How to Overcome Bad Mental Hygiene

Two Parts:Changing Your ThoughtsImprovements by Behavior

Bad mental hygiene refers to unhealthy ways of thinking and acting that can lead to negative mental health issues. Therefore, it is important to try to overcome bad mental hygiene while promoting good mental hygiene -- healthy ways of behavior that can lead to positive mental health assets. There are a number of ways this can be done.

Part 1
Changing Your Thoughts

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    Avoid negative thoughts and actions. When you find yourself thinking and even planning to say things that you will regret later, you can tell yourself mentally to be quiet. If what you were thinking of saying would be unhelpful or unwise to do, take a moment to consider what you actually wish to express. If you are over thinking or having negative thoughts, think of something peaceful or happy instead.
    • Try replacing your negative thoughts with more positive ones. For example, if you failed an exam, rather than saying "I can't pass this class, why bother?" you might say "I did poorly on that exam, if I study harder I can do better next time."[1]
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    Accept your circumstances and who you are. Acceptance is proactive, not giving up: Tell yourself that you want to improve various aspects of your life. However, it is also important to accept yourself as you are, while you improve. To practice self-acceptance as follows:
    • Write down a list of your strengths. You can also ask your friends and family to write down what they find as your strengths.[2]
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    Believe that you can change your mental habits. If you don't believe that you can actually change your present and future outcomes, you probably won't try. But, if you believe: "Yes, I can make a difference and can change.", you'll see opportunities for change with hope and faith toward beginning and following-through. This is called a "self-fulfilling prophecy".[3]
    • Certainty that you can change your mental life is based on many different understandings and techniques found below that can be applied toward progress.
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    Forgive and forget. Don't bring up wrongs, unless they are unavoidable. Studies show that the act of forgiving others is good for ones mental health and well-being. So, next time someone wrongs you, do your best to accept the situation and forgive that person. Even if you must fake a smile, smile. "Hold your tongue", if you must.
    • To forgive someone you might say "What you did really hurt me but I know that we all make mistakes sometimes and you seem genuinely remorseful. It may take some time for us to be completely back to normal but I do forgive you."
    • Empathize with the other person. Really try to put yourself in the other's shoes; this can help you realize that to make errors is human. Just as you make mistakes from time to time, so will other reasonable people.[4]
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    See a psychotherapist. Qualified mental health professionals such as psychologists, counselors, or licensed social workers, are trained in techniques for improving their clients' mental hygiene. These techniques may involve removing negative patterns of thinking and/or creating positive patterns of thinking.[5]
    • It is a misconception that one needs to have a major mental illness to benefit from seeing a psychotherapist. If you would like to improve your mental hygiene, give psychotherapy a try!

Part 2
Improvements by Behavior

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    Reduce stress. Stress can be a large contributor to negative feelings and thoughts. You can reduce your stress levels by identifying factors that cause stress and working to reduce them, by practicing yoga, and/or by exercising, among other ways.[6]
    • Social support can help mitigate the impact of stress, so be sure to spend quality time with family and friends.[7]
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    Distract yourself from negative thinking. When you find yourself having negative thoughts, try distracting yourself from them. This will change your mind and reduce your bad mental hygiene. To distract yourself you might:[8]
    • Rub your fingers together and focus on the sensations that this causes. Pay close attention to the texture of your fingers and the temperature that you feel by rubbing them together.
    • Take deep breaths in and out. Specifically, breathe in over the course of five seconds and hold your breath
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    Help others. One way to get rid of bad mental hygiene is to replace it with better mental habits. Studies show that spending time or money on others can increase your happiness and well-being. These are two critical factors that are the direct opposite of bad mental hygiene.[9]
    • So, to get rid of bad mental hygiene, it can help you to help others.
    • There are a number of ways that you might help others, including, for example, assisting strangers who seem in need of aid, donating your time at a homeless shelter, or giving a homeless person a hot meal or a few dollars.
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    Smile. One interesting way you might be able to help overcome your bad mental hygiene is by forcing yourself to smile a few times a day, even if you don't feel like it. Studies have shown that forming the facial muscles into a smile increases positive mood.[10]
    • One way to get yourself to smile when you don't feel like it, is to hold a pencil between your teeth so that the erased bit is at one corner of your mouth and the writing bit is at the other corner of your mouth.
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    Express your anger in appropriate ways. It is important to let your negative feelings out, otherwise they may well up and promote bad mental hygiene. To let your anger out in acceptable ways you might:
    • Write a mean note about someone you are mad at but don't show it to anyone, then rip it up or burn it. The point is to allow you to vent your frustrations without hurting anyone.
    • Go to the gym and do a difficult work out to get your anger out that way.
    • Go for a long jog to blow off some steam.
    • Try imagining the situation as humorous. Think about what is funny about the situation you are in. As many great comedians over the years have shown, most topics can be funny if looked at from a certain angle. Looking at things that make you angry from a comedic perspective can help you to reduce your feelings of anger. [11]
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    Socialize with people who have good mental hygiene. We learn a lot from those around us.[12] Take advantage of this and spend time with people whose mental hygiene you admire. Look toward people who are positive, who are non-judgmental, and who are excited about life.
    • That said, recognize that negative emotions are a part of life. No one is going to be happy all the time. Sometimes sad or angering events will occur. A sign of good mental hygiene is how that person responds to their emotions.
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    Try new things. Once a week or so, go seek out a new experience. Doing so can keep boredom at bay, which can help fend off bad mental hygiene.[13] Specifically, you might:
    • Try a new coffee shop rather than going to your usual spot.
    • Get into a conversation with a stranger.
    • Try a new activity.
    • Try a new musical instrument.
    • Try whatever else excites you.


  • Hang out with happy energetic people and/or family.
  • Lower your stress by starting an exercise program. Vigorous activity can make you feel lively and boost your mood.
  • Go to community college or take free online courses so that you can feel the thrill of learning something new.
  • If you are lonely it can help your mood to get out and about among others.

Article Info

Categories: Managing Negative Feelings