Mental Hygiene

I’ve seen this mentioned a few times and it’s very interesting. Healthy habits of thought? I’m not sure quite how to fully define such a thing. I’ve been trying to think of a collection of examples to post about though.

One is something I want to call “therapeutic social isolation” which involves spending time processing things by myself. Processing by yourself and processing around other people are going to feel different and that’s likely to be a good difference to feel. Maybe we have an instinct for such social isolation if we get “overloaded”.

Another thing which is like a version of the first is if I feel particularly intense about a piece of writing, even a text, I do a draft and come back later. Later can be an hour, the next morning, a couple of days… I can’t say how long it takes to move an experience from short to long term memory but a night of sleep can be useful in seeing if you still feel the same.

I’m sure there are many things that can be included in something like mental hygiene. I’m not sure what it looks like as a fleshed out concept but that’s a start.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Suggested addition: curating your social circle for mental health.

    I learned this in the context of paragliding, and I wish I’d come across it sooner (maybe I did, but in a form I wasn’t ready for). A world-renowned expert told me that we should surround ourselves with positive people. All pg pilots know people who will turn up, decry the weather, maybe fly a bit but spend a lot of time on the ground chatting or smoking or whatever, and blame the conditions or their kit or their mental state, and go home with nothing much learned. His counsel was to avoid those people, and model the behaviour of and seek the company of those who are positive – who will draw some useful lesson from every day, and as a result achieve more.

    It was a lesson that transformed my flying, and my life.

  2. scildfreja says

    Hi Brony <3

    I am no expert and please don't take me as one, but here are my thoughts on it.

    Mental hygiene is about identifying what your ethics are, and then ensuring that you live by those ethics. In action, it is a self-assessment – what are your beliefs, and do they align with your moral compass? Who do you surround yourself with, and are they pulling you away from the direction that your ethics require? The things you expose yourself to, the things you do for fun, the words you choose – are they in harmony with your fundamental beliefs?

    As with any self-assessment, mental hygiene requires a pretty good amount of discipline and self-criticism. I've found that waking up in the wee hours of night is a good time to do it. The anxiety hours, where the circadian rhythm is pumping you full of stress hormones, makes it easier to be self-critical. For me, it's pretty much reflexive. I try to commit my thoughts to memory during that time, and think of them again the following day when I'm not being so unfair to myself. A few passes of this seems to garner results, and is a good enough side-effect of illness in any case.

    sonofrojblake above is clear and correct as well – you need to think hard about the people you interact with.

    I'm sure you know all this, though. Just a case of putting it to words. I know you can do it!

    – S

  3. says

    I can agree with the addition of more variables for mental health curation. If you need positive people find positive people. There’s also avoiding something negative and other ways the logic may go.

    And what does positive mean? You define it for your needs which is what each of us does for our specific purpose in a specific situation.
    You want people who find a useful lesson from each of session of paragliding for it to be positive.

  4. says

    I don’t know what an expert looks like here. There’s probably useful things in many places. Mindfulness meditation and yoga look useful as general exercise for ones awareness, perception, and control.

    I agree with self-assessment and self-criticism. I tend to have that running in the background of my mind during the day though (I think that’s one of the things I give my tourette’s syndrome to do so it’s not coming up with”it’s own” habits). If I let it run at night it keeps me awake as intrusive thoughts. It can get excessive during the day if I’m not careful though.


    Finally, I think you were the first person I saw mention mental hygiene.

  5. scildfreja says

    I don’t think there really are any experts on mental hygiene. We’re all sort of groping around in the dark. That’s okay, though, it means that there is a lot of freedom to explore different paths! I agree that mindfulness techniques, like meditation and yoga, are useful. They have to be coupled with some sort of self-criticism reflex, though, or they won’t be good at identifying problems.

    I suspected that your TS would give you a leg up on the self-assessment cycle! Doesn’t surprise me at all that you’re used to self-assessing and self-critiquing regularly. What do you do once you’ve identified a valid self-criticism? That has to be a crucial step – once you notice the unhealthy pattern of thought, what do you do?

    On unfairness – the comment was about checking in on yourself during a high-anxiety moment – like 3 AM when the circadian rhythm swings towards stress. This gives you a measurement point on whether your beliefs and actions are following your morals. It’s going to be a harsh evaluation, in the general sense Those are the anxiety hours, when you remember all the horrible embarrassments of the past and tiny problems are inflated into huge ones. It makes the problems easier to identify, but also amplifies their weight.

    I think you should re-visit those evaluations later that day. After breakfast, with a bit of glucose in your blood, a bit of hydration, maybe some caffeine, after a shower. You’ll be on the upswing in your circadian rhythm, your brain will have its dopamines and whatnot, and it’ll be able to perform more creative-problem-solving, and will have a more optimist evaluation. You can then re-evaluate what you discovered that night under the reign of sunlight you then find yourself under.

    So I suppose it’s about triangulation, really. Observe your beliefs from multiple directions. Repeat regularly to catch anything that doesn’t fit properly. That’s my take on it at least.

    It was probably me that introduced you to the term. I seem to recall using it on WHTM and having people ask what I meant by the term – I bet that was you! It’s a topic that quite desperately needs to be talked about, especially in the modern day and age.

  6. says

    Once I’ve found something it depends on the thing. Validation itself can be a process. If it involves other people I try to get a perspective on the thing.

    Once I have something I feel is valid it’s a matter of finding alternatives and practicing them to replace the habit. For example alternatives to “sucks” (and “suck a/my dick” and similar) since I think that contributes to homosexual sex acts being seen as inherently bad. From there it’s a matter of trying until it’s replaced.
    Saying what one is trying to do around other people can enhance things.
    If possible I try to avoid just stopping something because for me at least replacement works better when I can.

    I think I see what you mean about checking in when you can be more harsh on yourself. That can be useful in moderation. Sometimes those intrusive thoughts are useful.

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