In Hindu and Buddhist practices, mantras are considered sacred phrases that are sung or spoken in order to enhance concentration during meditation. These days, psychologists, yogis, and others have borrowed the term to mean a word or phrase that brings some sort of comfort or calm, which may or may not be used during meditation. Mantras are also used to aid in mindfulness, to help ground oneself during anxiety or panic, and to reinforce self-esteem and personal goals. This tip will help you pick a mantra that works for you, and guide you in creating a mantra card so that you have an accessible visual reminder of your mantra at all times.
Choosing Your Mantra
Choosing your mantra is a very personalized experience. Mantras can be as long or as short as you would like them to be: they can be just one word, a short phrase, or a complex sentence. Neuroscience teaches us that the more we repeat and practice the exact same phrase, the more likely it is to become an automatic and ingrained belief; thus, your mantra should be something that you can repeat in the exact same way each time in order to maximize those benefits.
Your mantra should be rooted in a goal that you have. For example, if your goal is to keep calm in moments of panic, your mantra could be something like, “Just keep breathing” or “This moment will pass, and I am strong enough to get through it.” If your goal is to boost your self-confidence, a mantra could be “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough” or “I love myself.” It is wise to choose a mantra that uses a positive reinforcer instead of a negative. For example, it is better not to use something like “I will NOT panic.” Our brains are not good at registering negative qualifiers, so you run the risk of accidentally encoding the message “I will panic.” Instead, choose something like “I can and will make it through this moment.” You can try out several mantras before choosing one, and see what gives you the best feeling - did it help to calm you? Make you feel stronger or more confident? Give you some perspective?
If you are struggling to come up with something original, it is okay to borrow mantras from other people or places. There are thousands of examples of mantras on the internet that you can search. Your mantra could even be song lyrics that have deep meaning for you, or a phrase from a book or poem.
Creating Your Mantra Card
Once you have chosen your mantra, you can begin to create your mantra card. You will need the following materials:
- Paper that is big enough for your mantra, but small enough to be portable - I recommend a standard sized index card
- Writing and drawing materials, e.g. colored pencils, pens, markers, crayons
- A mantra, chosen based on the guidelines above
- Any other crafty materials that bring you joy - glitter, tissue or construction paper, scissors, glue, googly eyes - have fun with it!
Once you have your materials, find a comfortable, quiet space away from other people or distractions. You can put on some soothing music if you like, or enjoy the ambient sounds around you. Take a few moments and sit with your mantra. Visualize what it means to you and how it makes you feel. When you close your eyes and repeat your mantra, do any images come up in your mind? Colors? Textures?
Now, you can begin to decorate your mantra card. You may want to decorate the card first, and write your mantra last; or you can write your mantra first and decorate around it. This is where you get to be creative! Use your art supplies to create a visual representation of your mantra that reflects its meaning for you. Maybe your mantra is meant to calm you, so you want to draw a relaxing beach scene. Maybe it is meant to bring you affirmation, and you want it to sparkle and shine just like you.
Some people may want to fill up every inch of the card; others may just want their mantra as the main focus. You get to decide, as this card is meant to serve your needs. It also does not have to be perfect, so even if you’re not much of an artist, that’s okay! Try to stick with one mantra per card, as overloading the card can begin to feel cluttered and daunting. You can always make more cards!
Using Your Mantra Card
Now that you have created a mantra card, you can use it in whatever way feels helpful to you. You can hang it up somewhere that you will see it often, like on a mirror or in a locker. You can use it as a bookmark in whatever book you are currently reading. You can carry it in your pocket or wallet. Simply choose a place that you will encounter the card frequently, so that it can remind you of your mantra and its meaning to you. You may also want to keep it somewhere that is easily accessible in times of distress, especially if your mantra is meant to bring you calm and comfort.
There are now sets of mantra cards that you can purchase that come with several pre-printed mantras on decorated paper. If that is something that feels like it could be helpful for you, go for it! However, there is something really powerful in choosing your own mantra that perfectly fits your needs, and using your own hands to create and connect with your mantra card and personalize it according to your tastes (plus, it’s way cheaper)! Research also shows us that doing things with our hands brings us more pleasure and satisfaction than more passive activities, so taking the time to do this yourself will move you even closer to your goals. You can also create as many cards as you would like, and you can either hold on to old ones and create a collection, or graciously let them go if previous mantras are no longer serving you. Give this creative activity a try and see how creating a mantra card could be helpful for you.
If you would like to speak to a therapist about mantras, mindfulness, or other mental health issues, contact us at https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact/.