It’s important to stop and remind ourselves of simple truths. That tough times will pass. That positive moments should be savored. That we all deserve some grace. It’s especially important to remember such things when you’re having a shitty day, or give yourself a hard time about making a mistake. Because if you don’t, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of negative thinking that can easily leave you feeling defeated. And that’s not what you or your family deserve. One way to arm yourself against the onslaught: Have a mantra.
Now, don’t confuse a mantra with something as trite as “Live. Laugh. Love.” painted on a piece of reclaimed driftwood. A mantra isn’t a piece of marketing. Rather, it’s a personal philosophy that expresses who you are, what you believe and, most importantly, what you’re capable of. When repeated, the specific phrase or single word can help you focus your intentions and calm your mind. In fact, a study from the journal Brain and Behavior found that repeating a mantra helps turn down the volume in your head, preventing the mind from wandering, planning, or worrying about the past.
An effective mantra is equal parts logic, encouragement, significance, and reassurance, and the right one can be a great help when you’re going through a tough stretch or just having a bad day.
“Everyone has unique sources of stress, anxiety, and hardship, and the consistent use of mantras can help navigate them,” says Danielle Turner, a self care coach and LCSW at Inner You Clinical Services, who regularly helps her clients come up with mantras. It’s always a good idea to have something to keep you focused on the positives you have around you instead of being hyper focused on the negative situation at hand. And, all you need is a few seconds here and there to regroup.
Write your mantra down on a sticky note or your phone’s notes app, and practice saying them aloud. “If you start the day off with your mantras while getting dressed, brushing your teeth or driving to work, you can set the tone for a productive day,” advises Turner.
With Turner’s help, here are eight simple mantras to try — and why they’re helpful to repeat. As you read them, we hope you’ll recognize the overall theme: you’ve got this.
1. “I will honor the positive.”
In times of crisis, it’s often difficult to view your world objectively. Instead, the power of negativity clouds the good in your life, making it difficult to use as a viable anchor to keep you from spinning out of control. When this happens, a simple, observational state-of-mind can be crucial to pushing through. “When going through tough times, we tend to focus on things we can’t control,” says Turner. “These things usually happen to be negative. A simple mantra encouraging you to focus on the positive things — especially the positive things you can control — is helpful for reminding yourself that they exist.”
2. “My negative emotions are temporary.”
Negative emotions are inevitable. Regret, concern, and disappointment will always be a part of your life. The keyword is “part”. Allowing your negative emotions to exist is step one, while step two involves recognizing them as transitory. “Emotions are like waves,” says Turner. “They come and go. Dealing with difficult situations will likely create negative emotions. They won’t last forever.” According to Turner, your self-awareness is key in growing to realizing that these negative feelings are going to happen, and they are going to pass.
3. “I feel good about myself at times.”
We humans tend to hang onto negative emotions and experiences more than positive ones, thanks to a baked-in evolutionary instinct for survival and recognizing danger. In other words, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of self-criticism when you make a mistake. “Stress can cause self-bullying and low-self esteem,” says Turner. “This mantra gives you a sense of ownership by reminding yourself that you do know how to feel good about yourself, and that you can do so despite any negatives occurring in your life.” Giving yourself the grace to feel down while remembering that you’re still worthwhile is essential to rediscovering your best self.
4. “I will not be defined by this difficult time.”
We tend to define ourselves by everything from our careers to our circumstances. As Turner points out, though, the definition of who we are as people has almost nothing to do with the challenges we face, and everything to do with how we respond. “This mantra will help you recognize that certain situations do not define or dictate your life,” she says. “We wrongly allow stress and negative experiences to determine who we are when, in reality, stress is just something we face, and not what makes us who we are.” So instead of viewing difficult times as reflections of yourself, use them as reminders that your worth far exceeds your arduous circumstances.
5. “I have patience and self-compassion.”
Being patient and compassionate toward oneself is a true challenge. Because we exist inside our own heads, we’re constantly reminded of the things we could’ve done differently or more effectively in hindsight. That’s why, according to Turner, patience and self-compassion are essential to navigating hard times with the future in mind, rather than the past. “Being patient with your situation — giving yourself grace, and showing yourself compassion — will reduce stress related to its difficulties.” Sometimes we don’t remember that we’re capable of showing ourselves the same mercy and forgiveness we might show others, and this mantra is a blunt, effective reminder.
6. “I will overcome this challenge.”
Sometimes, you need a simple reminder that you got this. In the thick of a hard time, many challenges seem insurmountable. However, challenges are designed to be overcome. The road to victory may be rough and defiant, but a simple mantra reminding you that you’ll get there eventually can brighten the light at the end of the tunnel. “This mantra is based on hope,” says Turner. “When we are able to remind ourselves that challenges in our lives can be overcome, it gives us a greater sense of confidence.” We can assure ourselves that the difficulty will wane, and that we’ll come out on the other side with undeniable positive takeaways.
7. “I won’t beat myself up for things I can not control.”
Let’s be honest: most things are things you can’t control. Admitting such futility may feel like waving a white flag, but it’s the best way to start letting go of unnecessary stress. “Our inner critic can allow ourselves to stay in a negative space much longer than is necessary,” says Turner. “Learning to give yourself some empathy can be very powerful when dealing with hard times.” By evaluating what parts of a situation you can influence or change, this mantra can also help you reexamine where you’re devoting your time, energy, and emotions in a way that will allow you to breathe, recalibrate, and keep moving forward.