When we want to change a habit, or a belief that is tripping us up, it’s not enough to just identify and release the old belief. To really ground it in, we must also create a new belief for ourselves. Missing this step can lead us to quickly fall back into the very habits that we are trying to change. Sometimes though, finding and applying this new belief can take time. Using a mantra, or an affirmation, can not only help us find our new belief, they can also help us to make those new beliefs more permanent.
What is a mantra exactly?
A mantra is a word or phrase that you can use each day, to remind yourself of something, or to help you concentrate. People often use them as part of their meditation practice, to keep their minds focused on meditating rather than wandering or worrying.
But mantras can also be used to help us identify and change those automatic thoughts that we recycle each day (I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve love, I’ll never have enough money, the world is out to get me, etc.), and help us to create new, more beneficial thoughts.
We can do this by using them to constantly affirm those things that we already know deep down, but that often get hidden and distorted by the world and our own thoughts. (This is why mantras are also known as affirmations.) Mantras can help us remember who we truly are, at our core.
To give you a better idea of what a mantra is, and how simple they can be, here are some examples of mantras that have helped me:
I am confident.
I am beautiful inside and out.
I am loved, and I am love.
I am enough.
I am strong.
I am healthy.
I am capable.
I give myself permission to enjoy life to the fullest.
The universe is working for me, and not against me, in all things.
Abundance comes to me easily.
I am safe.
You’ll notice that, with most of these, I’ve used the words “I am” and not “I will be”, or “I’m going to”.
We say “I am” because it tells our bodies (and the universe) that we are already in that state of being. Not that we will be in the future, which promotes the “I’ll be happy when cycle”. (I’ll be happy when I get a new job, I’ll be happy when I lose weight, I’ll be happy when….you get the idea.)
Our brains are always seeking to prove us right. That’s why, if we say we’re stupid, our brains seek out evidence to support this. But if we instead say, “I am smart”, even if we don’t believe it right away, our brains seek out the evidence to prove that we’re smart.
That’s the interesting thing about using mantras – they can help you whether you fully believe them at first or not.
When you tell yourself, “I am capable”, at first you may not believe it. You may not feel capable to handle whatever it is that you’re facing, or you may not feel capable of handling anything at all. But the act of simply repeating this to yourself over and over again, starts to retrain your brain.
If I could only ever impress one thing on you, it would be this: Your Words Matter. What you say to yourself, and to others, matters.
Without going too deeply into it all, our words carry vibrations. These vibrations can change the frequency of our bodies. These frequencies and vibrations have the power to heal, but also the power to harm.
Just telling someone that they are worthless, ugly, or useless, can break a person’s spirit in two. But tell them that they are beautiful, amazing, and valued beyond measure, and it can change their entire outlook on themselves. If you repeat these words over and over to them, the effect grows exponentially.
Most of us understand this about other people, but we don’t seem to apply it to ourselves. We say awful things to ourselves every single day. Things that we would never, ever say to another person. “I’m so fat. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. No one could ever love me. I don’t matter. I’m useless.” And on and on.
These (along with those about money, happiness, our health, and so much more) are the types of beliefs that using mantras can help us to change.
If you aren’t sure which mantra to start using, one of these three ways can help you decide:
1. Read through the ones that I have listed above and see if any of them resonate immediately.
If one does, even if it doesn’t make sense, go with it. Our bodies, and higher selves, know what we need, even when we don’t consciously realize it yet.
2. Read through the list above and see if there are any that make you bristle up inside.
By that I mean, do any of them cause you to tense up, make a face, immediately think “yeah right”, or just feel a heaviness? If so, start with that one. That reaction that you’re having shows that somewhere inside of you, you don’t feel confident, capable, loved, worthy, etc. Practicing the one that makes you feel this way can help you to seek out the deeper reasons for your feelings, and help you to heal them for good.
3. Start with “I am safe”.
At our deepest level, we all want to know that we’re safe in this world, in what we’re doing. The majority of us are, but because our fight or flight system gets stuck in the “on” position, we don’t feel safe doing even the most basic day to day things. This system constantly being on drains our energy more quickly and causes our health to deteriorate.
There are so many different reasons why this can happen, but our main goal is to regulate that system, and allow our bodies and minds to calm down. It may seem too easy, but the simple act of saying, “I am safe”, can help calm your nervous system, and disarm your fight or flight. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it will definitely help you feel more capable of dealing with them.
Feeling safe is instinctual. It’s something that we’re born knowing we need to survive. So, if we take care of that, then we can build on it with all of the other mantras.
Once you’ve figured out which mantra you’re going to practice, remember this…consistency is key.
There is no magic number of times that you need to say your mantra to make it work. Instead, it’s like a physical muscle, you need to consistently use it and work it to see the most growth. Just like lifting weights once, or even once a month, isn’t going to get you very far, saying your mantra once, or once in a blue moon, won’t help as much. It can make you feel better for a little while, but to really make a difference it needs to be part of your daily practice.
Something that helps me tremendously when I first start using a new mantra, is to give myself visual reminders to do so. This could be something like setting a reminder on your phone, changing the background on your phone to a specific picture or quote, or leaving post-it notes around for yourself to see. Whatever breaks your thoughts for a moment and helps you to remember to repeat your mantra.
Eventually, you will start catching your automatic thoughts, and negative beliefs, more often and more quickly, and you won’t need the visual reminders anymore.
I started practicing the words “I am safe” in reference to different things. I am safe to be myself. I am safe to say no. I am safe to set boundaries with people. I am safe to rest. I am safe to explore all of my options.
After about a month of doing this, I found myself standing at the edge of the swinging bridge at Rock City Gardens in Chattanooga, TN. Now, something you should know about me, I’m not a fan of heights. So the idea of walking across a bridge that was 180 feet long and suspended high above the mountains, would not normally be my idea of a fun time.
But this day, I was determined to conquer my fear.
I stood at the edge and watched my husband go about half way. After a few really deep breaths, and a moment asking myself what I was thinking, I walked across to the other side. (In the fastest slow walk I possibly could to hurry, but keep the bridge from moving too much. Haha!)
All the while, I was repeating to myself, “I am safe to walk on this bridge. Hundreds of people do it every day, and they wouldn’t let that happen if it wasn’t safe”.
I didn’t realize that I had been saying this until much later. There weren’t any visual reminders, I just found myself feeling unsafe, and because I had practiced saying “I am safe” multiple times before, this was my new automatic thought.
I’m not telling you this story to say that you will always see results after only a month, or that it will always take a month. What I’m saying is, if you make the effort to practice your mantra regularly, it will help you make a change.
I’ll leave you with this…a practice that has not only helped me to engrain new thoughts, but to also relieve stress and calm my nervous system.
Sit, or lie down, and place your hands over your heart. Close your eyes and breathe naturally.
Feel the warmth from your hands, radiating into your heart space.
Repeat your chosen mantra 10 times slowly…thoughtfully. Take a break in between each one and observe how your body feels.
When you’ve said it 10 times (or more if it feels right to you), take a slow, deep breath in, feeling your belly rise. Let it out just as slowly, feeling your belly fall.
Stay there, hands over your heart, breathing naturally for however long it feels good.
Slowly open your eyes, and repeat your mantra one more time before you go about your day or night.