mental hygiene

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The branch of psychiatry that deals with the science and practice of maintaining and restoring mental health, and of preventing mental disorder through education, early treatment, and public health measures.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.


What is mental hygiene?

Mental hygiene is the practice of trying to maintain mental health through proactive behavior and treatment.

Mental health is “one’s overall psychological well-being.” Hygiene refers to methods for preserving health. (In the popular sense, it refers to things like brushing your teeth and washing your hands.) In this way, mental hygiene is what you do to keep your mind healthy.

Practicing mental hygiene is an ongoing process. Understanding what it is and how to practice it can help improve your quality of life.

Why is mental hygiene important?

Mental hygiene was first recorded in the English language in the 1840s, when it was used in the title of a book by William Sweetser, a medical doctor and professor. In the early 1900s, psychologist Clifford Wittingham Beers started a mental hygiene movement after experiencing mistreatment while at mental institutions for anxiety and depression. He championed improved treatment of people with mental disorders and increased awareness about mental illness—topics that are still relevant today.

You’ve probably practiced mental hygiene without even knowing it. Psychologists recommend strategies like being aware of emotional pain and managing (but not suppressing) negative feelings. Even simple self-care activities can be part of an effective mental hygiene routine: listening to calming or upbeat music, talking about your feelings with friends or family, and keeping your mind busy by doing small tasks. Sometimes mental hygiene is more formal, such as seeking the care of mental health professionals. All of these strategies can help to maintain mental health, which is the goal of mental hygiene.

Importantly, practicing good mental hygiene can help you deal with psychological trauma, like the death of a loved one, a professional failure, or a romantic rejection.

Physical hygiene is part of our daily routine, and many mental health professionals are working to bring awareness to the role of mental hygiene in maintaining and improving mental health and preventing mental illness. The next time you wash your hands or brush your teeth, think about what you can do for your mental hygiene!

Did you know ... ?

The founder of the mental hygiene movement, Clifford Whittingham Beers, wrote an autobiography in 1908 titled A Mind That Found Itself. It dealt frankly with his mental health struggles and called for reform in the field of mental health treatment.

What are real-life examples of mental hygiene?

Mental health professionals will tell you that mental hygiene is crucial for mental health, especially when dealing with emotional pain or trauma.




What other words are related to mental hygiene?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following is NOT a good mental hygiene strategy?

A. Starting each day with positive thoughts
B. Keeping a bad experience to yourself and never talking about it again
C. Seeing a therapist
D. Talking with friends when you feel sad

How to use mental hygiene in a sentence