Mental Hygiene

In principle, mental hygiene is no different from physical hygiene. You need a soap, you need a means of applying the soap and you need consistency.

A soap’s function is to remove dirt while also nourishing the skin by replenishing lost nutrients. The ideal soap is natural and has nutrients that are similar to the body’s. Using a bad soap causes long term damage even if it appears to clean. The ideal soap represents truth. The mind can only be cleaned with truth since truth is what the mind was designed to contain and feed on, the same way our bodies were designed to feed only on natural and not synthetic substances.

I love applying this soap from Apostle Paul to my mind,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

This thought makes it easy to identify thoughts that are not clean. Applying this soap again and again removes garbage thoughts and reveals beauty, potential, truth and purity within and keeps the mind free of trash. I know I need cleaning when I start to think thoughts that in my sober moments, I know are untrue and unwholesome. And just as dirt corrupts the underlying surface with time, unwholesome thoughts corrupt the mind when persisted in.

Mental hygiene requires practice. More than ever, we need practices that allow for mental stillness. Solitude is an indispensable practice for periodic mental cleansing. Periodically disconnecting from the external including social media and connecting with your interior space helps. Cleaning and other simple physical activities are also rich practices. They help to shut down mental chatter and make us more receptive to inspiration. While moving your limbs in the process of lifting physical dirt, your mind can become still enough for you to uncover insights within. The kingdom of God is within you after all. And once your mind is quiet, you can observe your thoughts. If you do not observe your thoughts, you cannot begin to clean your mind anymore than a cleaner can clean a room without being present. Cleaning requires presence and presence is a cleaner.

We can return our minds to truth in the various areas of our lives and society. Any thought or opinion that you have about anything at all can be based on truth or not. Thoughts that are not based on truth are much more harmful to you and to others than leaving your body unwashed for weeks. Thoughts about race and police brutality for example, need a lot of cleaning. Will violence against police truly arrest police brutality? What does screaming Black Lives Matter achieve if black lives do not matter to blacks? I believe we need mental cleaning when our thoughts on an issue are the same as the majority of people, because they are often untruth. But what is truth and where do you find it?

Rethinking personal hygiene

From childhood most of us learn the importance of hygiene. We learn to clean our bodies regularly, we wash our hands several times a day, we brush our mouths at least once daily, we watch what we eat and keep our surroundings clean. These are important. Imagine a world without hygiene!

If only we were also taught the importance of mental hygiene from childhood. Children trust us with their lives and we mislead them into thinking hygiene is limited to the physical, hence a world where minds malfunction en masse. This is partly because we grow up believing that reality is limited to the visible.

What if we presented personal hygiene as holistic, and encompassing both the tangible and the intangible? Imagine if we grow up as consistent and intentional in the care of our minds as we are in the care of our bodies.

A world with no mental hygiene is precisely the world we have today. A husband becomes enraged for legitimate or illegitimate reasons and kills his wife and leaves his innocent children with her dead body. A wife stabs her husband to death because he offended her. Addiction, depression, suicide and violence increase at home and everywhere else. In a world without mental hygiene, there is prevalence of mental illness, there is abundance of mental malfunction.

None of us is immune to the destructive effect of unwashed mental negativity anymore than we are immune to the effect of inadequate hygiene. If I leave my mind unwashed for long enough, I will as a matter of course be self-centered, despondent, perverted, hateful, violent and so on.

Our obsession with physical hygiene over mental hygiene is hypocrisy and a sign of the need for mental hygiene. Pharisees are obsessed with hand-washing and neglect mind-washing even when they know that it is more important to wash the mind regularly. Personal hygiene is incomplete if it does not include mental hygiene. Washing our visible parts regularly is a practice and a reminder of the more important need to wash our intangible parts regularly.

It is impossible to engage in regular mental hygiene and suffer from rage, depression, confusion, jealousy, envy, substance abuse and all forms of unclean thoughts. These are the thoughts that get cleaned away again and again in each of us, to reveal underlying beauty and purity. It is impossible to practice mental hygiene and be mediocre, because our minds have an inbuilt capacity for excellence, which hygiene reveals. Cleaning after all, is,

“the process of removing dirt from any space, surface, object or subject, thereby unveiling beauty, potential, truth and sacredness.”

One of the greatest gifts anyone can give the world is to practice mental hygiene. When we become regular cleaners of our respective inner worlds, we have changed the world.

But how do I clean my inner world? How do I clean my mind again and again?