Mantras originated from the Vedic religion in India some 3,500 years ago. Using Sanskrit words, phrases or sounds, the idea of a mantra is a repeated word or phrase that reaches a desired sound frequency and rhythm to improve attitude and attention. Jumping ahead to the modern day, the definition and use of mantras have expanded to adapt to the English language and the western world. According to a study published in May 2015 by “Brain and Behavior” magazine, mantras’ repetitive nature have a psychologically calming effect because it simplifies and slows down cognitive processing.
We recognize a mantra as not exclusively a part of meditation—we interpret it more broadly as a single or slew of words that inspires you onward, endorsing you becoming your best self. We find quotes that strike us, move us and resonate with us—and we latch onto them because the words perfectly capture our experiences, beliefs or values. We feel understood and hold them close—so much so that we adopt favorites as personal mantras.
My oldest friends can speak to a quote book that I carry with me. Filled with sayings I’ve picked up over the decades, its worn pages have brought comfort through maturation and life season. As silly as it is—but incredibly important to do so—every line helps connect me to and operate from my inner knowing.
Mantras may not be your thing, but it could be because you haven’t yet found…or written the adequate one. Building your own mantra is powerful and personalized—putting words together that are meaningful to only you naturally and deeply associates you with those words. There’s an intimate bond formed between you and them.
The steps below can help you find your words, your mantra.
Jot things down: Life events. Milestones. Roles you have. Moments of trauma and joy. Your passions and skillset. Goals and desires. Your beliefs. This doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list, just enough to get an idea of what makes up who you are.
Explore sentiments: Look at what you wrote, deciphering themes and patterns. What kind of information can you gather about your personality and character—are you an achiever, a giver, patient, energized, or loyal? Pair items on your list with feelings and opinions by considering how those things influenced and shaped you. For better and worse.
Pick a format: A mantra can be one word or several. Being yours and yours alone, a word can represent much more than the word itself. “Boston”, for example, could be my mantra since it signifies exponential personal growth and close community, and I want my life to continue living that out. Or, a mantra could be a phrase—more explicitly stating how you center yourself, describing how you want to live your life, or what person you are or strive to be.
Consider the repetition: The idea of a mantra is that it’s frequently repeated to yourself. Choose a word or phrase that is easy to remember and ingest—something straightforward but not necessarily basic. Length of the mantra and its transformational power isn’t positively correlated—it’s more important you adopt a mantra that’s approachable and one you’re able to easily repeat.
Your mantra can change—there’s freedom of building one to later reinvent. You may find a new mantra is needed because with you’ve reached your definition of success, or you discover it’s not as precise as you’d like. I’ve revisited my mantra several times to ensure it aligns with what I want one of my life messages to be: Lead with wisdom. Mamas, I hope you have fun as you take this action of self-discovery and growth.