Basic care is part of the daily routine, such as washing your face, brushing your teeth and having breakfast. In addition to these habits, psychologists suggest that mental hygiene be adopted as part of the daily routine. This takes about 15 minutes in the morning.
“Having a mental health hygiene practice is like cleaning your mirror and looking into it. You look [seu reflexo] and you know what you are and what you are not”, explains Broderick Sawyer, psychologist and founder of the Racial Trauma Center, in the United States, for the channel CNN.
What is mental hygiene?
It is worth explaining that mental hygiene is a concept that refers to the care adopted to maintain the balance of the mind, such as having a healthy diet or reducing the intake of psychoactive substances, such as alcohol. In addition, measures that encourage mindfulness — known as mindfulnessin English — also enter this equation.
In some moments of our life, the mind can reach a point of extreme fatigue, where emotional and mental tensions are added, caused by different factors, including excessive work. At this point, the crisis is called burnout. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) was able to define the condition as one of the occupational diseases.
Generally speaking, mental hygiene is a valid practice for all people, even those individuals who have not reached an extreme point of mental exhaustion. “This is the mental health equivalent of brushing your teeth before you need a root canal,” jokes Sawyer.
In scientific terms, hygiene is a strategy to reduce the levels of cortisol — the main stress hormone — in the individual. In addition to the momentary improvement, the psychologist explains that changes in well-being have an impact on longevity.
Why do this in the morning?
Before we move on, it is important to understand that mental hygiene should not be understood as another item on your daily to-do list, but as a moment for yourself. Ideally, this should be done in the morning, as this is the time when the brain “returns” to operating and will remain active for at least another 16 hours — if we take the eight hours off.
When a person starts the day with a clear and relaxed mind, it’s possible to have a sweet spot that you can always return to, explains Sawyer. However, this is not possible when the day is already stressed out.
Here are four important tips to keep your mental hygiene up to date:
1. Maintain mindfulness for at least 15 minutes
The main tip is to maintain mindfulness for at least 15 minutes in some activity. According to Sawyer, this time should be invested in something that brings calm to the individual and, consequently, reduces cortisol levels.
For example, it is possible to start the mental hygiene “training” at breakfast. This means that while you are eating or drinking your coffee, it will be necessary to keep your attention on it, excluding other worries of the day, such as watching the news or looking at your cell phone notifications. Another idea is to listen to music that engages you as soon as you wake up and allow yourself to feel how the song affects you. Take the time to take a few deep breaths.
2. Understand what your body needs and what is good for you
Routine is not always the same. So, on some days, the moment of mindfulness may have to be different from others, but the idea is to keep this activity in some way, even if it’s during your commute to work on the bus.
No action will work all the time, stresses the psychologist. It can make a big difference to keep an eye on what you need in different contexts, he advises. In fact, a recommendation can be to keep a notebook or create a note on your cell phone with those activities that best reassure you. The idea is to create a repertoire of what helps to calm you down.
3. Practice some kind of physical exercise
Adding to the fifteen minutes of mindfulness, psychologist Sawyer recommends physical activity at least three times a week, which helps reduce stress and relieves tiredness of the mind. Here, it should be noted that it is not necessary to perform high-impact activities, such as running. In fact, walking and cycling can be fundamental activities for the well-being of your mind.
4. Know how to turn off at the end of the day
As important as “resetting” the brain properly at the beginning of the day, it is important to know how to “turn it off”. The idea is to impose a time limit for, for example, worrying about work issues or other activities that can cause stress. After a certain time, try to disable cell phone notifications and, preferably, do not use the device just before going to bed. The device can pose a big dilemma for a good night’s sleep.
Implementing these tips, even if gradually, Sawyer says it is possible to keep brain hygiene up to date, which will bring enormous benefits to your routine, including work.
Source: CNN and UFMG