Mental Health Hygiene 101

Throughout the day, you perform dozens of hygiene tasks to take care of your body. You wash your hands, brush and floss your teeth, bathe or shower, and style your hair. You change your clothes and clip your nails and get haircuts and make sure your home is clean (or at least clean-ish). But what tasks do you perform regularly to take care of your mind?

If you’re struggling to come up with an answer, you’re not alone. For most of us, mental health is something we often don’t think about until there’s a problem – we wait until we get stressed, depressed, or anxious and then try to fix things when we’re in crisis. This is a lot like never brushing your teeth and then having to get drastic dental procedures to fix the damage. Prevention is always a better plan!

So, just like the hygiene tasks, we perform to take care of our physical health there are tasks that we need to do on a regular basis to support our mental health. Today, we’ll discuss the topic of mental health hygiene and why it matters.

What is mental health hygiene?

Mental Health Hygiene won’t look the same for everyone, so there isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all set of instructions. Psychology Today explains, however, that there are some things that each of our Mental Health Hygiene routines has in common, “All of us need daily attention to the basics: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Most of us also need a measure of strong social support, as well as cultivation of purpose, perspective, and humor in one’s life”.

Beyond these basics, you can cultivate Mental Health Hygiene habits that work for you. For example, author and mental health advocate Jessica Dreistadt shares that she regularly practices the following to support her mental wellbeing:

• Express gratitude: “I not only intentionally find things to be grateful for, I openly share my gratitude with others who have contributed to their existence.”

• Make time for play: “By planning playtime and doing things that I enjoy, I am able to create anticipatory joy leading up to the activity as well as a sense of flow and happiness while participating in it.”

• Let it go: “When I find myself clinging to destructive feelings as a crutch, I find the courage to let it go so that I can freely move forward in my life.”

• Nurture connections: “I have adopted and share my home with three cats and we reciprocate unconditional love on a regular basis. I also find inner peace by regularly connecting with nature, whether it be by feeling the sun’s rays on my face, watching the sunset, walking through the woods, or taking a nap at the beach.”

• Write it down: “When I write down my thoughts and feelings, they become more tangible to me and less scattered (and scary!) in my head.”

To identify which habits will benefit you, try to identify the activities or practices in your life that leave you feeling calm, centered, and content. It could be reading, journaling, listening to music, getting out into nature, exercising, having a hot bath – anything that feels like it feeds your soul. Write these activities down to create a list of your own Mental Health Hygiene habits.

By regularly practicing Mental Health Hygiene, you’ll be supporting your mental wellbeing and prioritizing your psychological health. That’s absolutely a habit worth cultivating. Good luck!

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