I recently read a study that says affirmations can be bad news for some folks.
It seems those with low self-esteem who cling to a declaration hoping to benefit are going to be sorely disappointed.
It appears that many of us don’t believe the affirmations we’re using. When we say them, they ignite a storm of contradictory thoughts which aren’t at all helpful. For those with low self-esteem they can leave you feeling worse.
And, personally, I’m here to tell you that repeating the affirmation that I am a healthy size six – while eating my evening ice-cream – has done nothing to move me closer to the smaller size.
But, I do think an affirmation can be particularly powerful when it is truthful and it helps us become aware and focused on the qualities that we want to create in our lives.
This is why I like to use mantras.
Affirmations tend to be more grandiose (they don’t have to be) declarations. Often, we repeat them without really thinking about what we are saying. Mantras tend to be more deliberate and meditative and they help me be conscious and focused on creating the qualities I want in my day.
What is a Mantra?
In some religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, a mantra is a sacred word, chant, or sound that is repeated during meditation. It is usually melodic, or easy to say.
For me, it’s a phrase or even a single word – an expression of a larger quality or idea that I repeat, usually when I’m freaking out, but at other times throughout the day. Mantras aren’t just for meditation any more.
A mantra keeps me focused on my essence, on the positive, on the qualities I want to create in my life. It settles me down, helps me to be less reactive and more connected to my higher, spiritual energy.
Over time the power of a mantra is in its repetition. It becomes a trigger, like a spiritual string tied around your finger reminding you of who you are and what you want – peace, joy, ease.
Some mantras invoke the name of God. Others repeat a quality or virtue – such as love, patience, compassion – that you want to draw into your life. Others, like Ohm or Ah use a tonal frequency to connect to vibration of higher consciousness.
Mantras for Compassion and Forgiveness
By repeating this thought or quality or idea throughout your day and during meditation you keep your focused on creating the quality you want rather than drawing to you the drama you don’t want.
For example, if you are a Type A control freak you may adopt the mantra to ‘go with the flow.’ Been there, done that. You would then repeat this phrase intentionally throughout the day, especially when you feel your need to micromanage kick in, as a reminder of how you want to be in the world.
Psychiatrist Walter Jacobson an expert on forgiveness suggests people use a mantra to remember to let go of past hurt and forgive by saying “Anger hurts, forgiveness heals” or “I don’t need to judge.”
Mantras can also be helpful in self-compassion, says Kristin Neff, psychologist and a renowned expert on the practice. A mantra like, I I’m going to be kind to myself,” or “I made a mistake and I’m going to support myself to get through it” can be a good way to focus on kindness and peace and patience.
Or you can keep it even simpler by choosing a single word, or tone that feels significant or inspiring to you. I love the way ‘Ohm’ resonates and it reminds me of the higher energy that directs my life.
But, when I’m moving through my day, I use phrases to help me focus on what truly important to me. I may simply say “peace” slowly, and meaningfully, to remind me to stay out of the drama. I also say “Let it go” and I release the ‘go’ with a big exhalation so it sounds like I’m actually letting the air out of the tire.
Often, when I’m drawing from my courage or confidence I repeat “I’ve got this” to myself. Sometimes, “choose joy.”
A mantra can be a powerful way to keep your attention on what is important to you and with that kind of focus you’re likely to create that quality in your life.
What is it you are going for? Consider your own power words, or the qualities that you aspire to. Then, on Wednesday, I’ll offer up some easy guidelines to help you create your own mantra.