Mantras have a reputation for being a little hokey — you couldn't be blamed for picturing someone repeating "I am strong and smart and capable" to themselves in front of a mirror, or maybe a cutesy sign in the living room reminding anyone who visits to "live, laugh, love."
But mantras can be a powerful tool, one that's been used for thousands of years to guide meditation, promote mental and physical well-being, and help people ground themselves.
Here's what a daily mantra can do for you, as well as several mantra examples to make getting started easy.
What is a mantra, and how does it work?
At its most basic, a mantra is a word, phrase or sound. It can be chanted, spoken out loud or recited internally depending on how (and where) you use it — you can start chanting in the grocery store, but you might get some odd looks.
It's more than just a phrase, though. A mantra is also a meditation and therapy tool. If you've ever chanted "om" during a yoga class, then you've already experienced a powerful, ancient mantra. Om is said to be the sound of the universe, and in a group setting, it helps you connect with the people and space around you.
In everyday practice, mantras can help clear your mind and calm your nervous system. Whether you want a focal point for your personal meditation or you'd just like to have a positive message to greet you in the morning, here's how to develop a mantra that fits you.
The benefits of having a daily mantra
There are both mental and physical benefits to having a personal mantra, but chances are you'll only notice them if you commit to it.
"It's a bit like rubbing a flint against a stone to strike fire," meditation instructor Sally Kempton explained to Yoga Journal. "The friction of the syllables inside your consciousness, the focus of bringing yourself back to the mantra again and again ... will eventually open the energy in the mantra, and it will stop being just words and become a living energy that you'll feel shifting your inner state."
In addition to changing your mindset, mantras may ease stress and improve mental clarity. They can also quiet the part of your brain responsible for wandering thoughts — if distractions are bringing your productivity down, a mantra might just keep you on track on those days when nothing seems to be getting done.
How to choose a personal mantra
There are thousands of mantra examples out there — how are you supposed to choose just one? Here are a few guidelines to help you narrow down your search.
- Decide if you want a traditional Sanskrit mantra, an English phrase or something in another language.
- Aim for a short, simple phrase that's easy to repeat.
- If you plan to use it for meditation, choose a mantra to sync with your breath.
- Above all, choose something that resonates with you.
For instance, if you're struggling to cope with unexpected changes in your life — such as a lost relationship or a new job — a mantra such as "With change comes opportunity" might comfort you. You could also choose a more general mantra, such as "I show up" or "I am whole."
It doesn't have to be something that others recognize as a mantra, though. This is all for you, so feel free to choose a favorite lyric, part of a sentence from a book you like or something you heard from a loved one that stuck with you.
Some popular Sanskrit mantra examples include Ham-sah, soham, which means "I am that," and Satcitananda (pronounced "sat, chit, ananda"), meaning "existence, consciousness, bliss." These mantras in particular often lend themselves well to chanting.
Try — then try again
The only way to know if a mantra is right for you is to live with it for a while. Try reciting your mantra for a few minutes each day for several weeks. The phrase should start to feel personal and meaningful to you, but if you don't connect with your mantra after a few weeks, pick another one and try again!
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