Do you brush your teeth twice a day? Bathe and shower regularly? Hopefully, this kind of hygiene happens without you having to think about it. A question we really need to be asking on the personal care front, though, is, “do you have a mental health hygiene routine?” According to MUD\WTR’s mental health advisor, integrative psychiatrist Raghu Appasani, mental health hygiene should be akin to the tooth-brushing and showering you do on autopilot: a simple, daily practice.
Appasani, who is also the founder of The MINDS Foundation, has mental health hygiene rituals for the morning and evening.
“I will be honest, I am not 100 percent adherent to these rituals every single day, but I try my best, and when I do, I feel a lot better,” he says. (Note the art of forgiving yourself when you don’t achieve 100 percent perfectly.)
Rituals Can Provide Structure—And Reduce Anxiety
So, what is this necessary and important “mental health hygiene” all about? Primarily it involves “rituals and structure” that serve to bring clarity.
“Anxiety comes from things that you can’t anticipate and that you’re unaware of,” Appasani says. “So if you have rituals, you always have something that you’re looking forward to and that you have clarity on. That can help ground you really well.”
The structure of ritual can prevent you from experiencing overwhelm and burnout, and it’s a way to ground yourself at the beginning and end of each day. Just as that toothpaste results in fresh breath, mental health hygiene cultivates freshness of mind.
Play Around and Find Your Personal Mental Hygiene Routine
“You were taught that physical health hygiene is important for preventing chronic medical issues, and for being a functioning, welcoming human,” says Appasani. “And so why don’t we think of our brains and emotional well-being and our mental health in the same way?”
Of the many options for your mental-health hygiene journey, Appasani suggests asking yourself what your mental equivalent of tooth-brushing is. Journaling? Slowly sipping MUD\WTR in the morning? Meditating? Going on a walk? The options are plentiful.
“You can try a lot of different things out,” Appasani says. “Figure out what works for you and create that routine for yourself. You want to keep yourself clean, but you also want to be able to function and feel in flow everyday, so you also want to be sure you’re cleaning your brain.”
And don’t worry if it’s not instant perfection, he adds. “I still have to work on it too.”
Header image by Lisa Fotios.
Liza Monroy is a writer based in Santa Cruz, CA. You can find her collected books, articles, and essays on lizamonroy.com and follow her on Instagram.
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