Over the years, I’ve used different mantras—phrases I repeat internally—to focus on important lessons and goals. At first, it felt corny. But, every day, my mantras offer me greater peace of mind.
The Mantra–Friend Connection
Mantras are personal phrases that we repeat to ourselves to focus our attention on a specific concept or feeling and become “centered” in our minds and bodies. They have served me well over the years, and, as I’m thinking about writing this post on mantras, I remember a little song from my childhood Girl Scouts days. It was based on a poem by Joseph Parry called “New Friends and Old Friends,” and it goes:
“Make new friends, but keep the old— One is silver and the other, gold.”
Much like our relationships with other people, mantras actively engage with our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. By nature, they will come and go. And, just like an old friend we’ve lost touch with, we can reconnect with our past mantras.
Adopting a mantra is as simple as can be. You might go on a hunt for just the right concept, or maybe an obvious message from the universe is staring you in the face—either way, it’s all about nurturing your authentic needs.
I’d like to share some of the mantras I’ve loved the most.
Mantras That Helped & Then Moved into Retirement
#1 “Within me, there is a peacefulness that cannot be disturbed.”
How it helped: This mantra really served me well for several years. I saw it in a magazine, cut it out, and taped it to my computer at work. It actually felt corny to me, at the time, because I was pretty blind to what it means to care for one’s mental health. But I was desperate! Looking back at this time period (my mid-20s), I think this was when my “bipolar brain chemistry” really began to rev up its engine for a wild and bumpy life ride. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo until much later…
Why it’s retired: Ultimately, I had to let it go because, at some point, it became clear that my inner peacefulness can, indeed, be disturbed. (Thanks, brain!)
#2 “Listen more, talk less.”
How it helped: I once made this my “theme of the year,” which is what I do in lieu of New Year’s resolutions. Bipolar was not even on my radar at the time, but I did recognize a problematic pattern in my life experience: I frequently found myself at odds with other people. It seemed to me that I was “at odds with other people” more often than other people were. I wanted to have a more harmonious existence, so I took a tip from MJ and started with the “Man in the Mirror.”
Listening more and talking less served me very well. I focused on keeping my mind open and then taking time to fully absorb information before making judgments…. Who knew how incredibly important this would be down the road in managing my bipolar!?
When I’m on the high end of the spectrum, in mania, I experience racing thoughts and irritability. Pair that with a colorful vocabulary and a sassy Southern accent, and you’ve got Hurricane Brooke. This mantra helped me see that Hurricane Brooke exists, and now I stay away from her.
Why it’s retired: I continue to listen, but I’m ready to talk more now! And, at some point, I began to feel ready to write for and engage with the bipolar community, too.
Mantras That Have Stuck Around
#3 “Know thyself.”
How it began: Ah, the college days of yore… I didn’t enjoy ALL my classes, but when I did, they were either art or philosophy. I was really intrigued with learning how the people who came before me thought and felt. From Aristotle to Zarathustra, I soaked up so much of what would become my worldview as an independent adult in my philosophy classes.
Interestingly, the single most impactful class of my academic education was ancient philosophy. (Runner up: art history. Most fun: language & linguistics; photography.)
I typically hesitate to use superfluous terms, but I’d say that the concepts I gathered from this single class have been a part of my journey every single day since then. Most notably, “know thyself,” a phrase attributed to several different ancient Greek philosophers. It’s so concise I don’t even need to explain it!
Why it’s stuck around: Because “knowing thyself” is a lifelong project! Humans are always changing … some of us more rapidly and frequently than others ;). Bipolar keeps my thoughts and feelings on a roller coaster, so I have to pay extra special attention if I want to know my mood’s whereabouts.
#4 “Respond with love.”
How it began: After college graduation, one of my friends started a company that made t-shirts printed with basic positive messages from the Bible; “Today is a good day” and “Respond with love” were my favorites. I don’t think I need to explain why the former no longer applies as a daily mantra, but the latter was/is/always will be wise guidance.
Why it’s stuck around: The proof is in the pudding: my life is better when I respond with love.
Does that mean I reply with mushy, sweet love notes to every little snappy comment? No.
What it means is that I stop for a second; consider the human being on the other end of the convo; isolate the bones of the matter at hand; and remember myself. I know that I can respond in different ways. I know this because, in the past, I have responded to snappy comments in different ways (with vitriol, desperation, isolation, aggression, sadness, and more). It’s important to remember that ugly stuff so you don’t go that route again. Just creates friction.
So, I sit back and think to myself, “OK, of all the different ways I can respond right now, which is going to serve me best in the long run?”
I, personally, am looking for a harmonious life; and I’ve found that sometimes it’s productive to share feelings with a person, but sometimes it’s not. Either way, the steps above have helped me stay balanced on bipolar’s shaky ground.
New Mantras for My Present Challenges with Bipolar
#5 “Remember yourself.”
Why I’ve added it: Because “know thyself” is a great mantra, but, as they say: “knowing is [only] half the battle.”
That’s why I think this mantra is so important. It encourages me to keep in touch with my tried-and-true, core beliefs.
“Remember yourself” means a few different things to me:
remember your bipolar brain chemistry
remember the goals and standards set by your authentic self
remember your responsibilities to others
I love this phrase so much, I had temporary tattoos made of it! I wear them if/when I start to feel disconnected, which is a harbinger of a pending bipolar mood swing for me. (Special bonus: I wear one when I’m traveling, too, to remind myself to take my meds!)
Reflecting, Reconnecting, & Wondering
I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with my past mantras while writing and developing this post. If you haven’t tried adopting a mantra, I highly encourage you to give it a try! If you have adopted a mantra, what is it? I’d love to know what works for you.
*I often get mentally bombarded with a certain song or musical style when I’m writing, and I’ve come to embrace it—so these are my musical muses for the post. Please note, I’m sharing links to the songs for convenience of listening—it’s not about the video element at all.
Brooke Baron has a BA in English, a minor in philosophy, and a lifelong obsession with language. She is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Being Bipolar.
Although born and raised in Alabama, she has been a proud California resident for 10+ years. During a professional stint in Silicon Valley—in both the corporate and private business sectors—she handled internal and external communications, office design and construction, photography and graphic design, executive assistance, and functioning on very little sleep.
Brooke now specializes in "New Human Orientation" from her home in the suburbs. She has a young, loving, growing family of five and is fueled by that love and coffee.
In addition to caring for the rest of Team Baron, she enjoys writing, reading, researching miscellaneous topics, and funneling manic energy into creative projects. With so many balls in the air—including bipolar II disorder—balancing her life is like balancing two kangaroos on a see-saw. She offers consulting services for the bipolar community at Better Bipolar Balance.
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