Mantras and affirmations can be powerful tools for focusing the mind and coping with anxiety or stress. But, says Luna Weeks, they work best when they connect you to who you are and what you stand for…
We know that meditation can help us stay calm in difficult situations, to channel our energies in a specific direction and encourage us to focus on a positive mindset. And a mantra or affirmation is a powerful part of this process that you can use every day, whenever you need it.
An ancient meditative practice, a mantra in its traditional form is more like a chanting with specific sounds – such as ‘om’ or ‘om namah shivaya’. These connect us to nature and ask for the contentment of the world around, and within, us. The vibrational aspect of repeating sounds over and over helps us connect to every living thing; offering renewed clarity, awareness and peace.
Mantras give us something to focus on. It becomes easier to steady the mind, while the sound frequencies soothe and calm us. When we add language to our mantra, the practice takes on a different but no less powerful form.
The Sat Nam mantra, used in Kundalini yoga, for instance, translates as ‘true identity’ or ‘I am truth’. Yoga sessions end with this mantra, repeated for several minutes. ‘Sat Nam is like a seed that begins to germinate inside of you,’ says author and yoga teacher Karena Virginia. ‘The vibration of Sat Nam initiates the journey to selfhood. Sat Nam is about expressing your true identity, not only for the benefit of yourself but also for others.’
Science and psychology show us that the language we use has the power to change how we feel about events in our lives. Focusing on one word or statement distils our experience and allows us to concentrate on what we truly need in that moment. ‘Mantras not only shed light on the darkness of our subconscious, but allow us to infuse our identity with the mantra,’ says journalist Jennifer DeSimone.
We can choose mantras based on the person we want to become: the absolute best version of ourselves. ‘With a personal mantra,’ explains mindfulness writer Irina Yugay, ‘you affirm the way you want to live your life, as it often represents one’s core values. It can help motivate you to complete your goals, both personally and professionally.’
Repeating positive mantras changes your brain too. When you imagine yourself completing a goal, your brain responds as if you had actually completed that goal. Entrepreneur Jack Canfield says: ‘The dissonance that occurs in your subconscious mind as it tries to reconcile what feels to be true, with what your brain knows to be true will subconsciously prompt you to resolve that dissonance by taking persistent action toward your goals, until your imagined reality becomes your actual reality.’ »
Identifying your mantra
Language is power and choosing your words carefully is important. But, first, you need to take the time to identify a few key things: what is happening for you this year? What hopes and dreams do you have? Who do you want to be in this year? What does your heart need to support you?
Write down everything that comes to mind, then read over your notes and slowly trim them down. Mindfulness writer Susannah Conway describes how the words should make you feel: ‘Which word creates a physical reaction in your body when you say it? It might be a tingle up your spine. Butterflies in your tummy. A long, satisfying exhale.’
Once you’ve identified one or two words that really speak to you, use a thesaurus to flesh out your understanding of them. Don’t discard your notes once you’re done: you may need to change your mantra as the seasons or months change, so keep a record of your process to add to.
Focusing your words
You want to end up with a mantra that gives you what you need, rather than highlighting what you lack. ‘I must get fit’ or ‘I will go to the gym’, for example, are pleas or instructions. They don’t speak to who you are or what you need for your life. Instead, ‘My body is a powerful tool – I care for it and strengthen it’ gets to the heart of your desire to make healthier choices.
Similarly, ‘I am not alone’ focuses on your sense of being alone, and reinforces a message of loneliness. Instead, ‘My life is filled with a community that cares for me’ completely changes the narrative and allows your sense of self to become a part of a loving community.
Think about strength and surrender – two important aspects of a mantra. You might need something deeply affirmative, something that gives you permission to be strong, to infuse you with courage: ‘I can overcome this’ or ‘I have what I need to move forward’. On the flipside, you might need gentleness and acceptance: ‘I am enough’ or ‘I accept this into my life’.
Use the present tense, and choose the most emotionally charged words you can, as well as powerful, visual imagery that speaks to you. ‘I can see the path ahead’ is good, but more powerful is, ‘I am an eagle, soaring above, and I can see the way forward.’
If you struggle to find a mantra that sits easily with you, start with something simple that you know you can commit to. Anything that starts with ‘I am’ is great: ‘I am’ is one of the most powerful manifesting mantras. But whichever words you choose, make sure you show yourself compassion. A mantra only works if it infuses your sense of self with possibility, reassurance and kindness.
Commit, repeat, become
When you have identified your mantra, commit to giving it time to work.
Start by repeating your mantra at least twenty times to yourself. Say it out loud, and in front of a mirror if you can. Anchor the affirmation in a part of your body – your heart, your solar plexus, your temples, your belly – by placing your hands on that area as you say the words. Doing this provides a sensory way to connect, and reconnect, with that mantra.
Choose the same time of day for your practice; your body and mind will begin to expect it. As you wake or before you go to sleep are brilliant times, as your conscious mind is less active and you can allow the power of the subconscious to take over.
Practising affirmations consistently is crucial, so give yourself at least two months to develop your mantra practice so it becomes an almost unconscious act. As Jennifer DeSimone says, ‘The work that you do today on your mantra will build the foundation for your life tomorrow.’
Six Mantras for Beginners
1: Every day, I am getting stronger
2: In me I trust
3: Inhale the future, exhale the past
4: I am the change
5: Everything I need is within me
6: May I be happy / May I be well / May I be safe / May I be peaceful and free from suffering.