In high-pressure scenarios — or perhaps at arbitrary moments in your day — uneasy thoughts can appear to replay on a racing loop in your mind: Did I utter an inappropriate remark during that job interview? Did my companion merely forget to reply to my text, or are they angry with me? Did that stranger give me an odd glance? But imagine if you could alleviate your anxiety simply by substituting your thoughts with alternative thoughts?
That’s where affirmations for anxiety come into play.
The Advantages of Affirmations for Anxiety
Affirmations — reiterated phrases designed to steady your mind — enable you to redirect your thoughts toward a solitary, concentrated point, states Raghu Markus, head of the Love Serve Remember Foundation, a non-profit organization that upholds the teachings of Ram Dass (an American spiritual guru, psychologist, and author of Be Here Now.). If your mind tends to linger in the past or future — a prevalent theme in nervous thoughts and stress-induced overthinking — employing affirmations for anxiety can assist in grounding you in the present moment.
Affirmations can also aid in crafting visualizations, adds Ethan Nichturn, author of The Road Home: The Modern Investigation of the Buddhist Path. As you absorb the texture of the reiterated sounds, you can visualize a fresh realm for the mind beyond stress. The affirmation can heighten particular senses, such as vision and sound, engendering profound internal experiences, states Nichturn. Meditation techniques centered on the body (like body scans) can at times intensify your focus on your body and its accompanying anxieties; affirmations, in contrast, provide a focal point that can lead you away from your body, distancing yourself.
If all of this seems excessively esoteric for you, take into account the scientific evidence. Research indicates that reciting affirmations can silence the region of the brain responsible for self-assessment and wandering thoughts. Similarly, a 2016 study discovered that chanting “Om” for 10 minutes enhanced participants’ concentration, elevated their mood, and increased their sense of connection. Affirmations have also demonstrated success in clinical settings: A 2018 study found that mantra therapy efficiently reduced PTSD symptoms in veterans, with 59 percent of participants no longer meeting the criteria for PTSD after just two months of utilizing the technique.
While the term “mantra” specifically refers to sacred utterances (typically in Sanskrit, an ancient Indic language), other chants and positive affirmations can also possess power. Gurus and therapists suggest that chanting positive affirmations can yield similar healing effects. (Consider: Paul McCartney’s wise counsel to “allow it to be” or the late guru Ram Dass’ recommendation to “exist in the present.”) For individuals with anxiety disorders, focusing on these positive sentiments can diminish the intensity of emotions and reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety, according to Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
How to Utilize Mantras for Anxiety
How can one effectively employ a mantra to alleviate anxiety? To begin, select a specific time to commit to the practice each day, as advised by Marlynn Wei, M.D., an anxiety expert and the author of the Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga. Assume a comfortable seated position, then either close your eyes or lower your gaze a few feet in front of you, and commence your practice.
Start with a duration of five to 10 minutes and gradually increase it to 20 minutes or more, as recommended by Jack Kornfield, the author of No Time Like the Present. Don’t hesitate to experiment and discover what works best for you. Some individuals vocalize their anxiety mantras aloud, while others silently repeat the phrases in their minds. Similarly, some employ mala beads (a string of beads used to count mantras), whereas others rely on their fingers for counting. In addition to using these mantras for anxiety as a grounding practice on a daily basis, they can also be relied upon in moments of extreme stress.
Regarded as the source of all mantras, Om has no direct translation and possesses numerous layers of significance; it represents the initial moment of creation, encompassing everything that would occur thereafter. There was nothing, and then there existed a vibration, which was Om, clarifies Aaron Fast, a yoga instructor in Brooklyn, New York. As Om is often considered the original vibration from which all life originated, a 2009 report expounds that its rhythm resonates in every vital system (e.g., your heartbeat, breath, brainwaves). Consequently, intoning “Om” can assist you in establishing a deeper connection with yourself and your surroundings while stabilizing your mind. Attempt to internally chant the mantra for anxiety, allowing it to flow with each inhalation and exhalation. Alternatively, chant it audibly, perceiving the sound of your own voice while ceasing all ruminations. Enunciate it with three distinct components: Initiate with an “ah” sound, gradually transition to “oh,” and conclude with an “mmm” humming. (For more information regarding the historical and metaphorical significance of Om.)
Soham (I Am That)
Soham (soe-hum) signifies “I am that” or “I am the universe.” Chanting this mantra enables you to shift from your limited perception of self to a broader understanding, reminding you that you are an integral part of something larger, asserts Lily Cushman, the author of A Little Bit of Mantras: An Introduction to Sacred Sounds. As you cultivate a more expansive awareness, your daily concerns and anxieties may gradually diminish. Pay close attention, and you can perceive the sounds of Soham in your breath, according to Cushman. The sound of “so” is linked to inhalation, and “ham” is associated with exhalation. When chanting Soham, synchronize the rhythm of your breath with the mantra, inhaling to the sound of “so” and exhaling with “ham.” You can also silently recite the mantra for anxiety, simultaneously aligning the internal chant with your breath. (For additional insight: What Is Breathwork, and What Are the Benefits?)
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (May All Beings Be Happy and Free)
By uttering Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (low-kah sah-moss-tah soo-kee-no buh-vahn-too) — which signifies “may all beings be happy and free” — you invoke tranquility and contentment in every entity.
It is frequently recited at the conclusion of a session as a means to redirect the delicate emotions from the session outwards. You can also refer to this mantra for uneasiness when you are feeling inundated by the distress in the world and are uncertain about how to handle it,” suggests Cushman. As time progresses, this mantra assists you in nurturing a more profound bond with others, igniting action. It enables you to live with a sense of connection and concern, rather than, for example, apprehension and dread,” she remarks. Instead of fixating on your worrisome thoughts, you can channel that energy towards your dedication to supporting others.
Praise to the Jewel of the Lotus (Hymn to Om Mani Padme Hum)
Curiously, the lotus blossom — the national blossom of India — flourishes in murky waters. Reciting Om Mani Padme Hum (ohm mah-nee paid-may hum), which signifies “praise to the jewel of the lotus,” acts as a reminder of the goodness that can thrive from your unease or challenging situations (the mud). Therefore, reciting this mantra can be particularly beneficial when grappling with difficult emotions, says Spring Washam, author of A Fierce Heart: Discovering Inner Strength, Courage, and Insight in Every Moment. You can summon compassion (jewel) and it will come to assist you in facing challenging moments, she states. The chant for unease is most potent when recited during seated, focused meditation, but can also be chanted during a moving meditation, says Washam. And indeed, if you become anxious when leaving your abode, you may wish to give this anxiety mantra a recitation as you embark on your strolls around town.
Discover Your Own Positive Declaration for Unease
Not resonating with any of the aforementioned mantras for unease? As previously mentioned, although non-Sanskrit phrases and chants aren’t traditionally regarded as mantras, you can certainly find a positive affirmation that functions as a mantra for anxiety. Look to popular song lyrics or slogans to locate a phrase that holds significance for you. If you desire a slogan tailored specifically for stressful moments, you may find solace in the age-old saying, “This too shall pass.” Kornfield suggests chanting “Nothing but love,” while Morin suggests repeating the phrases “I am alright,” “I am sufficient,” or “I have overcome difficult times before. I can overcome this, as well,” as they can all aid in silencing negative thoughts.
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