Having Trouble Meditating? A Mantra Can Help

Learn the best ways to use a mantra

<p>Daniel de la Hoz / Getty Images</p>

Daniel de la Hoz / Getty Images

Reviewed by Steven Gans, MDReviewed by Steven Gans, MD

A mantra is the continuous repetition of a particular word or phrase. Adding mantras to your meditation practice may help to improve your mental health.

The History of Mantras

Let's break down the term mantra using its etymology. In Sanskrit, ‘Man’ means mind, and ‘tra’ means tool or vehicle. For this reason, mantras can be seen as a sacred, numinous set of phrases that can transport you to a meditative state.



The Earliest Use of Mantras Was Recorded 3,000 Years Ago

Mantras originate from the ancient sound "Om," which is believed to be the sound of creation. In the book, Rituals, and Mantras: Rules Without Meaning, they recorded the earliest use of mantras in Vedic Sanskrit in India at least 3,000 years ago. Some believe these spiritual words are coded with a vibrational frequency that can energetically influence the subconscious mind and the surrounding environment.



“Over time, mantras have become popularized and can be found in a wide range of places including religious practices, yoga studios, self-help books, therapy, and even children's classrooms to set the tone for the day,” social worker and yoga teacher Jillian Amodio tells Verywell Mind.



Why Mantras Are So Powerful

What makes mantras so powerful in various situations is how they can calm the mind. When incorporated into regular practice, it can bring awareness to the current moment and settle negative thoughts to calmer levels.



Research shows the sound of a mantra being used within meditation has been “suggested to act as an effective vehicle to override [automatic] mental speech, which is the predominant form of conscious[ness] for most people."

Related: A Beginner's Guide to Chakra Meditation

Mantras vs. Affirmations vs. Intentions

A subtle yet important difference exists between mantras and repetitive phrases like intentions or affirmations. They all share many similarities in how they help nourish the mind and use phrases with focused intent.

  • Mantras: The biggest difference is that mantras promote acceptance and spiritual presence. They are often connected to ancient languages. “It is believed that mantras create positive vibrations that will create a spiritual connection and affect change,” licensed marriage and family therapist, Deborah Vinall, PsyD, LMFT, shares.

  • Affirmations: Affirmations are directive statements meant to overcome or challenge a particular set of internal or external beliefs.

  • Intentions: Vinall explains that an intention similarly sets up a positive mental framework to guide people to live consciously, mindfully, and congruently with values.

Related: 25 Positive Daily Affirmations to Recite for Your Mental Health

Examples of Mantras

You can use mantras rooted in Buddhist or Hindu origins, but they can be modernized too.



The most effective mantras will be specific and individual to you based on personal significance and the energetic essence it uniquely carries for you.



Below are example mantras:

  • Om

  • I am that I am

  • I am safe

  • I am consciousness

  • I am protected

  • I am healthy

  • I am worthy

  • I am capable

  • I am wisdom

  • Fear does not control me

  • Perfection is a myth

  • I am guided and held

  • My mind is calm and clear

  • I love and forgive myself

  • I honor my emotions

  • I refuse to give up

  • I am good enough

  • I am strong

  • I am at peace

  • I am love

  • I am whole and complete

  • I determine my happiness

  • I value myself

  • I fill my heart with joy

  • This, too, shall pass

  • My life is a miracle

  • Every step I take is right in my journey

  • I surrender to the flow of the universe

  • I love you, and I’m sorry; please forgive me; thank you

Why Mantras Can Benefit Your Meditation Practice

According to Vedic science, meditation is a practice that connects to one’s deeper inner self. The benefits of meditation can happen through a diverse number of techniques that include transcendental meditation, guided meditation, breathing meditation, mindfulness meditation, and more.



"Over time, mantras have become popularized and can be found in a wide range of places, including religious practices, yoga studios, self-help books, therapy, and even children's classrooms to set the tone for the day."

Jillian Amodio, Social Worker, Yoga Teacher



Repeating a mantra expands the mind since intentional stillness allows you to observe your thoughts without judgment. By focusing on a mantra in a meditative state, the quietude allows a deeper and universal consciousness to emerge slowly. 

This practice can help increase calm and reduce anxiety. Studies suggested chanting mantras such as "Om" can quiet the amygdala and stimulate the vagus nerve to enable better emotional processing and help neutralize the flight-or-fight response. 



Takeaway

From a physical well-being perspective, other researchers in 2022 found mantra meditation shows promising benefits for stress, anxiety, hypertension, and the immune system.



“Mantras can help to settle and focus the mind in meditation through repetition of the single word, phrase, or idea,”  Vinall says. “They can guide your breath as you incorporate the chosen words into intentional, deep patterns of inhalation and exhalation.”

Benefits of Using Mantras for Mindfulness

Repeating mantras can help you align with your goals and aspirations. Amodio says, “Reciting mantras can be personalized to suit the needs, wants, desires, and circumstances of each person.”



Takeaway

Vinall points out that the benefits of mantras will vary depending on the choice of mantra as each word and phrase will help you focus your practice and pursue your intention. “For example, the mantra 'Om' can lead to a deeper sense of connection with humanity and the universe. A mantra of 'love and kindness' may help you to set your intention during meditation and live out these values throughout the day,” she says.



Vinall elaborates that adding mantras into your mental well-being practice allows deeper truths to move past the usual defenses and doubts and settle deep into the psyche. By repeating words that harmonize with your mind-body-spirit, you can decrease input from the logical pre-frontal cortex of the brain and allow greater access into the limbic, instinctual regions.



"It is believed that mantras create positive vibrations that will create a spiritual connection and affect change."

Deborah Vinall, PsyD, LMFT



On top of the already described effects, Amodio notes mantras can help you regain control of thought patterns and put you back in the driver’s seat of your emotions.

Mantras May Help Alleviate Distress

Studies note how mantra meditation can be considered a useful intervention to reduce psychological distress in certain populations, although more research is needed.

“They’re meant to focus the mind, body, and breath in unison toward a certain thought, goal, intention, purpose, or manifestation,” Amodio says. “Mantras can benefit things like stress management, a positive outlook, radical acceptance, and increased self-awareness.”

Related: What Is Self-Concept?

How to Incorporate Mantras Into Your Life

There isn’t a right or wrong way to use a mantra. Choose the words that resonate deeply with you, whether they’re traditional mantras or ones you create.



Keep Your Mantras Positive

"To create your own affirmation mantra, draw upon your strengths and those you wish to further develop. Word them in the present tense and using positive language—'I am' versus 'I am not',” Vinall encourages.



Write Your Mantras Down

Mantras don’t always have to occur in a yoga studio or in silence on a cushion, either. For ease, Vinall suggests writing mantras on notes in places you see often and repeating them as you walk or drive. 

For extra emphasis, she recommends connecting with your body as you reflect on your mantra. If you feel tension or anxiety anywhere, place your hand perhaps over your heart, head, neck, or belly, and repeat the words of reassurance and grounding that you need to hear.

Close Your Eyes When Reciting Mantras

“Close your eyes in moments of stress and repeat your mantra with deep, slow breathing, and notice how your mindset shifts,” Vinall says. “Be mindful in observing internal and interpersonal changes that occur as you repeat your truths.”

Say Your Mantras Throughout the Day

You can start off small by adding mantras into your day whenever you can. “Daily mantras such as affirmation cards or a positive thought of the day can help set an intention,” Amodio advises.

Use Journals

Amodio uses intention journals, positive thoughts of the day, phone apps, or mantra beads in her practice with her clients. Whatever suits you best. Amodio says, “The most important thing to remember when setting a mantra is to make it personal and applicable to you.”



Summary

Mantras are simple yet impactful ways to promote more spiritual presence and universal connection in your life. Not only does it connect you to the immediate moment, it helps slow down your mind with intention.

Taking on a mantra practice can set you off on a journey to meet and re-meet all parts of yourself with awareness, compassion, and healing.



Read Next: The Benefits of Meditation for Stress Management

Read the original article on Verywell Mind.