A good fitness routine is about more than just caring for your body. It’s about caring for your whole self, which means taking proactive measures to improve your mental health as well as physical health. Mantras are one way to promote positive thinking, to encourage you to push through that last set at the gym, or even just to get through a tough day at work. Here’s why I recite mantras every day, and why you should consider adding them to your routine.
What Are Mantras?
The word “mantra” comes from ancient Sanskrit, and is actually a combination of two words: “man,” which means “to think,” and “tra,” which means “tool.” A mantra is literally a tool of the mind, just like a barbell is a tool for the body. Simply put, mantras are sayings that you repeat to yourself over and over until you’ve fully internalized them.
Mantras have been a part of Hindu practice since about the year 1000 BC, and quickly spread to Buddhist cultures throughout East Asia. They also became important not only in Hinduism and Buddhism, but also in the Taoist, Jainist, Sikh and Baha’i faiths. As yoga and eastern forms of meditation have gained popularity worldwide, the practice of reciting mantras has become more widespread than ever. Today, mantras are used in traditional religious practice, in several types of yoga, in meditation, and in mental health.
The Benefits of Mantras
The concept behind mantras is simple: repeating a positive phrase, or even a soothing sound like a traditional Om, can reduce stress, boost your self-confidence, and help you get through difficult times. Here is a study from the National Institutes of Health where scientists put mantras to the test. They had one group of people chant a mantra before being shown distressing pictures, while the control group was shown the pictures without chanting a mantra beforehand. Not only did the mantra chanters report feeling less stress than the control group, brain scans proved that this was the case. So don’t just take my word for it. It’s science!
Another nice thing about mantras is that they can be adapted to work for anyone, in any situation. And they’re free. You don’t need an expensive app or a therapist to use this powerful tool. All it takes is a few minutes and, most importantly, a positive mental attitude.
A Mantra For Each Day of the Week
When reciting mantras for mental health, there are a few important things to remember.
First, remember that this is something you’re doing for yourself. Not for your friends, not for your partner, not for your Instagram followers. So put down your phone, throw on some comfortable clothes, and make the next few minutes “me time”.
Second, a mantra is something you repeat to yourself over and over. Don’t just recite your mantra once. Recite it again and again until you fall into a rhythm and it becomes as natural as breathing. This is important, because a mantra doesn’t just affect your conscious mind – it’s far more potent when it’s embedded in your subconscious. Once you’ve stopped consciously thinking about it, but keep repeating it anyway, it’s doing its most powerful work.
Finally, some advice that isn’t necessarily traditional but is something I’ve worked into my own routine. Recite your mantra in front of a mirror, while looking at yourself. This will help reinforce in your own mind that you’re doing this for yourself (see my first point!) and help you to associate your own body with the positive vibes from your mantra.
There are many articles out there listing mantras for spirituality, meditation and mental health. Many of them are good, but I’ve included my own personal mantras here as an example. I have one for each day of the week, to focus on different aspects of life.
Self love is giving myself
what my body needs,
even if it is not
what I want.
There is so much love
wrapped in the word “no,”
when it means saying
“yes” to myself.
I will not punish my body. Ever.
For she has brought me this far.
I will imagine where she’ll take me
by celebrating her.
Losing inches does not
increase self love.
I must decide for myself
that I am indeed worthy
of becoming my best possible self.
No one can choose this for me.
I understand that it is not about
becoming as fit as anyone else.
It is about becoming who
I want to be for myself.
My only competitor is myself.
Finding a way to push through
my insecurity, my fears,
and my self-imposed limitations.
As I said, these are my own personal mantras. They’re what work for me, and I’ve shared them because they’re an important part of my fitness routine. Feel free to use them, adapt them, or find some other mantras that work for you. Remember, this is about what you need, for your mental health.