What is Mental Hygiene?
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What is mental hygiene? The term “mental hygiene” has been trending over the last few years, but this term originated in the 1800’s. In 1893 specifically, the founder of the American Psychiatric Association, Isaac Ray, defined mental hygiene as “the art of preserving the mind against all incidents and influences calculated to deteriorate its qualities, impair its energies, or derange its movements. The management of the bodily powers in regard to exercise, rest, food, clothing and climate, the laws of breeding, the government of the passions, the sympathy with current emotions and opinions, the discipline of the intellect—all these come within the province of mental hygiene.” (Rossi, A., Some Pre-World War II Antecedents of Community Mental Health Theory and Practice. Mental Hygiene, 1962, 46, 78-98, as cited by Mandell, 1995).

In the 1900’s there was a strong reaction to Clifford Beer’s autobiography called, A Mind That Found Itself, which highlighted how poorly those being seen for psychiatric services were treated by professionals. This kick started a movement of trailblazers that included Beer’s as well as Adolf Meyer, Thomas W. Salmon and Dorothea Dix. These individuals made serious contributions to the unveiling and reform of these issues, and the mental hygiene movement influenced the foundations of organizations like the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene (1908) and the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (1909). In 1950 the National Association for Mental Health was created, and groups like this aimed (and still aim)  to create higher standards of care for those being treated with mental health challenges, to use preventative strategies to reduce the onset of challenges, and to guarantee that people are properly educated and informed about these topics. 

I may not be on any of these particular committee or part of these organizations, but I have the exact same mission.

For now, let’s discuss the preventative, coping and maintenance side of mental hygiene. We wouldn’t think about going weeks, months or dare I say YEARS without brushing our teeth, or washing our body or clothes (whoa). Why would we go weeks, months or years without tending to our mind, emotions (or energy) or overall mental well-being? You may have heard that our mind, body and spirit (yes, spirit) are all connected. If we ignore one avenue then we risk imbalance. If we are imbalanced, well, we may feel stressed, overwhelmed, stuck, depressed, anxious or, simply put, we may start to experience the onset or exasperation of mental health challenges. There are so many types of mental hygiene tools to engage in for preventative or maintenance care, and some you may like more than others. From specific types of affirmations, to being in nature, to mindful eating, to creating a bedtime routine, there are plenty of options to prevent and cope with mental health challenges as well as maintain balance. I’m excited to give out as much knowledge and tips as I can. My goal is to help others, and if I can help just ONE person with a post, then my purpose is fulfilled.

Now, with all that said, as my first mental hygiene tip, I encourage you now to go outside. Once you’re done reading put your phone on airplane mode (GASP) for 20 minutes, and simply go outside. You don’t need to go to a grassy mountain (and listen to the buzzing of bugs) like this picture illustrates, but going outside wherever you are right now is good. Take a walk in your neighborhood, sit in your backyard, drive to a local park, and be outside even if for a few minutes. Since this post is already sooo long, I’ll explain more on the benefits of being outdoors soon. For now, just focus on getting some air and engaging new scenery. 🙂

Peace and Love,

Dr. L

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