When I was younger, I used to always play the same song right before I got onstage at a dance competition to do my solo. It was called “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin and it had the powerful lines
“I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies is always by my side”
It had a direct application at the time–I physically saw the dancer going in front of me as well as the one waiting her turn behind me. With the encouragement of this song, I trusted that God would help me perform my best and it reminded me that all things are done to praise Him. It’s still one of my favorite songs today, always showing me that no matter what I do, God will be standing right beside me through all of my life experiences.
While I’m no longer a competitive dancer, I still use the idea of mantra songs to get in the zone for some of my higher stress activities such as taking a big exam or going into an interview, and even smaller habits that I’m trying to form. Not all of my mantra songs are Christian songs, but I’m still reminded that my original mantra song had God at the center of my heart, as He still remains today.
I’ve learned that a mantra song does three things:
- It gets you in the right mental state before an activity. Music is very powerful. It ameliorates experiences and solidifies associations between events. This is why some couples have a song that they deem “theirs” possibly because they heard it while enjoying a particular experience such as a first date. Other expamples apply to everyday life: listening to an upbeat song will get you in the mood to hang out with friends if you’re feeling anti-social or cueing up a recognizable peaceful piano song can get you in the zone to study.
- It initiates the activity that you might not always want to do. Let’s face it, sometimes we don’t really want to exercise and we’d rather sit on our couch and watch Netflix. But a mantra song can help you plunge right into your favorite workout. If you’re already accustomed to listening to “Eye of the Tiger” right before you start running, simply pulling our your phone and hitting play can motivate you to get on your running shoes and then subsequently head out the door. Pressing play on a song is much easier than giving yourself a pep talk to move your body.
- It adds a personal touch. No one will have the same mantra songs that get them excited to complete a certain activity. That’s what’s so awesome about designating specific songs for certain activities–it makes you feel powerful in your own way, that no one else shares with you.
Sometimes we develop these mantra song connections without even knowing it and can’t explain why they work for us. Here are some of my favorite mantra songs and activity pairings:
- “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin- now I play this one before I do something bold or out of my comfort zone, generally related to human interactions and worrying about what others think
- “Level Up” by Ciara – right before a run to pumped up
- “To Build a Home” by Cinematic Orchestra – while I’m writing blog posts (I really have no way of explaining how this one came to be)
- “River Flows in You” by Yiruma – before I start studying and will usually continue on to a complete peaceful piano playlist
- “Glorious Day” by Passion Worship – before something high-stress, like an exam or an interview to remember that every day God makes is glorious and we are so blessed to live in it