Skip to content Skip to navigation

Mental health hygiene can improve mood, decrease stress

2 cross legged people with brain between them & leaves coming from it
Photo by Marina Zlochin
May 11 2022

By Hadley Leggett

For most people, the concept of hygiene conjures up images of brushing your teeth, applying deodorant or taking a shower: simple, daily practices to keep your body clean and healthy.

But mental health providers say your mind can also benefit from a quick morning tune-up. Spending even 15 minutes on mental health hygiene each day can bring a host of benefits, from improved mood and better relationships to even deeper concentration and enhanced creativity.

"Mental health hygiene includes simple practices that improve our quality of life by preventing negative behaviors and providing emotional stability," said Hui Qi Tong, PhD, a Stanford Medicine clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who directs the Mindfulness Program at the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine.

This concept of daily maintenance for mental health dates back to 1909, when former psychiatry patient and mental health advocate Clifford Beers founded the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, dedicated to preventing mental illness through positive behaviors.

For some people, mental health hygiene means dedicating a few minutes of their morning routine to meditation, stretching or walking -- but Tong says just about any activity can qualify, as long as you are paying attention to what you are doing while you perform the task. In fact, even brushing your teeth can become part of mental health hygiene when practiced with deliberation.

"Mindfully brushing the teeth is actually part of the home practice assignments for the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program," Tong said. "In the program, group members are asked to carry out these seemingly trivial, often overlooked routines intentionally, rather than on auto-pilot as we usually do."