How Mental Health Hygiene Can Change Your Day

 

How 15 minutes of mental health hygiene can change your whole day


You brush your teeth twice a day to keep plaque from building up and see a dentist regularly for extra maintenance. It's considered good hygiene, but how often are you practicing mental hygiene?

Whether you have a specific concern or are just trying to get through your day a little better, taking about 15 minutes each morning to maintain your mental health is something everyone could benefit from.

The hygiene comes in the form of lowering levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone. An intentional daily practice for stress relief not only makes you feel better today. It could improve your well-being later in life.

Increased cortisol levels can lead to a number of physical health complications. A study from 2016 found that emotional regulation has been shown to improve health resilience in older age.

If you are stressed and overwhelmed, carving out 15 minutes in your morning for relaxation sounds like just another hurdle on your to-do list. That addition, however, will make the rest of the list easier to get through, Sawyer said.

Taking time to reset your mental space at the start means that the stressors of the day aren't piling on top of an already overwhelmed system. If you start the day stressed, that is often the baseline you come back to the rest of the day, Sawyer said. When you start with a clear, relaxed mind, you have a calm reference point to which you can return.

The understanding of what a relaxed baseline feels like and what brings you away from that can help you have compassion for yourself and others who may also get anxious or upset, he added.

Here's how to build in your daily practice:

 

1. Try new activities

The first step in improving your mental health hygiene is experimenting with different activities that bring calm and lower cortisol.

To start, set aside 15 minutes in the morning every day as time to slow down and intentionally focus on your inner well-being. The things you fill that time with could be ones you do every day anyway but made more relaxing. 

The important thing is to continue trying new activities until you find something that works for you. Don't be discouraged if it takes some time to see the benefit.

 

2. Track how it makes you feel


An important part of the experimentation is journaling. After trying a new activity in your 15 minutes, making note of how you felt afterward and during the rest of the day can help you discern what kind of things work best for you.

Journaling can also help keep a positive attitude if you don't immediately get the results you are hoping for from your practice.


3. Pay attention to what you need at different times


No one action will work all the time, but it can make a big difference to keep an eye on what you need in different contexts.


4. Add through the day as needed


Eventually, that 15 minutes in the morning might not seem like such a chore. You might start to crave some check-ins with your mental state at more points throughout the day.

At any time that feels good, but at least three days a week.

It's also helpful to add in some time to wind down at the end of the day if you can, turning off work notifications, stepping away from screens and taking time to decompress.

 

Holcombe, Madeline. “How 15 Minutes of Mental Health Hygiene Can Change Your Whole Day.” CNN, Cable News Network, 25 Apr. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/25/health/mental-health-hygiene-wellness/index.html. 

 

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