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The Untapped Power and Benefit of Having a Mantra

Sayings like "Om," "Shalom," "Ave Maria" and "Rise above it" all have something in common. They're all perfectly acceptable mantras. If you've never heard of a mantra before, it's simply a word or a phrase that, when repeated, should instill a sense of calm, peace and well-being to your body.


Simply repeating your mantra out loud or in your mind has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and anger, and increase quality of life and well-being.

In Sanskrit, the word "mantra" means "to free from the mind," and in Hinduism and Buddhism mantras are regarded as a sacred utterance that has a direct impact on the physical body and the emotions. While they can be religious in nature, mantras can also be used as a personal motto, a source of inspiration or a saying that you believe in.

In fact, mantra experts often maintain that it's not the words themselves that matter, but rather the energy from the words. It is this tapping of energy that helps to clear the mind, attract abundance to your life and help with spiritual and personal growth.

"[Repeating mantras] is actually a very ancient tradition that's been used in every spiritual practice ... [but] it's nonsectarian," says Jill Bormann, PhD, RN, a research nurse scientist at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, who has conducted several studies on mantras.

"[A mantra is] personal, portable, and invisible. It's immediately available, inexpensive, nonpharmacological, and nontoxic," she continues, noting that mantras can be a "stress-reduction technique for our modern day and age, when people say they don't have time for stress-management techniques."

Mantras May be Good for the Heart

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, mantras may help to boost heart health. The study involved 23 men and women who recited the yoga mantra "om-mani-padme-om" or the rosary prayer "Ave Maria" in Latin.

During the recitations, breathing became regular and slowed to a rate of about six breaths per minute, which is synchronized with cardiovascular rhythms. This enhanced stabilization of the respiratory rate could be beneficial for the heart in the long-term.

Further, the researchers noted that repeating mantras, which are normally repeated in sequences of more than 100, takes a similar endurance to that required for training sessions for physical activities. The researchers concluded that reciting a mantra (or the similar rosary prayer) could be beneficial in both psychological and physiological ways, including:

  • Slowing respiration

  • Improving concentration

  • Inducing calm

Mantras Reduce Stress, Anxiety, Insomnia and More


Mantras don't have to be religious. They just need to have meaning to you (such as "flow with nature," or "simplicity").

A study led by Bormann, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, found that repeating mantras was beneficial for a host of problems. In the study, 30 veterans and 36 hospital workers chose a mantra and learned how to use it during a five-week course. The participants reported improvements in:

  • Anxiety

  • Stress from traffic and work

  • Insomnia

  • Unwanted thoughts

"We found this to be a very valuable tool for people that they can use," Bormann said. "It's like a pause button for the mind."

Further research by Bormann found similar results. Among health care workers, who are known to be under a lot of stress at work, repeating a mantra resulted in:

  • Reduced stress, anxiety and anger

  • Improvements in quality of life

  • Enhanced spiritual well-being

How to Use a Mantra in Your Life

Want to try out a mantra but not sure where to start? It's simple. Choose a word or short saying that has meaning to you. It should be something that can take you to a deeper level of consciousness, so while "live in harmony" or "take it easy" would be fine, a more concrete saying like "watching football" would not. Some examples of religious and non-religious mantras include:

  • Christianity: "Hail Mary"

  • Hinduism: "Rama rama" (this was reportedly Ghandi's mantra)

  • Native American tradition: "O waken tanka" (o great spirit)

  • "Peace and serenity be with me"

  • "Love surrounds me"

Once you choose your mantra (remember, just choose something that has meaning to YOU), you can repeat it generously throughout the day.

"You could say your mantra once or twice, or you could say it for 20 minutes. Most people use it several times throughout the day," says Bormann.

If you're having trouble allowing yourself to use your mantra freely, try to relax, enjoy it and let the saying come naturally.

"Sometimes, the biggest roadblock in people coming to this program, I think, is the word 'mantra,'" Bormann says. "And so, sometimes we call it a rapid-focus tool or we call it a comfort word, or for people who are particularly religious ... we say it's a prayer word."

Bormann continues, "We believe that human beings have a mind, a body, and a spirit, whether we're aware of it or not. We believe the way you can become aware of those inner spiritual resources is to quiet your mind and one way to do that is with a mantra."

Recommended Reading

A 20-Minute Vacation: The Amazing Health Benefits of Meditation

The Major Health Benefits of Going Barefoot (Really!)


British Medical Journal December 2001;323:1446-1449

Journal of Advanced Nursing March 2006;53(5):502-12

Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, September/October 2006, Vol. 37, No. 5

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