If I told you that whenever you were sad or felt bad about yourself, you could just sit down and chant some magic words to be happy, would you believe me? There are people who actually think you can do just that. While the practice is rather old and dates back to the early modern era, possibly earlier, we know now that there is no such thing as magic.
An excerpt from an article written by Lori Majewski on the benefits of mantras titled “9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset,” will help give you can idea of how bs the whole “mantra” movement is:
I didn’t “get” Kaur or her mantras right away, though. The ones on her album Feeling Good Today! initially struck me as too simple, too obvious, and, dare I say, hokey. “Feeling good today, I am feeling good today,” she sings on the title track. “I am happy, I am good. I am happy, I am good,” she intones on “I Am Happy.”
Still, I kept the songs on in the background as I went about making myself breakfast, during my morning yoga practice, and throughout the workday. Ever since, I’ve started most days singing along to Kaur’s mantras. Whenever I get up on the wrong side of the bed, a dose of “I am happy, I am good” right-sides my mood; it helps me to approach the work day with confidence and anticipation. Far from corny, I now see these, yes, simple phrases—and mantras in general—as quite powerful.
She has no evidence to back up the idea that these songs that sound like something off of a children’s CD were the reason she felt better, nor does give a specific example. She could just be trying to promote Snatum Kaur’s CD as part of a business deal. Majewski and many others subscribe to the idea of chanting or mantras as a way to feel better, rather than finding something more effective.
Hard facts, however have proven her to be wrong- mostly. A study done by The University of Waterloo and the The University of New Brunswick shows that the only people mantras actually help are the people who don’t need them. People who already have high self-esteems or feel good about themselves don’t need to feel better. People like to try and prescribe people with poor self-image/self-esteem cure-all mantras, but it has the inverse effect. It doesn’t help that a highly publicized and praised figure promotes this system. Oprah Winfrey is a proponent of the mantra movement for anyone and everyone, but I doubt she’s ever done much research on the topic.
Sas Petherick, a well known self-help blogger from New Zealand, explains why mantras are bullshit fairly well.
Our super-smart brains see straight through us wanting to want to believe something we actually don’t.
So you might find yourself saying a version of ‘I am: loved, whole, fit, abundant, free, successful, strong, beautiful, joyful, unlimited, powerful, creative, expansive, sexy, thriving, rich… I am enough!’ *ends with dramatic flourish*
Except actually: its Lady Moon Time, he’s left a wet towel on the bed AGAIN, you suspect Little Miss might be being bullied at school, the car needs new tyres, you have four missed calls from Mother, no pension plan, your favourite frock is feeling a bit tight, you’ve spent three days ignoring the ominous letter from The Bank, you can’t have a family holiday this year without extending the overdraft, you’ve found yourself having a tiny cry in the loo after every meeting with that bloke from sales who makes you feel about nine years old….
Its no wonder that after a few days of repeating an affirmation, we start to think – actually, this is bullshit.
When our reality is in such contrast to our mantra – those hopeful thoughts of a different result – we end up feeling trapped in a circuitous loop of repeating the same crappy patterns.
You are not going mad – this is exactly what is happening. Because our brains are hard-wired to look for patterns and make connections. So when thing X happens we believe it will result in outcome 56 – we focus on the evidence that reinforces what we think about X.
We expect these things to work, but then our lives prove the opposite. We need to confront the issues in our lives before we attempt to try to move passed them. Sitting there repeating that you’re a good person isn’t gonna help if you’re an asshole to everyone around you, and telling yourself that you can be successful is useless if you’re not gonna take steps to try and better yourself. At the end of the day, action speak louder than words, but if you do manage to get your actions right, some words are alright.
Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x
Majewski, L. (2015, March 27). 9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.sonima.com/meditation/mantras/
The stuck record: why mantras feel like bullshit. (2014, August 21). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.saspetherick.com/the-stuck-record-why-mantras-feel-like-bullshit/