Can you imagine not brushing your teeth twice a day? It’s just part of the personal hygiene routine that we do every day, but there’s an important step many of us don’t make time for - mental health hygiene. According to psychologist Broderick Sawyer, it’s as easy as spending 15 minutes in the morning doing things that relieve stress.
“This is the mental health equivalent of brushing your teeth before you need a root canal,” Sawyer says. That daily practice of stress relief lowers levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone. Practicing daily mental health hygiene is something that everyone can benefit from and it doesn’t just make you feel better today, research shows it can even improve wellbeing later in life.
So how do you create a mental health hygiene routine? Sawyer recommends:
- Carve out the 15 minutes - Making the time for it will make the rest of your to-do list for the day easier to get through, according to Sawyer. He says if you start the day stressed, that may be your baseline for the day, but starting it with “a clear, relaxed mind” gives you that baseline instead.
- Try new activities - Experiment with things to make you feel calm and lower cortisol. Your 15 minutes could start with just drinking your coffee slowly, swapping talk radio for music you like or taking a walk outside. Just keep trying new things until you find what works for you.
- Track how it makes you feel - Sawyer says journaling is an important part of the process, so you can take note of how you feel afterwards and for the rest of the day.
- You may need different things at different times - The same action won’t work all the time, so pay attention to what you need and switch things up.
“When we do these things every day, we essentially ‘practice feeling happy,’” Sawyer explains. “Then in turn, this can make us feel more confident when stressful life situations come up -- because we do a good job nourishing ourselves.”