Here are some suggestions — and warnings — on how to use esteem-boosting mantras to live our best lives.
Did you know you're using mantras or affirmations every day? They might not be spoken out loud, and they may not be intentional, but with each thought that passes through our minds, we're sending ourselves messages. It's up to us to make sure they're positive messages that build us up — not negative thoughts that mire us in self-doubt.
How do mantras help?
Yoga teacher and life coach Jenny Gallagher says, "Our minds are very powerful — we attract what we focus on, and mantras help in many ways." Specifically, Gallagher says, mantras help us in these five ways:
- Clarity — Being clear with our intentions instead of being vague improves our odds for successful outcomes.
- Focus — In this day and age, it is easy to be distracted. If we are not strongly rooted in what we want we may wander through life, which will create a sense of dissatisfaction.
- Strength — Mantras help us to remain strong in our convictions, even when challenges arise.
- Grounding — The repetitive nature of mantras is calming and soothing.
- Empowerment — Anyone can do this easy practice. Pick any word or words to repeat as your mantra. Enjoy the support and strength you gain.
Mood-lifting mantras or affirmations
If you're looking for specific mantras to inspire positive thinking, take a moment to try one of the following mantras and see how it feels.
- Breathe in. Breathe out.
- The universe will provide what I need when I need it.
- I trust myself.
- I trust the universe.
- I love and accept myself for who I am.
- I am healthy in my body and spirit.
If standard mantras don't resonate with you, go ahead and create your own. Professional life coach Irina Baranov says, "I've found that standard mantras are not very effective. The ones that work are ones that people develop themselves, based on personal a-ha's." For instance, during a coaching session, Baranov asked a client to use a metaphor for what she was describing she wanted in her job, and she said that she wanted to glide through her day "like a figure skater, with elegance and ease."
"Now all she needs to do is silently say the word 'glide' to herself as she walks into a meeting," says Baranov, "and she finds that things go much smoother."
Choose a mantra you believe in
If you choose a mantra you don't buy into, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Psychological Science, individuals with low self-esteem who repeated the mantra "I am a lovable person" over and over again actually felt worse, while those who had high self-esteem to begin with felt slightly better.
Justin Young, a nationally recognized motivational school speaker and founder of the Pink Shoe Hero Foundation, says this study meshes with his own personal experience. "If a person believes they are not lovable, then saying 'I am a lovable person' will only intensify the feelings that they are 'inappropriate to life' — because they're lying to themselves. What they are repeating is not in harmony with who they believe themselves to be. This creates a dissonance, which makes them feel worse than they already do."
Young says, "True self-esteem can only be built through action — by doing things which prove to yourself that 'you're good enough, smart enough and, doggone it, people like you.'"
Regardless of whether you have high or low self-esteem, Young says, "the first step of building self-esteem and resiliency is self-acceptance. So the first mantra mastered by everyone shouldn't be 'I am this' or 'I am that.' It should be 'I am me.'"
Watch: How do you help your kids develop confidence?
Watch this video and see how Alison Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser, helps to boost self-esteem in her family.