Mental Hygiene – Challenge yourself to take charge of your mental health

What is Mental Hygiene?

The term “mental hygiene” refers to daily activities that support and maintain mental health. Public health guidelines tell us that we need to do small tasks daily to maintain our physical and dental hygiene, like showering and brushing our teeth. We are now extending the same concept to mental health. Just like going to the gym is about building up our strength, mental hygiene is about building up that mental muscle. It’s an important way to maintain good mental health and build the resilience we need to help face challenges in the future. Read more about mental hygiene right here

What are some examples of mental hygiene practices?

Mindful deep breathing, journaling, guided meditation, gratitude exercises, and spending time in nature are some examples of activities that have been shown to foster healthy cognitive patterns that are conducive to well-being. For a full list, instructions, and links to how-to videos, download our PDF toolkit.

How long do I need to spend on mental hygiene practices? Do I need to do them daily?

Just like we brush our teeth every day for our dental health, we also need to do something every day for our mental health. Research shows that spending at least 10 minutes every day doing certain research-based mental hygiene practices has real and measurable benefits.

What is the Mental Hygiene Challenge?

If you’d like to try to turn mental hygiene into a daily habit, try The Royal Mental Hygiene Challenge. It’s easy – just pledge to incorporate 10 minutes of mental hygiene practices into your day for 30 days. You can use some of the resources developed at The Royal to help you throughout this journey to building healthy habits.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

Challenge yourself and others to practice at least 10 minutes of mental hygiene for 30 days. Kick-start some healthy habits for your mental wellness!

Step one: Download the PDF toolkit for the full list of mental hygiene practices, instructions, and links to how-to videos.

Step two: Choose one of our free tracking calendars to keep tabs on your progress. It’s optional, but we highly recommend it. Simply add the date into each box and check off when you've completed your mental hygiene for the day! The calendar is a handy reminder, and it will help keep you accountable to yourself. There are three styles to choose from: 

Choose one, print it out and post it where you can see it every day, or fill it out electronically. We have a mobile version, too!

Step three: Spend at least ten minutes on any mental hygiene practice listed in the toolkit for 30 days. You can do the ten minutes in one go, or in smaller intervals throughout the day. You can also combine practices or adapt them to make them work for you!

FAQ

What if mental hygiene doesn’t make me feel better?

If practicing mental hygiene doesn’t seem to make you feel better, we recommend visiting your family doctor as a first step and explaining to them how you’re feeling. Mental hygiene doesn’t replace the need for mental health professionals, it’s simply a form of preventative maintenance that supports your overall wellbeing and makes those tough days a little easier to manage. If you started having chest pains, you wouldn’t go for a run to make the pain go away – you would visit a cardiologist to make sure everything’s okay. The same concept applies to mental hygiene. Also remember that hygiene is more about habit formation and way of life than looking for results. We brush our teeth daily, not necessarily thinking about results, but over time our dental health is more robust. Similarly, a dedication to taking care of our minds on a daily basis slowly and subtly supports wellbeing and resilience. 

I’m a parent/caregiver. How can I get the children in my life engaged in mental hygiene?

We already teach our kids how to brush their teeth, we need to teach them how to take care of their mental health as well. Here are some tips for talking about mental hygiene with children:

  • Compare mental hygiene to dental hygiene - kids know to brush their teeth (and why!), so it's easy for them to see how they’re both important parts of our overall health.
  • Make mental hygiene a family activity – find a mental hygiene practice you can do together. Doing gratitude exercises and going outside in nature as a family is a great way to get started. 
  • Mix and match your exercises to keep it fresh and engaging.
  • Have regular check-ins to see how they're feeling. Encourage them to explore their feelings openly. Share your feelings with them, too!
I struggle to find time for myself and I don’t have 10 minutes to spare every day. How do I fit mental hygiene into my already overloaded schedule?

First of all, you can do this! It’s ok to take time for yourself, especially for your health. If you really can’t take ten minutes out of your day, consider incorporating mental hygiene exercises into your existing routines. For example, mindfulness can be practiced at any time – it’s all about focusing on the sensations you’re feeling, and staying in the present moment. No yoga mat needed! Mindfulness can be practiced while you’re doing the dishes, cooking dinner, showering, or even driving – feel the way the soap dissolves on your skin, focus on the sound of your food sizzling in the pan, tune in to the way the hot water feels on your skin while you shower, etc. As well, you can practice breathing stillness anywhere, anytime – while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, while you’re waiting for someone to join your Zoom meeting, while you’re waiting in line, etc. The possibilities are endless. We encourage you to look at our suggested mental hygiene practices and consider how you can adapt them to make them work for your busy schedule. It’s important to find time to prioritize your wellbeing, even if it’s in short intervals throughout the day. 

Can I take part in the Mental Hygiene Challenge at any time?

Yes! We encourage you to start your own Mental Hygiene Challenge. It’s never the wrong time to build some healthy habits! Consider getting friends, family and/or colleagues involved in the challenge as well. This helps with motivation and accountability, and creates a sense of community. And it makes it way more fun in our opinion!

Can practicing mental hygiene really make a difference in my sense of wellness? 

Yes! Research shows that practicing mental hygiene helps our brain and bodies in very tangible ways. For example, one of the mental hygiene practices our experts recommend is deep breathing. When we’re under stress, our heart rate and blood pressure go up. Breathing deeply and evenly sends a message to our brains, which in turn, sends a message to our body to calm down and return to a more relaxed state. (Look for an exercise called “Breathing stillness” in our toolkit.)   

Meditation is another mental hygiene practice recommended by experts at The Royal. Meditation, and other similar exercises, can help prevent our natural tendency to overthink things in unproductive ways. It helps to picture our minds as a hamster wheel. Excessive and repetitive thinking, also known as rumination, is often linked to lower mood and decreased well-being. Practices like meditation, deep breathing, and gratitude exercises can help reduce this tendency of excessive thinking and rumination. Generally, research suggests that the less we ruminate and think excessively in unproductive ways, the better we feel overall. In other words, when we stop or slow down that hamster wheel, our wellbeing increases. 

For a full list of expert-approved mental hygiene practices, download our toolkit

 

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