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Mental Hygiene Practices That Can Make a Big Difference

Published on December 4, 2021

A woman's mind being watered by a watering can and growing flowers

Keeping up on mental health practices can go a long way in terms of decreasing stress, increasing happiness and improving your overall emotional wellness. Some refer to this concept as “mental hygiene.” This term was used often in the twentieth century in reference to the act of engaging in regular rituals to prevent and treat mental illness, much like how you shower and wash your hands to stay clean.

What Is Mental Hygiene? 

A recent study defined mental hygiene as “a form of preventive maintenance that can be likened to other hygienic practices.” The study continued, “through the plasticity of the brain, mental training activities can foster healthy cognitive patterns that are conducive to well-being.”

Indeed, as many studies have indicated, our brains are plastic in the sense that we can mold and shape them to form new habits, thought patterns and behaviors overtime. So how can we harness this plasticity to create better mental health, a more aligned life and improved habits?

You already shower, wash your hands and brush your teeth every day — why not extend these healthy habits to your mental health?

5 Mental Hygiene Practices to Incorporate Into Your Life

Here are five mental hygiene practices that can make a big difference in your life:

1.     Meditation

Person meditating in the lotus position

Numerous studies have shown the positive benefits people can reap from a regular mindful meditation practice. Sitting down to meditate each day, even if it’s only for five minutes, can help prevent excess rumination, decrease stress and even boost happiness. Try one of these meditation apps to get started.

2.     Feed Your Mind

A mind being watered with flowers blooming out of it, representing mental  hygiene.

Your diet isn’t only what you eat — it’s also how you feed your mind. If you’re constantly watching and subscribing to negative news, or hanging out with negative people, your mindset won’t be as positive as it can be. Try swapping out your true crime for motivating podcasts like Ten Percent Happier or On Purpose with Jay Shetty.

3.     Therapy

Person happily chatting with a therapist

There are several different forms of therapy you can try to keep your mental health in tip top shape, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy. Find one that works for you and a therapist you can trust to stay on top of your mental wellness.

4.     Journaling

Person writing in a journal with love on the brain. Journaling is helpful mental hygiene practice.

Research has also shown that writing down your thoughts, feelings and reflections regularly in a journal can help with processing complex emotions and increasing self-awareness. There’s something so healing about emptying your mind of chaotic thoughts by putting them down on paper, and this practice definitely won’t break the bank.

5.     Spending time in nature

Person meditating out in nature.

Taking time to disconnect from technology and connect with nature instead can have significant benefits for your mental health and boost your mood. The next time you have a spare half hour, go for a walk outside and try a walking meditation for the perfect mentally cleansing ritual.

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The Author
Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She enjoys long walks, iced coffee on tap, and discovering all the latest and greatest health and wellness trends.