Our mind is like any other part of our body; if we do not take care of it with proper hygiene it will become dirty, rot, or even cause us serious health problems. Why do you shower? Because if you didn’t you’d be filthy and smell like a dirty sock. Why do you floss? So that the daily plaque accumulated daily from eating doesn’t rot your teeth. Why do you exercise? Most of us do because we want our heart to be healthy and not give out while eating a double-cheeseburger on our fiftieth birthday. Now the big question: what do you do for your mental hygiene?

Every day we wake up, and our mind instantly starts working. Even if you decide to stay in bed for an extra hour reading or watching “only one more” episode on Netflix your mind is still at work inputting, processing, and outputting. After that extra time in bed we get physically moving, preparing for the day, going to work, improving (or dealing with) our relationships, vegetating for a couple hours in front of more Netflix, and then going to bed so we can repeat the process the next day. I know that this might not be exactly what your day is like (yours is much more productive, I’m sure), but this example of an average American’s day is also a great example of why mental hygiene is so important.

Think about this: you are an athlete and you train for several hours doing lifts, sprits, drills, and maybe a little competition. When you are finished with your day what is going to be the first thing you do? For me (and I hope for you also) it would be to shower and get rid of the sweat, dirt, and body odor from all of that physical exertion. How would it feel if you went to bed like that without a shower? What would you feel like after a week of not showing? I don’t even want to imagine it.

Now let’s go back to your life. As you go throughout the day how hard is your mind working? All of us go through a huge amount of mental effort each day, and some more than others. Just as sweat and dirt accumulate on the athlete’s body, we accumulate a large amount of mental dirt and negativity from a normal day (not to mention a tough day). If we do not go through a mental hygiene routine every day, just as we floss every day, that negativity can start to take a toll and begin to rot our mind. You might think that you are fine without that mental hygiene, but the most dangerous part of negativity accumulating on our mind throughout the day is that it is subconscious, meaning that you do not notice it.

How do we clean our mind each day?

The first step to having good mental hygiene is to prepare our mind for the day. This is like putting on gloves before working in the garden. The gloves will keep your hands free from dirt and protect you from thorns. To prepare our mind for the day we need to have an objective and a plan for what skills we want to develop that day. Skills like “live in the present,” and “control the controllable” are great protections from psychological thorns like fear and disappointment. Once we are prepared to take on the day we can go out and reduce the amount of junk that builds up in our subconscious that we have to clean out at the end of the day.

The next step of having good mental hygiene is to perform a positive evaluation at the end of the day. A positive evaluation includes listing the good things that happened and what our strengths are. This practice is counterintuitive to some because they believe that the only way to improve is to find what they are doing wrong and focus on those aspects of their performance. The scientific fact is that we will improve much faster if we focus more on our strengths then our weaknesses. This does not mean that we ignore anything we are not good at. It just means that when we do identify something we want to improve we have to structure our thoughts in a way that we focus on what we will do to improve, not what we are currently doing wrong. At the end of the day we want to go to sleep with positive thoughts (or muscle memory) in our mind so it can solidify as we dream. That way we wake up feeling refreshed and motivated the next day instead of dreading it.

There are different ways to implement mental hygiene practices into your life. In this post is one such way, but many individuals in the world are finding that gratitude journals, or meditation habits are great starting points to improve and clean their minds. Whatever you decide to do, remember that the most important thing is progress, not perfection.



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