3 ways to care for your mental hygiene, not just the physical stuff
We all need to take care of our mental health, the same as our physical health. Here are some regular mental hygiene routines to get into.
Have you heard of the term ‘mental hygiene’ before? It’s a branch of psychiatry that looks at maintaining and restoring mental health through preventative care. Minds need to be cared for, the same as the body. Here are just a few gentle ways to defluff the mind and help it feel regularly cared for.
We all know the feeling. Concentrating on anything for longer than five minutes seems impossible, and the mind feels like a six-lane highway without traffic rules. We can start to hear that ancestral voice whispering, telling us our brain wasn’t built to handle so much information. And oh, the feeling of overload as we consume streams of data in the modern age, from ads and the internet and all the rest of it.
I remember seeing a Buddhist monk talking about our western culture with a hint of amusement. He said we shower our body every day, we wash our hands multiple times a day, we use deodorants… we care about the cleanliness of our bodies very much, but we never seem to care about the cleanliness of our minds. He said that his Tibetan peers don’t clean their bodies as often but they always care about the clarity of their thoughts.
The thing is, a lot of us are using our minds as a source of income. We’re using our minds every day and taking them into overtime without taking proper care of them.
Your mind is like your body – how you feed it counts.
Our body and our mind both gravitate naturally towards cleansing. When our mental cleansing energy bar is heading into the red we might get thoughts like “Oh my god, I really need to get drunk tonight,” or “I feel like leaving all this behind and moving to a secluded cottage in the middle of a forest”. When thoughts of escape and release get desperate they can be symptoms of “mental clutter” and clear signs we could do with some mental hygiene. So how can we clear our mind to feel more ready to cope with the world, the same way we might brush our teeth to build up protection against plaque?
1. Mental hygiene through meditation
See more: Quick urban meditation tips for unlikely places (yep, even the bathroom)
There are lots of techniques for decluttering our minds and it’s a kind of science on its own, but every thousand-mile journey starts with that first step. Often talked about but less regularly practised, meditation is a basic building block of many other techniques.
This is something my clients usually struggle with the most. Mental hygiene is harder than physical cleansing, because there are no obviously physical symptoms like unpleasant odours or dirt. It’s useful to start seeing physical and mental hygiene as identical. In both cases, it’s in your favour to carry out cleansing routines as a regular practice.
Meditation: Sit in a comfortable position. You can use monotonous music or silence or accompany your practice. Start concentrating on your breath. Deepen your breath with every inhale and exhale. If you have a hard time concentrating, you can use a candle flame to keep your mind focused. Start calming your stream of thoughts. With every exhale, picture yourself breathing all the thoughts out. With every inhale, breathe the silent stillness in. Keep it up for at least five minutes and aim to meditate a little longer each time.
2. Mental hygiene through cleansing baths
Water and baths are cleansing not just for our body but for our mind too. A good bath is a ritual on its own. Even a shower can make your mind feel better, calmer, more able to deal. Just thinking about a hot bubble bath can help you feel calmer. Next time you are taking a shower (or bath), imagine all the thoughts and stressed being washed away with the water and disappearing down the shower drain. You’ll be leaving the bath detoxed, clean and pure.
3. Mental hygiene through keeping a journal
See more: How to start a journal and keep it going
As teenagers we tend to keep diaries and journals to help us cope with the difficulties of transformation into independence. Keeping a journal later on in life has somehow become seen as “socially awkward”, even though a hundred years back it was completely normal to have one – even as an adult.
Try keeping a journal and doing “monthly check ups”. At the beginning of each month, write down how you feel. Write down what bothers you and how you WANT to feel at the end of the month. Then you can keep track of your progress and look for repetitive themes that might need your attention. Every month, write down what has to be done in terms of being able to feel the way you want to, and break it down into actionable steps.
This is a really brief introduction to just a few mental cleansing techniques, but I hope it can get you started with your own mental hygiene routines. We all need it now and then, and we all deserve it. I hope these techniques help you build up stress immunity and increase your productivity… but mainly I hope you’ll find your own useful ways to calm down the traffic on modern life’s six-lane superhighway!
Keep your mind clean, take care of yourself and see the magic 😉