Mental Hygiene Is Just as Important as Washing Your Hands

Mental Hygiene

Does your life seem overwhelming at times? Personal responsibilities, taking care of family and managing a career, all at a non-stop pace that can get the best of even the strongest person. Fortunately, there is a way to prioritize yourself without diminishing the commitments you have to others. It all starts in your brain by working on your mental hygiene—a daily practice that is just as important as washing your hands.

When you take the necessary measures to protect your mental health so you can function well, you support your mental hygiene, which is critical for thriving in anything you do. It is directly linked to your energy, mood, conscientiousness, motivation, and many other aspects of your life, including the ability to cope with challenges and setbacks. However, if you wake up every day wanting to pull the covers over your head, often feel stressed out, struggle with cravings, or have a mind filled with negative thoughts, chances are it’s time to make some lifestyle changes to elevate your mental hygiene—and improve your life.

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Fortunately, even if you’ve never consciously paid attention to the choices and behaviors that diminish your mental health, you can change that. The practice of mental hygiene is something that can be easily incorporated into anyone’s life—and it doesn’t really cost anything. By adopting the following strategies, you can shift to new habits that improve your overall well-being.

1. Have a regular morning routine.

Starting each morning in a similar way can help you feel more grounded and focused as you prepare for the day ahead. Some people may find that sipping a cup of tea while reading or listening to the birds sing can help them feel centered. Others may spend 15 minutes in meditation, going for a walk, or doing some yoga. Whatever it is that helps you feel calmer and more mindful, rather than rattled and rushed, is good for your mental hygiene.

2. Disinfect your thoughts.

If your mind is filled with ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that run rampant, it’s likely making you feel miserable, stressed, anxious, or depressed. Unfortunately, ANTs are very common—especially as social and political discord continue to abound, the COVID-19 pandemic still looms, and the nightly news seems to be filled with one tragedy after another. All of these can trigger the emotional centers in our brain, making those ANTs feel difficult to control.

The good news is that you can get the upper hand with them by learning to challenge the ANTs that are infecting your mind. Here’s how:

For each ANT you have, write it down and answer the following questions about it:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it absolutely true—with 100% certainty?
  • How do you feel when you have this thought?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have this thought?

Then, flip the ANT you started with to its opposite and see if this new thought isn’t actually truer—and more accurate—than the ANT is.

Whenever you catch yourself ruminating on an upsetting thought, take a few minutes to challenge it. With practice, your thinking will become more realistic and improve your emotional health.

3. Fit in time for physical activity.

The many benefits of exercise for your mental and physical health can’t be overstated. Not only does it help with your fitness, but it also promotes the growth of new brain cells and increases the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, as well as endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving hormones. Physical activity can induce calmness and clarity, which elevate your mental hygiene. Exercising doesn’t have to be a chore—choose a variety of activities you enjoy. Better yet, get an exercise buddy to make it more fun. Even if you can only squeeze in 10-15 minutes at a time, it is still worth the effort.

4. Make good decisions about what you eat.

As Dr. Amen’s wife, Tana, always says, “Food is medicine, or it is poison.” Everything you drink or put on the end of your fork can help your feel energized and focused, or end up making you irritable, tired, and foggy-headed. A healthy balanced diet includes lots of fresh produce, clean protein, healthy fats, such as the ones from avocado and coconut, and foods like walnuts, salmon, and flax seeds that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Starting your day off with a boost of protein, whether it’s a brain-healthy smoothie, eggs, or almond flour pancakes can provide you with the energy and focus needed to achieve your goals. Sugar, processed foods, and alcohol do not support your mental or physical health, so steer clear of these. To help you make better decisions about food and beverages, every time you plan to consume something, ask yourself, “Is this good for my brain, or bad for it?”

5. Prioritize your sleep.

When you don’t get adequate amounts of sleep, it affects the health of your brain and body beyond feeling cranky and tired. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety, make you prone to cravings, addiction, and brain fog, cause weight gain, and elevate the risk for type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

One reason for this is that while you sleep, your brain undergoes a critical process during which it eliminates toxins and waste that are normal byproducts of cellular function. These mechanisms help to keep your brain healthy, which is a vital component of good mental hygiene.

Making the necessary changes to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night supports your mental and physical health and will help you think more clearly, manage your thoughts, make better decisions, and give you the energy necessary to accomplish what you need to do.

These guidelines can help you get the zzzzzz’s you need:

  • Avoid anything that interferes with your sleep, such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Even though a drink might help you feel drowsy, alcohol decreases the stages of sleep that are the most restful.
  • Create a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time every morning.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. A white noise machine can help eliminate distracting sounds.
  • Turn off your devices and the TV at least an hour before you hit the hay. The blue light they emit can keep you more alert when your brain should be winding down.
  • Supplements like melatonin and magnesium can promote better sleep.
  • If you snore or stop breathing while asleep, have your doctor order a sleep study to assess for sleep apnea, a condition that deprives your brain cells of oxygen.


Taking the steps to practice mental hygiene every day will help you feel better overall so you can enjoy the things that are important to you. Making changes might feel awkward at first, but by incorporating strategies like these into your daily life, you will quickly reap positive benefits that improve your energy and mood, support optimal mental health, and enhance the quality and success of your life.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. You are absolutely a wonderful read. So sensitive and sensible. Thank you

    Comment by Doris — July 29, 2022 @ 4:17 AM

  2. Great info. Thank you

    Comment by Richard — July 29, 2022 @ 5:05 AM

  3. On a day so challenging even when I have been practicing such things for years and needed a boost, you simplify with just one simple, helpful thought. "Mental hygiene is as important as washing your hands." So easy to remember, and so powerful. Thank you for a fresh motto!!!

    Comment by Meta — July 29, 2022 @ 8:16 AM

  4. I couldn’t agree more about getting your mind straight in the morning. The instant I wake up, I say aloud, “I’m so glad I woke up today, as many people are not. This is going to be a great day!”

    Comment by Lisa — July 29, 2022 @ 9:55 AM

  5. I love receiving your very helpful emails that keep us informed of how best to take care of our brain and body health. Step by step, one day at a time. Little by little the goals can be attained when we make a decision, and follow through without giving up. It takes commitment, effort and work. No one can do it for you, we are the ones that can decide to make a change for the better in our lives, and it is never too late to start. Thank you Dr. Amen for all the tools you provide and sound information.

    Comment by BH — July 30, 2022 @ 7:46 AM

  6. Excellent information!

    Comment by douglas morris — May 11, 2023 @ 5:20 PM

  7. Excellent advice!

    Comment by douglas morris — May 15, 2023 @ 9:06 AM

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