The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra – And How To Practice It Daily

The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra – And How To Practice It Daily

Self-care as you already know is fundamental, but the curve-balls of life can sometimes take us off balance and veer us off course to reaching wellness goals. A mantra can help recenter and align back towards all that is good. We’ve discovered a surprising tool that may help you is a mantra. Mantras have been around for millenniums and have been scientifically proven to help people stay on track all year long. 

What's a Mantra, What's a Self-Affirmation?

The word mantra comes from ancient Sanskrit and means “sacred charm or spell.” Today mantras can mean any type of word, phrase, or sound that when repeated, shifts your mindfulness. Think of it as your mission statement for life. While originally used in meditation, mantras today can be used anytime, anywhere.   

A self-affirmation is the recognition and assertion of the existence and value of one's individual self, which is commonly spoken and often internalized.

Mantras / Self-Affirmations Work! Here's the Science

Neuroscientists using brain imaging tools are starting to reveal how mantras can calm the nervous system. In a 2015 paper titled 'Repetitive speech elicits widespread deactivation in the human cortex: the “Mantra” effect?' scientists studying the effects of mantras applied modern brain-imaging and found that people who silently repeated the word echad (pronounced ekh-awd' and means “one” in Hebrew) experienced a quieting of the mind.  

Subjects reported that it was relaxing and that they had fewer thoughts.”  

– Dr. Aviva Berkovich-Ohana 

A 2022 scientific narrative review by Ampere A. Tseng on the health benefits of Mantra Meditation (MM) without the spiritual aspect highlights its effectiveness in various health domains including stress, hypertension. The review emphasizes that MM is a simple yet powerful practice suitable for both beginners and seasoned meditators. The evidence from recent studies suggests that MM can significantly alleviate stress and manage hypertension effectively.

Mantras commonly fall into the category of self-affirmations. A study published in 2015 titled 'Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation' showed significant findings regarding the brain's response to self-affirmation. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural processes involved when individuals engage in self-affirmation by reflecting on their core values, particularly when oriented toward future goals. They found that this activity increased neural activity in key areas of the brain related to self-awareness and value assessment. This increased brain activity was associated with positive changes in behavior, such as reduced sedentary time following a physical activity intervention. The study highlights how self-affirmation, especially when linked with future-oriented thinking, activates brain systems that deal with self-related processing and reward, reinforcing the benefits of self-affirmations.

So, the studies mentioned above all involved ancient mantras. If you have ever taken a yoga class, you have probably encountered one of the first mantras in history “Om.” It is said to be “the sound of the universe.”   

Today though it is more common for mantras to be created with empowering words that act as reminder of your goals as well as, a mind calming exercise. Some examples of popular mantras:   

Let go of what doesn’t serve my growth 

I am worthy of a new beginning 

I manifest joy in my life  

I am beautiful and healthy

If not now, when? 

I am love 

Success is mine  

I’ve got my own back

Creating your own Mantra

Of course, a mantra is very personal because its purpose is to center your thoughts on one phrase to help you push forward through distraction or adversity. So, it makes sense to create a mantra specific to you.  

The first step is deciding what do you want to manifest? Do you want more love in your life? Do you want to overcome fear? Do you want to spread joy? Only you can answer this.   

Once you decide, trust yourself and go for it.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think of positive words or phrases that make you feel empowered. Ideas like “be bold” “be truth” or “let love in.”  

Now that you have a mantra, it’s time to try it out. Shout it. Whisper it. Then just say it to yourself in your own head. How does it make you feel? Hopefully your mind will be calmer, you will be more present in the moment, and focused on the task at hand.  

But if you don’t like your mantra, it’s okay to change it. You must believe in your mantra for it to work.  

Stick to It

Whatever you ultimately choose as your mantra, stick to it. It should typically take around a month for your mantra to turn into a healthy habit. So, use it all day long - in the shower, while running errands, or cooking dinner. The more you use it, the better it works and the closer you get to accomplishing your wellness goals and keeping balance in times of stress.