The Mantra Menu: 7 Helpful Quotes to Cope with Stress, Loss, Pain, Fear or Other Difficult Life Circumstances
So What's a Mantra Anyway?
Mantras are simple phrases you can tell yourself to help deal with stressful, painful, frightening or otherwise difficult circumstances in a productive and healthy way by focusing on a thought or behavior.
How Can a Mantra Help Me?
When used correctly mantras can help you rewire the brain to think differently and lower heightened physical responses of the body shift to a more peaceful, relaxed and happy state regardless of your life circumstances. I didn't make that up. Scientist have studied how the brain responds to mantras and they have found that lower blood pressure, increased concentration and decreased worry are just a few of the many benefits of focusing your concentration on a single pointed word or phrase.
How Do I use a Mantra Correctly?
Mantras work best when you personalize them, understand their meaning and use them regularly. So don't just pick any mantra. Choose a mantra that feels 'right' to you on an intuitive level. When you say your mantra it should give you a feeling of comfort and peace and should address a particular goal or focus you have in mind because you want to create a shift to a more peaceful serene mental state. Mantras can be in any language and long as you know the significance so don't just stick to English if French, Sanskrit, Swahili or even binary catches your interest.
To remind yourself to use a particular mantra that fits your situation it helps to write it down and post where you can see it or carry it with you. This can be as simple as handwritten note tucked away in a wallet or pocket or posted on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Alternatively, a picture frame, a piece of jewelry like a locket or a ring work well. This can either have the words written on it or the object itself can symbolize the meaning. Useful objects that can be worn or carried include small rocks or other findings from nature, gems, cards, buttons, jewelry, a piece of cloth or photo. Any thing that has meaning for you can act as a reminder for the message you choose as your mantra.
It might take some practice before you remember to use a mantra in a tough situation. Practice it several times (like a dress rehearsal) while you are in a calm and relaxed state. Stating your mantra while exercising or just moving your body around can also help your message sink in. This will help your brain become prepared to use the mantra under stressful circumstances when you really need the message to help ground you. Don't give up because you forget the first few times. Just repeat the mantra several times as soon as you remember and with practice you will start to remember more often until it becomes second nature for the times when you really need it.
Got a Problem or Just Want to Grow as a Person? Choose Your Mantra:
Mantra #1: "Relax and Take a Deep Breath!"
We hold our breath and tense our muscles when we feel anxious or upset. This in turn increases our sense of anxiety, creating a vicious cycle of physical tension, lack of oxygen and unsettled nerves. many of us don't even realize that our bodies are frequently in a state of heightened tension until someone else points it out. If you are one of those people who finds yourself chewing your nails or sitting on the edge of your seat more than you catch yourself unwinding, or others often comment on your apparent tension, you will benefit from a simple reminder to just “breath and relax”.
Mantra #2: "Be Here Now"
This saying is perfect for those of us who have regrets or like to worry or fantasize about the future. It's also great for those with addictions or people who want to break a habit like spending too much time texting. This mantra acts on your brain in the same way restarting clears out your RAM and helps your computer run faster. It gives you permission to let go of unnecessary thoughts that are crowding up in your mind.
To “be here now” is to focus all of your energy on the present moment. Really listen to what the person next to you is saying and look at them instead of staring at the incoming messages on your cell phone. Smell the air, listen to the background noises and pay attention to how your body feels. Each time your mind wanders to a worry, regret or wish for the future, just tell yourself to “Be Here Now.” Start small, focus on being in the moment for a couple minutes or even just a few seconds (if that seems too long to begin with) and gradually work up the amount of time you spend focusing on the present moment until it is a regular habit.
The term "Be Here Now" was popularized in the United States when Ram Dass published his book by the same name. Want to personalize this saying to have more meaning for you? Use your own words. "That was the past. This is Now", "I did the best I could then. Today I will choose differently" or "Time to Reboot".
Mantra #2: "Who do I Choose to Be?"
Instead of letting someone else's behavior trigger your anger or frustration and give you permission to react in a way that you aren't proud of, focus on the one person in the world that you have control over- You.
Define the kind of individual you want to be and remind yourself that your actions are not dependent on what other people do or do not do. Do you want to be patient? Kind? Levelheaded? Organized? Friendly? Honest? Faithful? Flexible? Choose whatever characteristics or qualities that you admire and answer your own question any time someone else gets on your nerves or does something hurtful. This question reminds you that you are in charge of your own feelings and behaviors. No one else can control these parts of you unless you allow them to.
This is a good mantra to write down in your own words. Alternatively, think of someone whose qualities you admire & respect and ask yourself the question "What would _____(insert that person's name here) do? The use of the slogan "What would Jesus do?" or "WWJD" became popular in the 1990s especially for evangelical Christians but you can insert the name of any person you aspire to be more like.
Mantra #3: "This too Shall Pass"
Coping with an illness, dead end job, financial trouble, unhealthy relationship or any other circumstance that you wish would end? Sometimes when we deal with ongoing problems we lose perspective because we are so focused on the negative. This can cause us to feel hopeless, become depressed or be apathetic and then we find ourselves caught in a pattern of negative thoughts and behaviors that is hard to escape.
This mantra is also perfect for those of us trying to work through cravings or overcome fears. Instead of avoiding the uncomfortable sensations associated with an experience by giving into cravings or anxious feelings, tell yourself that "this too shall pass". When you ride out the discomfort until it subsides you are shaping new patterns of thought and behavior.
You will be in good company. This ancient saying with origins that go back to Sufi poets like Sanai and Attar of Nishapur. "Everything Changes", "Nothing Lasts Forever" are other ways you can personalize this idea and make it your own.
Special diet and healthy eating mantra tip
Carry or post a picture of a healthy meal that you enjoy and every time you are tempted to eat something you know is not good for you remind yourself "you are what you eat".
Carry a picture of healthy portion sizes if you have trouble limiting the amount of food you eat or if you tend to under eat because your body does not let you know it is running out of fuel.
Mantra #5: "What is Good For Me is Good For All"
Do you feel overly guilty when you can't accommodate other people's requests? Do you have a hard time setting healthy boundaries for yourself because you let others talk you into activities or commitments that you really don't have time or energy for? Then "What is Good For Me is Good For All" is the perfect reminder that you need to take care of yourself. This is not about indulging in selfish whims at the expense of others but rather about giving yourself permission to say "no" when saying "yes" would cause you to spread yourself too thin or violate your boundaries. If you are happy, healthy, balanced and well-cared for, you are better able to support and serve others. And if keep your boundaries intact you remain resilient and grounded.
Mantra #6: "Where there is a Will there is a Way"
For those of us who give up too soon, it helps to have a reminder that if we are determined there are ways around or above our obstacles if we just keep trying. This mantra helps you re-write a very important thinking error: That you lack the ability to solve your problems. While you may lack the confidence to solve your problems, chances are you actually do have the capability to fix most of those little bugs in your life. When you remind yourself "Where There is a Will There is a Way" you can begin to look at your problems differently, seek help and/or learn new information that will allow you to address what once seemed an impossible issue.
Think about how easy it is to Google an answer to virtually any question today. This mantra links you to your mind's "Google Capability". If you don't have the solution to a problem, that is your cue to seek out a trusted friend or adviser for suggestions or learn more about your problem before giving up.
"Where there is a will there is a way" was a popular English proverb credited to George Herbert in 1641.
Mantra #7: "It' O.K. to Let Go"
On the other end of the "effort spectrum" are those of us who are die hard's- the perfectionists who have to get it just right before we quit. We just can't seem to let go of a bad relationship, toxic friendship or unhealthy job even when the benefits of continuing on our current path are far outweighed by the disadvantages of doing so.
This mantra is also good to establish healthy boundaries in your mind during those situations when you feel responsible for something that isn't really your problem or when other people try to manipulate you into feeling guilty for something they have done. In theses circumstances you can modify your mantra to "This is not my problem".
If you have a hard time letting go even when you know on some unconscious level that you should, it is time to rewire your brain with some new and healthy thinking. Give yourself permission to be human. "It is o.k. to Make Mistakes". "It is o.k. to Let Things Go". After all, you wouldn't be reading this article if I waited until it was perfect.
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Do your have a favorite mantra or a tip on how to use mantras more effectively? Share with us.
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