Mantras and positives affirmations, create your own!
Mantras and positive affirmations
Eighteen months ago, I was not very familiar with the concept of mantra. It sounded a bit spiritual to me, almost magical. Having studied clinical psychology at university and during my coaching certification, I was however familiar with the concept of positive affirmation. Positive affirmations, just like mantras, are thoughts or phrases that can rewire the brain when they are repeated regularly and for a long enough period. Mantras and positive affirmation are therefore close concepts that help us be happy and see our life more positively.
But let’s first come back to my personal experience with mantras.
Mantras and me
In the Buddhist and Hindu religions, a mantra is a sacred formula endowed with spiritual power. The first mantra I said did not really transcend me. I even wondered in which kind of sect I put myself into.
My first experience with mantras left me puzzled
We were a group of people seated in a circle around a fireplace, all dressed in white. A man with a guitar sang mantras, which are short sentences repeated again and again to the sound of the guitar. The group repeated the sentences after him.
Everything was in Sanskrit… and we were throwing flower petals and rice in the open fire.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for all the Buddhist monks that I regularly hear singing mantras in temples. I also have respect for the Gods they honor in the mantras.
I just feel uncomfortable singing lyrics to praise Gods that I do not know in a language that I do not understand.
Mantras and positive affirmations have to be adapted to everyone’s needs and beliefs
In a word: I need SENSE! Another example of using mantras in our daily life is music. Think about one song that you love and for which you know the lyrics by heart. The words in the lyrics mean something to you and the melody sweeps you away. You then feel an immediate effect on your mood, and even on your ability to act and do things.
For example, when I loudly sing « Radioactive » from Imagine Dragons at home, I live the lyrics: “Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, RADIOACTIVE”. I imagine the radiations coming out of my body, I am throwing fireballs like in Dragon Ball Z. It makes sense for me. Unfortunately, no such thing happens when I sing to the glory of Hindu Gods. And they must be quite happy about it.
Okay, so I may have been carried away with my musical example. My point is that a mantra must make sense for who is using it, in terms of language, vocabulary, and the setting (e.g.: singing a mantra in Sanskrit in a temple, in English in a church, or in rock-and-roll-English at home).
The power of mantras and positive affirmations
A brain reprogramming power of mantras and positive affirmations
I now believe in the power of mantras. At least in their modern version that we use in psychology. If you are familiar with the concept of positive affirmation, then you are familiar with the modern version of mantras.
Positive affirmations are revisited mantras. These are short positive sentences (i.e. no negation). When they are repeated several times, regularly and for a long enough time, they have a powerful brain reprogramming power.
Mantras, or positive affirmations, have two superpowers.
1st superpower of mantras and positive affirmations
They silence our inner voice. The one that tells us that we are not capable, that we are not enough, that we will never succeed, that it is not even worth trying, etc.
2nd superpower of mantras and positive affirmations
They replace our inner negative voice with a more positive one. A kind voice that encourages us to believe in ourselves, in our values, our intuition, our choices, and decisions, etc.; and to act accordingly.
Imagine your brain at the top of a ski slope
The brain works like it is on a ski slope. Imagine it at the top of a snowy mountain, with his 2 skis on (one for each hemisphere). Ahead of him, two options:
Option 1: To follow the ski tracks, nicely shaped in the snow from all the other skiers that were here before him. These tracks are so convenient and easy to follow.
The ski tracks are our mental schemes/ maps that we have within us since forever: « I am not good enough », « I will not succeed », etc.
Option 2: To ski off-piste, to get out of the easy and convenient way to experience the untouched snow, even if it means to take the risk to break one neuron or two.
The off-piste is the new mental scheme, the one that we are not familiar with: to act with confidence, to believe in ourselves, etc.
Which option will the brain pick? The first one of course! And we do not blame it. Mr. Brain is saving time and energy when going for the easier option. Mantras/ positive affirmations have the ability to create a new ski track, a track for success and self-confidence for example, and let the old track fade away (e.g.: the track for fear of failure). Easy, isn’t it?
Choosing the right mantra or positive affirmation
When choosing adequately our mantra and when following some basic principles, it becomes possible to be stronger, more courageous, honest, confident, etc. Seems like we are getting one step closer to throw fireballs like in the Japanese manga! 😉
1st principle: choose short affirmations
Mantras are meant to be repeated again and again and to target one or two specific issues. So, let’s keep it simple!
Not OK: “I am strong, I have massive muscles, I am not afraid of anyone and anything, nothing can stop me, I will climb mountains, cross rivers, go through deserts and face adversity/ my wife, etc.”
OK: “I trust my abilities and my intuition”
2nd principle: affirmations are positive
The brain does not understand negation, so phrase your affirmation in a positive way.
Not OK: “I will NOT eat chocolate and extra moist brownies”
With such an affirmation, you will see chocolate and brownies float all around your head… which absolutely counter-productive!
OK: “I have the strength and courage to resist the temptation”
3rd principle: affirmations are affirmations, not suggestions!
Not OK: “That would be nice if I could be a little bit more confident”
OK: “I am self-confident”
Repeat the mantra/ positive affirmation every day for a month
Out loud or silently?
Ideally, the mantra is to be said out loud or to be whispered. Of course, if you chose to repeat the mantra in the metro or surrounded by other people, do it in your mind. It works as well, and you will not be considered a weirdo in public…
Everyday? For how long?
Repeat the mantra, again and again, every day, for 5 to 10 minutes. Even longer if you like! There is no recommended body posture. You can integrate the mantra into your daily meditation if you meditate, or do it while sitting on a chair, walking, etc. Bring your attention to the mantra rather than what is happening on television or on the street. Close your eyes if it helps and stays in a quiet environment!
Why shall I do it for one month?
Studies showed that the average time to take a new habit is 66 days, i.e. a bit more than 2 months. I suggest you do the exercise for 3 to 4 weeks as a starting point. Then reflect. Take the time to identify any improvement to your life. If you found some, then continue until the mantra becomes your new inner voice!
What if it does not work?
If you do not see any significant improvement in your life despite implementing all the above principles, ask yourself whether you picked the adequate mantra. It can be difficult to identify the root cause of our issues and hence to choose the right mantra.
Any mantra examples?
Here are 12 mantra examples:
“I am safe and strong in adversity”
“I have the power to create my own reality and to influence my life”
“I deserve to follow my passions and my purpose”
“I am open to love and to be loved”
“I clearly express my intentions “
“My actions are consistent with my values”
“I trust my intuition”
“I love myself the way I am”
“I am free to be myself”
“I believe in me and I believe in life”
“I deserve to be happy and to succeed in what I do”
“I listen to my body and I know what my body needs”
Feel free to mix these mantras or to create your own!
Feedback about my own experience
I started the exercise with a new mantra almost 2 weeks ago. I repeat it generally in the morning, ideally out loud. Sometimes I feel like doing the exercise, sometimes I do not. But I try to keep going.
The first positive changes I noticed
I notice that my inner voice starts to change, and my actions as well. Here is a concrete example related to my yoga practice. I am still afraid to fall while practicing some yoga poses. I am aware that practicing the fall is the best way to overcome the fear, but I constantly tell myself: “not today, I cannot do it, I am too scared”. Thanks to the mantras, I am starting to change the speech of my inner voice and to replace it with “I trust myself”, “I know how to fall without hurting myself”, or “I am safe with the teacher next to me”, etc.
What still needs to be done
To continue with the above example, I am getting mentally ready to overcome my fear to eventually attempt a fall (then two, then three, etc.). I am not there yet, but I give myself until the end of the month!