Mantras for When Mantras Aren’t Working

Mantras are great. They really are. They’re one of the most reliable tools out there for emotional, psychological, and yes, even physical improvement. If you haven’t taken the plunge into the world of mantras (this article focuses on self-composed, versus traditional Sanskrit mantras), this is absolutely one of the most accessible processes that anyone can use, at any time, to feel better and improve your cognitive processing and emotional wellbeing on the spot. Indeed, mantras are great. Really, really great. But sometimes, they suck.

Allow me to re-phrase: if you choose a mantra that isn’t in line with your current emotional state, the results suck.

Maybe some of you are familiar with the dilemma. It goes a little something like this:

Big me: “I am a positive, motivated being.”

Little me: “I am positive…that that was a dirty lie.”

Big me: “I’m a positive, motivated being.”

Little me: “…motivated to stop doing this”

Big me:  “I AM a positive, motivated being.”

Little me: “On opposite day.”

If you’ve been there, it doesn’t mean you have an as-of-yet-unheard-of immunity to mantras. It just means that you’re being beautifully optimistic and attempting to use a mantra that is outside of your current emotional range. Ironically, this sometimes backfires.

Here’s the logic behind it: whether you approach this subject from an intellectual or an energetic standpoint, both fields agree that wherever you focus your attention, momentum builds. If you’ve been focusing your attention negatively over a significant period of time, you will have a good amount of well established negative energetic momentum (in energetic terms), or thought patterning (in cognitive psychological terms). Before I go any further, it’s important to clarify that when I say “negative” momentum, I do not mean that it is “bad” or “to be frowned upon,” but rather that it is moving you in a direction that is opposite of the one in which you are wanting to go. That being said, if your mind is pre-disposed, due to this momentum, to think negatively, it is very likely to reject information that is too far of a leap from its normal thought process (a concept known as cognitive dissonance in the psych world)-- for example, saying that you a are a positive, motivated being when you, in reality, feel negative and unmotivated. But don’t throw in the mantra-towel yet; there is a solution to this dilemma.

What to do if mantras aren’t working for you:

Where are we left when our attempts to think positively backfire? We are left taking baby steps. One of the strongest warriors for peace and positive change, the great Martin Luther King Jr. puts it so very well:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

The most effective way to work with mantras is to choose a mantra that brings you to the best emotional state that is accessible to you in any given moment. If you are sad, then the most accessible state might just be anger or irritation.

Sigmund Freud (I know, I know, but the guy actually had more than a few decent insights) theorized that depression is anger turned inward. When it comes to negativity, inward is the worst place it can be turned. Reversing this formula with the goal of moving away from depression, if you are in a place of depression and you move to a place of anger, while it is not the desired end-state, it is indeed forward movement.

With that in mind, here are a few mantras you can work with to get you moving towards a better place.

Mantras for when you’re in a state of sadness or depression:

“This too shall pass.”

“I’ve been through times of intense sadness and yet, had happy times come my way afterwards. It’s entirely possible this will happen again.”

“Just because I don’t see the solution now, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I will be able to see it when I am in a better place.”

Mantras for when you’re in a state of anger:

“Most of the time, people are just doing the best they can, and even when someone deviates I know this is the exception and not the rule.”

“I know it’s not possible to feel such an intense emotion for much longer. I will start calming down soon enough.”

“If the best I can do right now is to slow down my negative emotional momentum by taking a deep breath, then that is enough.”

Mantras for when you’re in a state of irritation:

“I’m not in the best emotional state to make any big moves, so I will relax into where I am right now, enjoying the rest and knowing that forward movement is coming.”

“By noticing that I’m irritated, I’ve prevented my emotional state from progressing into a more intense emotion. This alone is something to be proud of.”

“I have the power, in this very moment, to withdraw my attention from any irritating subject matter.”

The idea is to keep moving forward, little by little, until depression turns to anger, anger turns to irritation, irritation turns to boredom, boredom turns to a spark of hope, hope turns to excitement, and excitement turns to great happiness. Have faith, and remember that you -- as long as you are a living, breathing, human -- have it in you to improve your emotional state and cognitive process in every single moment you’re alive. That’s your power, and it’s your birthright to use it.