Brushing your teeth at least twice a day to prevent plaque from building up in your mouth and seeing your dentist regularly for additional maintenance is a very important habit for good hygiene.
However, there are few who know that the same should be done in terms of mental hygiene. Whether they have a specific concern or are just trying to make their day a little better, taking about 15 minutes every morning to take care of mental health is something that people could benefit from, according to Broderick Sawyer, a clinical psychologist in Louisville, Kentucky.
“This is the mental health equivalent of brushing your teeth before you need a root canal,” he noted.
Specific, mental hygiene seeks to reduce cortisol levels, the main stress hormone. This is an intentional daily stress-relieving practice that will not only make your mind feel better today, but research suggests it may improve your well-being later.
In fact, high cortisol levels can lead to a host of physical health complications, according to 2020 research. Along the same lines, a 2016 study found that emotional regulation has been shown to increase health resilience in old age.
But how to start then? Sawyer created a method for mental health hygiene and explained why it should be a part of your daily routine and how to incorporate it into your life.
It takes 15 minutes to dedicate to mental hygiene
- If people are stressed and overwhelmed, finding an extra 15 minutes in the morning to wind down sounds like yet another hurdle on the to-do list. However, that time will make the rest of the list easier to do, Sawyer said.
- “It’s not that I don’t have time, you have time for a lot of things. If we can really (practice mindfulness) throughout the day, then our mental health needs less of our energy, less of our juice, “insists the expert.
- Taking the time to reset your mental space at the beginning of the day means that the stressors of the day aren’t going to pile up on an already overwhelmed system.
- “And if you start the day stressed, that’s often the benchmark you return to for the rest of the day. When you start with a clear and relaxed mind, you have a calm reference point that you can return to,” Sawyer said.
How to build a new mental hygiene?
- The first step to improving your mental health hygiene is to experiment with different activities — anything that provides calm and lowers cortisol, Sawyer said.
- “It’s just learning to treat and cultivate that inner space with awareness,” he added.
- To start, set aside 15 minutes every morning with the goal of slowing down and intentionally focusing on inner wellness.
- “The activities you dedicate that time to can be the same ones you already do every day, but in a more relaxing way. For example, sipping your morning coffee slowly with a few deep breaths, or swapping the radio news for music you enjoy on the way to work,” Sawyer explained.
- Changing up those activities might also help, like sitting outside for a while, going for a walk, or stretching.
Keep a close eye on what you feel with mental hygiene
Pay attention to what everyone needs at different times
- No activity will work all the time. So keeping an eye on what’s needed in different contexts can make a big difference.
- “So if I have a work day with a lot of meetings, maybe I need to be a little more upbeat and upbeat. Or maybe I need to focus more because it’s a busy writing day. Those are different energies,” Sawyer continued.
Add more minutes of mental hygiene throughout the day, as needed
- Those 15 minutes in the morning can be a not so heavy task.
- Anytime that feels good, but at least three days a week it should be done. Sawyer suggested adding some low-impact physical activity. For example, walking, cycling or doing yoga.
- It’s also helpful to add some wind down time at the end of the day if you can, by turning off work notifications, stepping away from screens, and taking some time to unwind.
- “Once we find that tool or collection of tools for ourselves, we can master how well we use them,” Sawyer concluded.