Mantra Meditation Benefits for Stress Relief

Benefits Of Mantra Meditation For Stress Relief

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These and other soothing words can provide effective mantras for meditation. Doug Berry/Getty Images

Meditation has been proven again and again to be a wonderfully beneficial stress reliever.  It not only relieves stress in the present moment, it builds skills and traits that contribute to future resilience toward stress.  (Read more about the benefits of meditation.)  

There are many different types of meditation, however, and while virtually all meditation techniques can help combat stress, they all come with benefits that are unique as well.

 Loving-kindness meditation, for example, brings the added benefit of providing a sense of social connection and increasing prosocial behavior, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and more.  Walking meditation can be used by those who would like to combine physicality to their meditation practice, and can help those who find it difficult to sit still while meditating.  Mantra meditation brings specific strengths for stress management as well.

Mantra Meditation: An Overview 
Mantra meditation is a simple-to-learn and highly effective technique for stress management. It's often found to be easier to practice, especially by beginners, than some other forms of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, because it provides a focus that keeps the mind rooted in the present moment; this is something that is often easier for those who are not practiced with meditation. While mantra meditation doesn't need to involve repetition of the word "om," it can be as simple as that.

 It can, however, involve the repetition of virtually any word that feels calming and centering.  These words are often single-syllable, but repeating the word "relaxation" calms your stress, don't be afraid to claim it!  Many people prefer words that are soothing to repeat and have peaceful meanings, such as "breathe," "calm," or even "peace."  (Note: many people like to repeat empowering mantra phrases to stay in a positive and strong frame of mind, but during meditation practice, it's often easier to keep it to a simple word that can be non-distractingly repeated.

 See this for more on using mantra phrases for stress management.)

Benefits of Mantra Meditation
Meditation in general brings benefits that include many measures of physical and psychological wellness that last beyond the meditation session itself.  Regular meditation practice builds resilience toward stress.  (Read more about the general benefits of meditation.)  Mantra meditation brings these specific benefits: 

  • A study on mantra meditation among HIV patients found that those who practiced silent mantra repetition on a regular basis throughout the day experienced fewer intrusive thoughts, greater quality of life, and a deeper sense of meaning in life as well.  These relationships were proportional to the amount of mantra repetition the subjects engaged in.  The mantra repeaters also experienced lower "trait" levels of anger, meaning that they were less angry in general, and experienced a deeper sense of self-reported spiritual faith and connectedness as well.  
  • A similar study was conducted on healthcare workers--another highly stressed group--that linked mantra repetition with positive outcomes as well.  After a five-week course on mantra meditation, participants experienced significant improvements in stress, trait-anxiety, trait-anger, quality of life, and spiritual well-being based on tests given prior to and following the course.  
  • In a third study, veterans and hospital employees were given a five-week course in mantra meditation that encourages participants to silently repeat mantras throughout the day as needed for stress relief (to interrupt unwanted thoughts or to promote relaxation).  A selection of them were contacted three months later and asked if and when they used the technique in their lives, and if it was helpful.  The majority of participants were still using the technique successfully, and found it helpful for managing feelings of stress and other emotions, combating insomnia, and banishing unwanted thoughts.

Drawbacks Of Mantra Meditation
There are few drawbacks to mantra meditation compared to other meditation techniques, other than personal preference.  Some people find it uncomfortable or even embarrassing to repeat a mantra aloud (though the mantra can also be repeated silently).  Vocalization of the mantra can also make it difficult to practice if it's necessary to be completely silent, like in an open office environment, so silent mantra repetition may be key in those situations as well.   Some may find it distracting to repeat a mantra rather than fully immersing themselves in the present moment, as the technique requires directed action rather than complete passive acceptance of the present moment as is the focus of some other techniques.  Ultimately, it's wise to give mantra meditation a try, noticing whether or not it feels like a good fit.  If not, you can explore these other meditation techniques to find an approach that works better for you.

The Practice Of Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation can be easily practiced by anyone who is new to meditation, and can be effectively practiced by experienced meditation practitioners as well.  Here is a step-by-step guide to getting started with mantra meditation. For more stress management resources from me here at About.com Stress.

Sources:

Bormann, Jill E.; Becker, Sheryl; Gershwin, MadelineRelationship of frequent mantram repetition to emotional and spiritual well-being in healthcare workers. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing , Sep/Oct2006, Vol. 37 Issue 5, p218-224.

Bormann JE; Gifford AL; Shively M; Smith TL; Redwine L; Kelly A; Becker S; Gershwin M; Bone P; Belding W.  13.  Effects of spiritual mantram repetition on HIV outcomes: A randomized controlled trial.   Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 2006 Aug; Vol. 29 (4), pp. 359-76.

Bormann JE; Oman D; Kemppainen JK; Becker S; Gershwin M; Kelly A;  Mantram repetition for stress management in veterans and employees: a critical incident study. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2006 Mar; 53 (5): 502-12.

Goyal, Madhav; Singh, Sonal; Sibinga, Erica M. S.; Gould, Neda F.; Rowland-Seymour, Anastasia; Sharma, Ritu; Berger, Zackary; Sleicher, Dana; Maron, David D.; Shihab, Hasan M.; Ranasinghe, Padmini D.; Linn, Shauna; Saha, Shonali; Bass, Eric B.; Haythornthwaite, Jennifer A. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being. JAMA Internal Medicine , Mar 2014, Vol. 174 Issue 3, p357-368, 12p.

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