How to Choose a Mantra to Improve Your Life

We all know that the only person you can change is yourself (so quit bugging your husband to pick up the socks he left on the floor!).

And it’s because of this fact that many of us spend enormous amounts of time and money on improving ourselves.

Sure, I’m all about self-improvement—Go to the gym! Keep a gratitude journal! Stop being a bitch!

But at the end of the day, I just want to be a better person already. Where’s my instant gratification?

Well, I’ve got a trick for you that will give you an instant hit of self-improvement without spending a dime.

It’s a mantra!


For those of you who are new to the “hippie dippy” vibe I fall into from time to time, a mantra is a word or phrase that you say to yourself to bring about a change in your mood, viewpoint, or attitude.

For example, my favorite personal mantra is the word “calm.” Whenever I feel out of control or like I might start freaking out about some problem, I take a deep breath and repeat my mantra in my mind: calm…calm…calm…

Sometimes I say it out loud, but not when other people are present. Girl, I’m not that woo-woo.

I feel better right away, and I’m able to think rationally without doing something crazy like buying a $500 pair of boots or smacking someone across the face.

And yes, I’m a Buddhist, but mantras are for everyone regardless of religion or spiritual leanings. In fact, you can choose a quote or line from your holy book as your mantra.

Or how about a line from your favorite TV show—whatever floats your boat!

Here are some tips for choosing your own mantra.

Consider Who You Are

Think about the type of person you are. Do you get stressed out a lot? Do you feel self-doubt when you’re around your boss? Are you shy in social situations? Do you let everyone walk all over you?

The traits that you dislike about yourself are things you can change with your mantra. A mantra can give you confidence when you need it, stop a meltdown (like mine!), or help you be the person you are on the inside.

Decide How You Want to Feel

Next, decide on how you want to feel. If you want to feel powerful, your mantra could be “I am strong.” If you want to be more productive at work, your mantra could be “Focus.”

Choose a word or phrase that makes you feel something. Don’t worry if it’s not profound—your mantra should change your life, not change the world. I know several people who use the mantra “Just keep swimming” from the movie Finding Nemo, and I think it’s perfect!

Keep It Simple

Like we need anything else to complicate our lives, right? Mantras work best when they’re simple. I’m talkin’ 2 sentences at the most. You need to get that instant affirmation, and a mantra loses its power if you have to recite a long poem in your head.

Also, keep the phrasing unfussy and use words that you would actually say in real life. Which one is more you: “I radiate magnificent light and illuminate the entire expanse of the universe” or simply “Shine”?

Make It a Part of Your Life

Repeat your mantra in your mind or aloud whenever you need it, at least once a day. I use my “calm” mantra when I get overwhelmed by my to-do list. It also helps me wind down before I go to bed. If your mantra is about your health, say it as you walk on the treadmill. If your mantra is about your family, say it before family meals or while you drive your kids around.

Write your mantra on a card and keep it in your wallet. If you’re an artist, draw or paint an image that incorporates your mantra and hang it in your office. Make it your computer’s wallpaper. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of your mantra at a certain time each day. And of course, the refrigerator door is a great place to keep a visual reminder.

Feel free to choose more than one mantra. I also use “This too shall pass,” and it’s definitely improved my outlook.

So what’s your mantra?

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  1. Claire {brave + silly} on July 26, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Since a lot of things going on in my life right now are requiring me to be very patient (something I am NOT very good at), my mantra is a simple quote:

    “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” -Aristotle

    Thanks for the super duper awesome post!

  2. Cara on September 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Mine at the moment is “relax” but said more like “reeeeellaxxxxxxxxx” because I say it as I get ready for bed. You have some really easy tips here and a sensible approach to meeting goals. I’m printing this one out for moments that aren’t as relaxing as they should be. Thanks Sage!

    • Sage Grayson on September 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Aw, thanks, Cara! Mantras are so easy and they really work. I think everyone should have their own personal mantra. I think “relax” is a great one–we all need to relax!

  3. Molly on September 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    “This too shall pass” is the one I use the most because I tend to get worked up about things I can’t control. It’s helped a lot!

    I need to come up with one for when I’m feeling like emotional eating….. “Calm” is going to be the one I try first. 🙂

  4. Stephanie Leach on September 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    When things get tough, I pull a Scarlett O'Hara: " I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

  5. Stephanie Leach on September 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    When things get tough, I pull a Scarlett O'Hara: " I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

  6. xvavaveganx on September 12, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Aww I love this idea! I love your tips too, I think it is a great tool to calm down and move past whatever you are dealing with. I actually really love the idea of using “Just Keep Swimming.” I feel like it is perfect for my situation and I’m constantly telling myself to put my head down and barrel through, and I feel like just keep swimming is a nicer, more eloquent way of saying that. 🙂 I’m totally going to try it!

    • Sage Grayson on September 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      I love “just keep swimming”. Finding Nemo is coming back to theaters this month in 3D (yay!). I can relate to needing to just plow through the day. You’re right that “just keep swimming” is a nicer way of saying that. Fish can’t stop swimming; it’s what they have to do. Just like us, we can’t stop breathing or moving forward.