Mantras for anxiety focus on easing anxiety via spiritual support, enlightenment, and promoting feelings of calm. A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase that a person repeats while meditating or chanting.
Practitioners of mantra meditation believe these words have spiritual or magical powers to ease distress and promote spiritual enlightenment. The concept of a mantra
More recently, people have used the term mantra to refer to any phrase or expression that a person repeats to themselves, including traditional Sanskrit mantras, prayers and phrases from other religious traditions, and inspirational words and expressions.
A number of studies suggest that soothing mantras may help ease anxiety and other mental health conditions, such as depression. Many studies allow practitioners to choose a personal mantra consistent with their beliefs.
For people who do not practice Buddhism or Hinduism, English words and phrases are a way to use mantra-based meditation without engaging in cultural appropriation.
Read on to learn more about mantras for anxiety, including their origins, the potential benefits, and how they may be effective in aiding the treatment of mental health conditions.
Mantras are short phrases or words a person chants or repeats to themselves, often while meditating, cultivating mindfulness, or breathing deeply.
A person may use mantras to induce a calm, meditative state and to focus on ideas and words that are important to them.
The notion of mantras
As Eastern practices have traveled to the West, many Western practitioners have embraced Sanskrit mantras. Some also now use English mantras, or mantras that draw upon Christian or other spiritual traditions.
Mantras offer several benefits, including:
- a focal point for meditation
- a soothing, affirming message
- a distraction from anxiety
- a sense of spiritual and emotional connection
Several studies suggest that mantras may improve mental health. However, these studies do not show that specific mantras or the religious practices underlying them are important. Rather, researchers generally find that repeating soothing phrases while meditating is helpful.
For example, a 2018 systematic review found general improvements in stress, anxiety, anger, depression, and burnout among participants in 37 studies. However, the authors caution that many of the studies were of low quality.
A 2021 randomized controlled trial assessed the effects of 6 months of mantra meditation in 60 people with depression compared with progressive muscle relaxation in 63 people with depression. At 6 months, participants in mantra meditation had clinically relevant reductions in depression symptoms, especially mood symptoms.
Mantras draw from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, each of which has its own designated types of mantras. In Buddhism and yoga, practitioners often refer to three types of mantras: Bija (seed) mantras, Saguna (with form) mantras, and Nirguna (without form) mantras.
Bija mantras correspond to the seven chakras and often precede Saguna mantras to instill them with more power.
Some other types of mantras include:
- Mantras from other religions: For example, a Christian might recite the Ave Maria.
- Short, personally meaningful phrases: A person may develop personally reassuring mantras.
- Single words: A person who does not speak Sanskrit might choose single-word phrases from their own language. Words containing strings of vowels are helpful for chanting.
Effective anxiety mantras should reflect the way a person wants to feel and their personal beliefs. They should be short enough to make repeating them easy.
Some options to consider include:
Short, vowel-intensive single-word mantras allow a person to slowly repeat a single word while meditating. Try one of the following:
While reciting these single words, breathe in deeply before saying the word, then breathe slowly out while drawing out the vowels.
Calming phrases can help a person repeat a message of reassurance. People can choose the phrases they find most soothing and helpful, for example:
- I choose calm.
- I am safe and secure.
- Anxiety is a liar.
- There is nothing to be done.
- There is no danger.
- I feel the fear and persist.
- Fear is not dangerous.
- Calm washes over me.
Affirming phrases remind a person that they can work through fear and anxiety. Try one of the following:
- Fear makes me stronger.
- I embrace this challenge.
- This is temporary.
- Fear does not define me.
- Courage means acting through fear.
- I will learn from this challenge.
- Become the fire.
People with depression sometimes experience anhedonia, an inability to feel joy. Mantras that challenge this feeling and encourage a person to push forward, especially past suicidal thoughts, can be helpful.
- I will not choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
- There is joy to be found, even now.
- I embrace small joys. (A person can list one to two things here, such as a beloved child or a beautiful flower.)
- Feeling sad is a normal part of life. I am still worthy.
- This is temporary.
- Depression plays tricks on my mind.
- Do not listen to the lies of depression.
- I choose happiness.
- Happiness is still possible.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.
General-purpose mental health meditations offer assurance that there is life and joy on the other side of a temporary crisis. People can try one of the following:
- This, too, will pass.
- This is a temporary problem.
- This will not matter in 10 years.
- Try again, fail again, and fail better.
- Success often requires failure.
- I have everything I need to thrive.
- I am worthy.
- I deserve to feel love.
Some common Sanskrit mantras include:
- Om: A single sound that some traditions believe is the sound of the universe.
- Om Namah Shivaya: A mantra meaning, “I bow down to Shiva.”
- Om Mani Padme Hum: A mantra that translates as, “The jewel is in the lotus.”
- Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo: A mantra that translates as, “I bow to the creative wisdom and the divine teacher within.”
- Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih: A mantra that some practitioners interpret as, “Let there be peace, peace, peace.”
Cultural appropriation is the act of taking from another person’s culture without regard for history or context. It often involves failing to treat something with the respect it deserves and relates to the targeting of minority groups and cultures by comparatively powerful groups. Examples include when white Americans appropriate elements of Black American culture or engage in a type of racism known as blackfishing.
Another example of cultural appropriation might be repeating a Sanskrit word without understanding its meaning or context or using Mala prayer beads as jewelry.
To avoid cultural appropriation, a person can consider using only mantras they understand in a language they speak. People should also avoid mantras that endorse religious ideas they do not embrace or understand. For instance, it would be inappropriate for a Christian to use Buddhist mantras.
Mantras can help ease an anxious mind, focus a person’s attention on positive messages, or induce a meditative state.
Mantra-based meditation is a spiritual practice, and people who want to try using mantras should select mantras consistent with their personal and religious beliefs.
People who want to try traditional Sanskrit mantras should consider learning about their history and the culture surrounding them. A teacher may be able to help.