When you think of proper hygiene, actions such as brushing your teeth and washing your hands probably come to mind.
However, these practices only focus on physical hygiene. They do nothing to take care of our minds.
In his book “The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had,” Edward G. Brown presents the concept of “mental hygiene,” which focuses on caring for your mind the same way you do for your body.
Just as physical hygiene keeps your body in top condition to move and function, taking care of your mental hygiene keeps your mind sharp. Brown designed the concept “for the purpose of increasing sustained behavioral peak performance through concentration.”
He focuses on strategies for ridding your mind of destructive, negative thoughts and filling it with positive affirmations and self-esteem boosters.
Here are Brown’s six techniques for taking care of your mental hygiene to keep your mind ready to tackle a challenge at any time:
1. Transcend the environment.
To transcend your environment, you must mentally overcome any physical factors you can’t control, such as when the air conditioning goes out at work during a hot summer. Instead of focusing on the fact that you’re sweaty and uncomfortable, distract yourself with pleasant or innocuous thoughts, Brown says. It’s like the old adage: mind over matter.
2. Cultivate constructive acceptance.
Learn not only to accept the physical things you cannot change, but to accept them graciously, Brown advises. In high school, Brown dreamed of playing center in the NBA, but he was too short to excel at the position. Instead of compromising and playing forward or guard, he gave up on basketball. Years later, Brown realized he should have constructively accepted his handicap and found another way to pursue his NBA dreams instead of dropping them entirely.
3. Visualize the ideal self.
Before taking on any task, from tackling a hefty to-do list to giving a company-wide presentation, visualize yourself coming out successful. If you can picture your ideal outcome of a challenge, you can then inhabit that ideal self as you actually go through the challenge, explains Brown. “It means visualizing yourself successful with all the goals you hope to achieve, despite challenges, conflicts, and adversity,” he says.
This visualizing technique shouldn’t be saved just for big events — it should be part of your everyday mental hygiene routine, Brown adds.
4. Use positive affirmation.
Think of a phrase that gets you motivated — for example, “You can do it” — and repeat it as you tell yourself to think positive thoughts. Although it may feel silly at first, Brown warns, you’ll eventually program your subconscious to associate the phrase with an uplifting feeling, motivating you to power through any situation. Brown has conditioned himself so that his phrase triggers an automatic adrenaline rush.
5. Practice psychological counterpunching.
Brown draws this technique from famed boxer Muhammed Ali, who said that, “A good counterpuncher will hit without being hit.” To implement this psychologically, Brown suggests using a double dose of positive affirmations. When a negative thought comes to mind, such as “I’ll never finish this on time,” first block it by saying something like “Yes, I can,” and then knock it away with a phrase such as “Just do it.”
6. Change your internal computer chip.
Like computer memory chips, our minds become programmed to constantly think certain things, Brown says. So in order to change a negative behavior, we must replace it with a positive one. Instead of simply telling yourself to stop doing something, concentrate on the habit you’d like to replace it with and stick with it. “You must do the same thing every time you lose focus so that your new memory chip will allow you to relax,” Brown says.