“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!” If you are an SNL fan, you will recognize these words of affirmation from satirist and comedian, Al Franken on his skit, Daily Affirmation by Stuart Smalley. They must have used the word “mantra” on the show at some point because, when I asked around about mantras and what people thought of them, several people referenced this SNL skit.
Mantra literally means “a tool for the mind.” The practice of using a mantra has been around for a very long time and is used to shift thinking from something that could be potentially negative to a more positive or neutral state.
Using a mantra can help bring you back to conscious thinking during those times when your mind is running wild. It happens! You may begin to ruminate on something. At times it is difficult to get past that negative thought or to stop letting it dictate the way you feel, which in turn could influence your behavior. It reminds me of the term “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Sometimes with negative thinking, you are looking for evidence that the negative is true. You can spend a lot of time and energy in this negative place. Through this you may begin to develop negative behaviors and then the negative belief is confirmed.
This is where mantras come into play. Filling that brain space with something that is positive or neutral gives your mind something to focus on other than the negative thought. Rather than your mind running wild with negative thinking, your brain shifts to something different and potentially more positive.
For example, let’s say you are struggling with confidence but have met someone new and would like to ask them out for coffee. Rather than ruminating on thoughts like “they won’t like me” or I’m not interesting or fun, why would they want to go out with me?” Fill that brain space with thoughts like, “I am fun” or “I am an interesting person and people enjoy being around me.”
When deciding on a mantra, here are a few tips to help you.
- Write it down. Put it on a sticky note on your fridge. Write it on a note card and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Each time you see it, say it out loud to yourself. Stating things out loud typically increases memory. Saying your mantra out loud will not only help you remember it but will also gradually help you believe it.
- Be specific. Think about your current struggles and what would be helpful. Develop a mantra that is specific to certain areas of your life. For example, if you struggle with eating healthy, maybe your mantra could be “I’m a healthy eater.” If you have difficulty staying calm with your children as you are getting ready to leave the house, maybe your mantra could be “I talk calmly to my children.” Mantras should be meaningful. Figure out what works for you and use it!
- Be consistent. Once you have developed a mantra, try to be consistent, using the same words over and over. It will eventually stop being just words. Just like negative thoughts contribute to negative feelings and actions, positive thoughts contribute to positive feelings and actions.
In the midst of writing this blog, two of my children graduated from college. We had a big celebration at our house with both graduates and all our family and close friends. My family would tell you, I love to have people over, but I get rather stressed while cleaning and preparing. I decided that this would be a perfect time to use a mantra to help me stay calm as we worked to get everything ready. I used a mantra that I felt would be beneficial… “it will all come together.” No matter how much I stress about getting things perfect before a party, it all comes together in the end. I worked hard to fill my brain space with this mantra as I noticed myself begin to feel anxious about getting it all done. It worked!! I was less stressed, and it did actually all come together.
Life is stressful at times. If you need assistance working through a current struggle, please give us a call at Texas Harmony Counseling Center (832-352-1600) to set up an appointment with a counselor. We are here for you!