Mental Health Hygiene…

I came across a piece written by Hadley Leggett for Stanford University’s online publications. She wrote about Mental Health Hygiene, a term we don’t use frequently enough.

We talk about sleep hygiene – those tools and strategies we can us to get to sleep, stay asleep and improve the quality of our sleep – but you don’t hear folks talk about Mental Health Hygiene, and I for one, think it is immensely important!

Mental Health Hygiene offers us similar tools and strategies for keeping our emotional house in order; tending to the garden of our mind so that the weeds and debris (negative ruminations, critical self-talk, and unverified opinions) don’t begin to overtake it.

Here are Hadley’s three tenets for Mental Health Hygiene.  Consider how you might make them your own:

  • A focused mind is a happy mind: Being able to quiet & focus your mind is an essential tool in today’s chaotic world. Millions of messages barrage your consciousness and would have you caught up in the useless noise that surrounds us. You have a choice, but it does require that you can focus and shut out all (or most) of the unwanted, uninvited and often detrimental interference sent your way.

Good tools for focusing your mind include consciousness breath work – just slowing down your breath, counting your in-breath & out-breath with an opportunity to make the out-breath just a bit longer (this signals your nervous system to slow down!).

Another valuable tool is meditation in all its many forms, including guided meditations (available online, on many platforms these days), silent meditation, meditation with music, walking meditation, or even prayer (however you choose to engage in that). Focusing your mind is an essential skill for inviting these other strategies into your Mental Health Hygiene practices.

  • Pay attention to the five senses: Our senses give us tons of information each day. Some of it we discard or ignore, but other bits of that information are crucial to our health and safety. If we smell smoke, we investigate and likely move away from the danger of a fire. If we hear sirens, we check the car mirrors and move to the side to permit emergency vehicles to pass. If we feel something tickling our leg, we check for the insect that might be interested in biting us (or notice the cat’s tail that is inviting us to play). Our senses can awaken us to important information!

But learning to use our senses to calm our brain (to silence the noise or ruminations that might be present) is a very important skill. There is a tool I particularly like for that which invites us to notice 5 things we can SEE, notice 4 things we can FEEL, notice 3 things we can HEAR, notice 4 things we can SMELL, and notice 1 thing we can TASTE.

A chart of techniques for mental health hygiene
This simple reminder can help us become grounded in the present moment, quiet the noise that constantly wants to distract us, and help us focus on what matters most in our lives.
    • Learn to build a calmer brain: Our brains have amazing plasticity – this means that at any age, they can grow, change, re-wire, and become more resilient, if we take the time to move them in a healthy direction.  What builds a calmer brain? Here’s a short list of strategies for you to consider:
      • Less screen time (especially doom-scrolling!)
      • Being out in nature (and sensing all its gifts!)
      • Being well-rested so that our nervous system has time to re-set at night.
      • Eating well and avoiding those food triggers that make us anxious or on-edge.
      • Taking time for quiet (taking breaks, moving our body, clearing our head).
I wish you a calmer week, with a quieter brain and a grounded sense of wellbeing.  Let me know if you need any assistance with all this, I’m becoming very good at taking my Mental Health Breaks and tending to my own Mental Health Hygiene!

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

Reference: Leggett, H. (May 11, 2022). Mental health hygiene can improve mood, decrease stress. Available at:  https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2022/05/11/mental-health-hygiene-can-improve-mood-decrease-stress/

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.

How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.