Chances are, you are very cognizant of your physical health. You know you need to have regular checkups. You’re aware you need to exercise and eat healthy foods. You realize those annual cleanings at the dentist are necessary, if painful. Even if you’re not perfect about maintaining your body, you probably still pay more attention to it than your mental health.
While your physical health should be important to you, here’s a challenge: Make your mental health equally important. Research shows that emotional well-being is linked to living longer, better lives. So why not start now to tune up your mental health? Here are some suggestions:
1) Pay attention to your mental state
Do you wake up in the morning dreading the day that stretches before you? Don’t just shove that dread to the back of your mind—and then slog through your day. Pay attention to it. Bring it out from the back of your mind and take it front and center. Examine it. Become aware. It’s the first step toward good emotional hygiene.
2) Notice when your bad mood lingers
You may have good reason to be in a bad mood—you may have been rejected at work, you may have felt a failure in your relationship, you may have behaved badly and are flogging yourself with guilt. If it goes on too long, though, you are suffering from emotional pain and you need to do something to alleviate that pain.
3) Assess what you need to attain happiness
Some people need to interact with others. And some people feel fine with lots of alone time. Some people need to achieve in their work arena far more than others. An artist may need to create a still life in order to feel vibrant and alive. Another may get the same result from volunteering in a soup kitchen. Take inventory of what you are doing to make yourself happy, and also what you need to add to the list.
4) Pay homage to yin and yang. Balance is key
It’s not just what you do to be happy, it’s how much, and in what amounts. What do you need to add and what do you need to subtract from your life? Understand that you may need to do creative work to be happy, but to work all the time without personal interaction or other pursuits will throw you off balance. And the work itself will not be as joyful.
5) Don’t succumb to negativity
Some people call this “stinkin’ thinkin.’” It is natural to feel bad when you’ve been rejected, for example. But it’s not good for your mental health to run yourself down and dwell on your shortcomings. Yes, learn from your experience, but make sure your inner voice is as nice to you as you are to someone else. Be understanding of your own self and give yourself a break.
6) Check on your self-esteem
Many people are taught to feel unworthy as children, and since no one tells them differently, they continue to have a low opinion of themselves through adulthood. If this is you, it’s time to bring your unworthy feelings to light. You really are better than you think, and it’s time to take stock. You need confidence to achieve your goals and to move forward in a positive way.
7) Bandage emotional wounds
You would take medicine if you got the flu; you would get a deep cut stitched up. You would attend to your physical needs, so do likewise with your emotional needs. If your partner rejects you, if you lost the prize you worked so hard to attain, if your best friend betrays your trust, if you feel guilty or alone, stop. You are emotionally injured and you need repair. Take the time to get help to bandage up those wounds.
When you have attended to your emotional hygiene, you are more resilient to problems and difficulties that come into your life. When you are mentally healthy you are less susceptible to stress and more prone to happiness. A good reason to give yourself a mental check-up.