) are great times as you are preparing for action or preparing for rest - both of which require mental calm.
If you find yourself stressed at work or overwhelmed in a situation, you can turn to your mantras to help you through. Follow these steps to bring calm back into your life:
- Find a comfortable space to sit… perhaps you need to walk away from your stressful situation and sit outside or just find a quiet place to gather your thoughts. Where possible, sit cross-legged with your hips elevated and your eyes closed.
- Focus on your breath but try not to control it.
- Chant your chosen mantra out loud. You may want to start with ‘Om’ and then use your own specific mantra to suit your situation.
- You can then sit in silent meditation or continue chanting your mantra - it’s up to you. There are no set rules, timeframes or perfect way. Whatever works for you is the best routine for you.