There is an intrinsic advantage to mental well-being. Given what we know about mental illness and its impact on people's lives, it does not require a giant leap to understand the value of mental health awareness and maintenance. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to prioritize our mental health. As a result, mental hygiene requires our undivided attention.
What is mental hygiene?
Mental hygiene encapsulates activities designed to maintain and promote mental health and prevent mental illness.
Initiatives to Promote Mental Hygiene
Our psychological well-being is key to our relational functioning, coping mechanisms, and adjusting to unanticipated situations. Our ability to bounce back after an unexpected set of circumstances is a testament to our mental strength. Mental health is vital to individuals, households, communities, and societies. This is evidenced by initiatives such as:
Mental Health Awareness Month
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide Prevention Week
Employee assistance programs (EAP) for workers who may need mental health services.
Pharmaceutical companies, compassionate use programs for individuals who cannot afford to purchase medications.
Other examples include promoting work-life balance and employer and community-sponsored webinars/workshops to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout. In addition, mental health professionals manage blogs and podcasts sharing information about managing our mental well-being. There is also advertisement in print and electronic media encouraging us to seek care when needed.
In addition to the many initiatives, the testimonials of people with mental health concerns are even more potent. Sharing their personal struggles and triumphs in seeking help and maintaining their mental hygiene can be a catalyst for change for those of us contemplating the value of collaborating with a mental health professional.
There are still challenges in access to mental health services for all the successes. For example, stakeholders are actively and persistently attempting to close the gaps through the initiatives mentioned above regarding the gaps in access to mental health care.
However, profound issues continue to affect attempts to close the gaps, including “human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The concerns raised by WHO are echoed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
Dutifully the work to eradicate the stigma and negative portrayal of people with mental illnesses continue. In the meantime, we can change how we live and promote our mental hygiene.
Suggestions to Promote and Maintain Mental Hygiene
Ask for help when needed.
Improve your situational judgement to improve the quality of your decision-making.
Losing does not make you a loser.
It is ok to say “No” when you find it necessary.
Develop new healthy routines that are sustainable. Change one unhealthy habit at a time.
Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely).
Get restorative sleep. Poor sleep hygiene can affect cognitive functioning.
Recognize when it is time for personal change versus trying to change a situation.
Accept that things will sometimes go wrong, and they will.
Set and maintain healthy boundaries.
Find the space and time to silence the background noises that disrupt your self-awareness and mental acuity.
Mental Health Action Plan
Create a mental health bucket list – include on the list things you find stimulating. Your list may consist of daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly activities. The mental health bucket list can be an effective tool for practicing daily mental health activities that minimize your stressors.
Improve your frustration tolerance - this is your ability to respond constructively to a frustrating situation. Since you will experience frustrating conditions in your daily interactions, it is beneficial to recognize the causes and signs of your frustration. For example, you may improve your frustration tolerance by acknowledging that things will go wrong. When they do, you adjust by not dwelling on things you cannot change, such as another person’s behavior.
Learn to distinguish between learned helplessness and learned resourcefulness. Learned helplessness may likely develop when exposed to high levels of stress. You start to believe there is nothing you can do to change the stressful situation. On the other hand, learned resourcefulness is a set of skills you develop over time responding or reacting to life’s many challenges. You can rely on these skills when responding to challenging situations.
The benefit of hindsight reflections can assist us with recognizing the behaviors we should change and the ones we invest in to maintain our psychological well-being.
Stay Naturally Curious.
Maier, S., & Seligman, M. (1976). Learned helplessness: Theory and evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 105(1), 3–46.
Rosenbaum, M. (1990). Learned resourcefulness: on coping skills, self-control, and adaptive behaviors. Springer Publishing Company, Inc.