George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teacher Wellness

Small Daily Practices to Boost Mental Health

Positive psychological behaviors promote good mental health hygiene, which reduces stress and improves overall well-being.

July 27, 2022
Woman wearing sunglasses sitting in a field enjoying the sunshine
Oscar Gutierrez Zozulia / iStock

The term hygiene usually calls up images of handwashing, bathing, and perhaps a person brushing their teeth. Although these practices help with cleanliness and stop the spread of disease, another component of good hygiene consists of daily mental health hygiene. The World Health Organization defines hygiene as “a series of practices performed to preserve health.” Just as our bodies benefit from daily upkeep, so do our minds.

Mental health advocate Clifford Beers was one of the first to suggest how dedicating daily time to positive behaviors could improve mental well-being while preventing burnout and fatigue. Beers cofounded the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, whose research has impacted mental health hygiene practices since its founding in 1909.

Mental health hygiene focuses on using simple practices and tools to improve a person’s quality of life through daily positive psychological behaviors. Having a happy, focused mind helps us to be more creative and productive, and studies show that spending just 10 minutes a day utilizing positive psychological behaviors can improve overall mental well-being and health.

These practices will not dissipate outside problems or stressors but will, in the long term, help improve a person’s resilience and overall well-being. Research shows that engaging in mindfulness and expressing gratitude for a few minutes each day significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

3 Quick Ways to Practice Mindfulness Daily

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. A few minutes of mindfulness practice can help you pay attention in a given moment and gain self-control over reactions and daily thought patterns. Practicing mindfulness can have numerous benefits, from decreased stress to increased levels of concentration and happiness.

1. Take time to notice a particular task you do daily. For example, when you eat breakfast, you could focus on taking each bite, noticing the texture and taste of what you are eating. You could concentrate on the smells and movements in your mouth—not judging the food or movements, just thoughtfully observing them.

2. Consider downloading a mindfulness app. If starting mindfulness on your own feels too overwhelming, an app like the Mindfulness Coach with a self-guided training program can help. It also offers a way to track your mindfulness over time and its impact on your well-being.

3. Try YouTube videos. YouTube offers numerous mindfulness meditations and practices that can be accessed by doing a simple search for “mindfulness.” For example, the Daily Calm posts guided mindfulness activities like this one every week. There are even video courses on how to include more mindfulness in your life, such as this example of 25 mindful practices that you could do to interweave mindfulness into your daily routine. With numerous videos, it’s fairly easy to find a form of mindfulness that will work for you.

3 Quick Ways to Practice Gratitude Daily

Gratitude is pausing to notice and appreciate the people, things, and opportunities in your life. It’s taking a moment to reflect on how fortunate you are—whether it’s for something big or small. Practicing gratitude can significantly impact a person’s physical and psychological health. Research has found that over time, practicing a few minutes of gratitude a day is associated with better sleep, less anxiety and depression, and higher levels of optimism.

1. Try the email method. One way to interweave gratitude into your day is to open your email and create three new mail messages with the subject line “Gratitude.” During your day, look for three things that make you feel grateful. Before closing your mail at the end of your day, fill out the three mail messages. If the things that make you feel grateful relate to a person, let that person know how they impacted your day by sending the gratitude email to them.

If your grateful moment doesn’t center around a person, write the email and let it stay in your drafts folder. In this way, you can use your drafts folder to reflect on moments of gratitude, and by sending some of the gratitude moments to people who impact your day, you spread gratitude to others.

2. Use a gratitude app. If doing daily gratitude practices on your own seems too daunting, consider downloading the Delightful app. It offers daily reminders with various gratitude prompts and activities to help you build a daily gratitude routine. The app also stores all of your daily gratitude reflections so that you can go back and reflect on your growth and the impact of daily gratitude.

3. Make an audio recording. Another great way to practice gratitude is to use your phone’s audio recording feature to record the things you are grateful for at a convenient time during your day, such as at lunch or before leaving to go home. Once a week, take the time to listen to the recordings. You can even put a reminder on your phone to use the audio recording feature daily, making this a simple way to make sure you take a few minutes to practice gratitude.

The most important aspect of mental health hygiene is doing something daily to maintain your overall mental well-being. Find time to practice mindfulness and gratitude every day in a way that works for you and your schedule. Just performing a few simple acts of mindfulness and gratitude during your day can positively impact your mood and in time improve your overall wellness.

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