That’s a question that many people have asked me over the years, so let me help clear things up. If you’re feeling confused about what these two powerful mind tools are and how they might benefit you, it’s time to sit back, relax and allow all to become clear.
Let’s begin with mantras. Ultimately, a mantra is a word or a phrase that is repeated during meditation, often with focused intent or purpose. Literally meaning ‘mind vehicle’, the word mantra can be thought of as a mind tool that harnesses sounds and vibrations in order to go into deep meditation. Dating back thousands of years, this ancient practise of chanting or reciting words – commonly in Sanskrit – can help to bring the mind into the present as well as provide huge spiritual support and comfort.
Numerous studies have discovered the positive and calming effects of mantras. Swedish researchers found that mantras can suppress the activity in a region of the brain called the default mode network, which is usually active during times of self-reflection or when your mind wanders. Research has also unveiled that the repetitive action of mantras can bring on a relaxed, meditative state and, likewise, it doesn’t particularly matter whether it’s a mantra or a word that you choose to repeat, you just need to repeat it with absolute focus.
With 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts rushing through our brains on any one day, it’s no wonder many of us are left feeling mentally exhausted by dinner time. Here’s where a Sanskrit mantra may help you. Whereas repeating an affirmation in English or another language (I’m presuming you’re not fluent in Sanskrit, dear reader!) could cause your mind to ponder or even wander, a word in Sanskrit, which has no immediate meaning to you, is far more likely to enable you to stay focused and still your mind. I use the Sanskrit mantra ‘ham’, for example, aligned with the throat chakra, and repeating this for a few minutes really helps any mind chatter fade away.
An affirmation is essentially a positive or negative statement that we repeat over and over again. Over time – often spanning many months or years – we create these statements for ourselves and, as we repeat them, they seep into our subconscious mind and become what we believe to be true – our reality if you like. How we use words and how we communicate can either hinder or help us, so it’s important to ensure that any affirmations you use are positive rather than negative. It’s also crucial when creating the affirmation to remember to make it in the first person, i.e. ‘I’, and in present tense rather than in future tense. For example, ‘I am strong’, instead of ‘I’m going to be strong’. Or, ‘I am full of energy and focused’. Try writing these positive statements on your phone, or on a piece of paper stuck to your mirror, or even in your diary then repeat them in your mind or out loud every time you see these prompts. By doing so, they will eventually penetrate your subconscious so you believe them to be true – they’re such a powerful mind tool to help you achieve your goals.