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The other day I was standing in the gift returns line at the store. While some groused about buying or receiving gifts only to have to go through the hassle of returning them, the woman in front of me simply said, “Grin and bear it. That’s my mantra.”

While those around her were growing increasingly impatient and exasperated, she seemed remarkably calm. It made me wonder if she meditated, or if her use of the term “mantra” was simply repeating a common expression.

Whether or not it was truly her mantra, this woman had hit on something that those who meditate know: repeating a word or expression can decrease stress and increase relaxation. In fact, research studies continue to demonstrate that repeating a particular word or phrase can be a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety.

Although the term “mantra” has its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, it doesn’t have to be a religious term. I recently had the opportunity to watch the film Mantra: Sounds Into Silence that included a profound story about how inmates at San Quentin prison were impacted by repeating mantras. This is a movie about connection and finding ways to create a more peaceful and loving world together. In the meantime, if you find yourself standing in line to return that itchy sweater you got for Christmas, just find your own mantra—perhaps “It’s the thought that counts”—and repeat it over…and over…and over again.

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