Life Coach Magazine

Gueat Post: Mental Hygiene!

By Rohan @rohanforsale

I’d like to once again welcome fellow blogger Ludvig Sunstrom who is here today to share some more wisdom :) Enjoy and be sure to visit his excellent blog: Startgainingmomentum,

Mental Hygiene


What is mental hygiene?

The mind is like a fertile garden in which anything that is planted, flowers or weeds, will grow.

Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.


Picture your mind as a room containing furniture and various other stuff that a room normally has in it. Everything that looks neat and beautiful inside the room symbolizes productive or positive thoughts. All the filth, dust, and disorder symbolize negative thoughts that are in any way harmful or unproductive to improving the quality of your life.

What would you do if your real room looked like this?

Well, you’d probably be grossed out and do something about it – you would clean it up immediately.

I’m a big believer of the saying that quality on the inside produces quality on the outside, that is; material success, well-being, and happiness all stem from an organized mind. And vice versa – a disordered mind tends to bring about a disordered life situation.

Do you believe this?

If not, write it down, review it daily and reflect on it for a week.

By following through and writing it down (do it now!)  I guarantee that you will observe how strong the correlation between inside vs outside is in the people you meet; think of people you know who do well in school or at work and how their immediate environment looks like. How do their desks look? How do their beds look?

The Difference

In theory there isn’t much difference between the aforementioned example of cleaning your room versus that of improving your mental hygiene. In both cases it is a matter of getting rid of the trash and reorganizing that which is already good to be better.

In practice the difference is the time and effort you need to put into it. Cleaning a room can take a few hours at most. Improving your mental hygiene can take years. But that should absolutely not discourage you from doing it every day because if you neglect to do it long enough you will become a victim to the force of entropy and become increasingly disorganized.

The process of improving your mental hygiene and thinking more accurately is our means to organize ourselves against the entropy. When we think, ask intelligent questions, and mentally work out our cognitive dissonance we are in the process of organizing our minds and tidying up our proverbial mental room.

If we do not attend to our mind it tends to grow weeds.

When it comes to the process of improving your mental hygiene patience is a virtue because it is unlikely that you will bring about any life-changing effects within the course of a day or two. Maybe you can tell the difference in a week. You definitely can tell the difference in a month though.

Be patient for it takes longer to clean your mind than it takes to clean your room, but the rewards you will receive are in proportion as well.  You will be compensated in proportion to the effort you put into it.

Process for Improving Mental Hygiene

Start examining your thought process as you go about your day. Sooner or later you will observe that some of the thoughts you are having are completely messed up in contrast to how you know that the ideal you would be thinking in this very same situation.

When you notice this anomaly you need to attack it immediately. Do not shift your focus – focus on fixing it right away:

  1. Write down the thought you just had to increase your chances of becoming aware of it the next time it pops up. This helps you remember to question the thought. It’s like constructing a mental anti-virus program.
  2. Formulate an action plan for how to deal with it next time.
  3. With repetition you will become more adept at identifying the thought pattern and quickly destroying it or replacing it with some better thought.

An example of the above exercise could be that you’re thinking to yourself:

“Damn, that person has it so easy – wearing expensive clothes and hanging around with cool people! He/she succeeds at everything. Why is life so unfair? I have no luck at all. If only I was given a chance I would also be like that…”

In this case you were comparing yourself – rather inaccurately – to someone else while putting yourself down. This is the type of behavior we should NOT put up with from our minds. It has to be squashed.

This is how you would go about fixing it:

  1. Write down the thought in as much detail as possible.
  2. Example of an action plan: “I will remember that when I compare myself to someone else it is highly likely that my notion of the other person’s life is inaccurate and that my view is distorted and one-sided due to a lack of information. I am probably not taking into account all of problems that the other person has, and Instead of focusing on what is fair or unfair I will now choose to focus on what can be done from my current situation.”
  3. Remember to remember to use the action plan. Repeat the process. The first few repetitions are the most important ones, and then it will become more or less automatized.

Three Scarce Resources

As humans we have three resources that are inherently scarce – and thus most valuable to us. These are time, energy, and mental focus. The last one is scarce in the way that you can only focus on thinking about one thing at a time.

Sure, you can multitask, but contrary to what some people believe that does not mean that you think about many things at once. Multitasking means thinking of things for a very short amount of time before going onto the next thing. If you do this too much it will lower your degree of mental focus in the long run and you will get a poor attention span.

Point being, you’re always focusing your thoughts on something – one thing at a time; and wouldn’t you agree that the second version of the example given above is much to prefer to the first?

In the first version you are giving away your focus to things that are unnecessary. In the second version you are reclaiming control of your focus and using it productively for your personal growth.

Show your Mind who is the Boss

How much filth will you put up with before deciding that you have had ENOUGH – before deciding that this mental mess has to be taken care of NOW and not tomorrow?

You definitely wouldn’t allow cockroaches and crap into your apartment, then why do you allow it into your mind?

– Because it is harder to detect a poor mental hygiene. It is sneaky in that way because it can happen without you noticing as it slowly adds up – similar to the analogy of a frog allowing itself to be boiled in hot water due to not noticing the gradual increase in temperature.

But if you are aware, you can prepare.

Once you become aware of what thoughts you have and what sort of things you say to yourself you will realize that it is ultimately your own responsibility to maintain a positive mental  hygiene by attending to it every once in a while.

“But what if I am unaware?”

–  Then you don’t know what you are of thinking of most of the time and you will stand without a target to aim for. That is why you must consistently use the three step process to identify the thoughts you want to fix. It is detrimental that you start observing your thoughts and write them down immediately because otherwise you will forget.

Summary: The Power of Repetition

Get off your ass, grab some mental floss and start to work on your mental hygiene.  You can change it through vigilant observation, formulating an action plan, and by doing another repetition. As soon as you notice an unwanted thought pop up you need to recognize its uselessness and stop entertaining it.

You do this by dropping the focus from the thought and shifting your attention to something else, preferably some other better thought. It is hard at first, but when you start practicing this it gradually becomes easier; think of it like a mental muscle that needs to be regularly exercised. The more you do it, the more ‘explosive’ your power becomes – or more accurately described – the quicker you are able to drop the thought and start thinking about something else.

This stands in direct opposition to the prolonged and repetitive thinking of most people.

Most people tend to have a negative thought that makes them feel bad, to which they react unconsciously by giving the thought more focus –hence they allow that thought to fester in their minds and take hold of them, letting it increase in power and duration. They are using the power of repetition against themselves!

Does that make sense?

When in doubt, ask yourself:

  • Is this the kind of thought I want?
  • Should I be entertaining this type of thinking?

If the answer to these questions is NO, then use the three step process and throw that garbage out!

Have you noticed any examples of mental hygiene (poor or good) recently?

If you know of other efficient ways of improving mental hygiene, please share it with the rest of us.


“Ludvig Sunstrom is the author of practical self-development blog Startgainingmomentum, and the book Breaking out of HomeostasisApart from self-development he is interested in philosophy, exercise, and health.”

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