Like wicker furniture and primal-scream therapy, having a mantra may seem like a '70s thing. But a special word or phrase, continuously repeated, can come in handy, whether you want to help focus the mind when you're meditating or just comfort yourself in a rough moment. Jill Bormann, PhD, a nurse and researcher at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, is bringing the mantra (a.k.a. mantram) to modern health care, helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, AIDS patients, caregivers, and burned-out hospital workers using a technique she calls mantram repetition. Just choose a word or a phrase with spiritual significance, she advises, and repeat it silently throughout the day—while you're waiting for the elevator, for instance. Once you get the hang of it, your mantram can serve as a portal to a calmer mind and body.

So what's the best one for you? Bormann recommends words and phrases handed down through Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Native American, or Christian traditions, such as rama ("joy within") or shalom ("peace"). "Mantrams usually call on the name of God or on one of the most exalted experiences a person can have, like joy, peace, love, goodness," she says. "They give you extra bang for your buck."

In a small study, one group repeated the 16-word Hare Krishna mantra, while another repeated a fake mantra with the same rhythm. The group with the spiritual mantra experienced a greater decrease in stress and depression. (Transcendental Meditation espouses a completely different philosophy on mantras.)

If you want something sweet and simple, that's okay, too. Just try Let as you inhale and go as you exhale. But whatever you choose, it should make you feel groovy.

For more guidance on creating your own personal mantra read: Why Celebrities Love Transcendental Meditation.


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