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Practicing good mental hygiene is just as important as practicing good physical hygiene. Like physical hygiene, mental hygiene requires developing consistent, healthy habits. But although many of us were taught as children to brush our teeth and wash our armpits, we may not have been taught how to regulate our nervous systems and clear toxic thoughts or pent-up emotions. 

Being mentally hygienic doesn’t mean always feeling happy or positive. It means adopting systems that allow us to reset, calm down, and refocus our energy. In the same way that our hands get dirty after we wash them, our minds and nervous systems can get negatively activated and the activation should be addressed before it starts affecting our mental and physical state. 

Here are five of the most effective mental hygiene practices: 

  • Express yourself. Whether you are journaling, venting to a trusted friend, or talking with a therapist, expressing your thoughts, judgements and emotions can help clear your system of built-up tension and anxiety. Emotional expression is cathartic in and of itself, and you may find it makes finding a solution to your problem easier as well. 
  • Try mindfulness or meditation. These spiritual practices improve self-awareness and acceptance, which can calm the nervous system and improve mood. In Buddhist philosophy, resistance leads to suffering. Mindfulness and meditation can help us let go of resistance and come to peace with the reality of a situation. 
  • Practice self-compassion. Though the practice of self-compassion, we release judgements of ourselves and see the beauty in all of our decisions. We can even come to accept the judgemental parts of ourselves. This can transform counter-productive anger and self-criticism into kindness and healthy action.
  • Set healthy boundaries. Whether you need to set boundaries at work, at home, or with yourself, knowing your limits and speaking up when you are overextended will support your mental and emotional health. Saying “no” to certain people or activities means you are saying “yes” to yourself and your needs. 
  • Take care of your body. Physical health and mental health are closely related. By exercising regularly, developing a consistent sleep schedule, getting fresh air, and avoiding sugar, caffeine and alcohol, you will feel better in your body and your spirit. 

What are your favorite mental hygiene practices?