30 Day Mental Hygiene Challenge

These are supplemental prompts to our 30 Day Challenge. If you want a copy of our 30 Day Challenge, please sign up for the “Mental Floss” newsletter on the homepage. 

Day 1 – Vision – Write how you would like to feel better and balanced this year. Close your eyes and imagine your mental hygiene had improved in all the ways you wanted. What would your life look like? How would you be feeling? Don’t worry about what you think is possible. Imagine it exactly as you wish it could be.

Day 2 – Meditation – You know no mental hygiene routine could be complete without meditation. You may not feel like a “meditation person” but meditation is good for all minds. Best to try it and find a version that works for you. The easiest way to start a meditation is by using the trusty YouTube. Here’s a simple search formula (Time) + (Issue). For instance type in “10 Minute Meditation for Stress” or “5 Minute Meditation for Worry”. Youtube literally has something for everyone. Start exploring.

Day 3 – Movement – Cue the memes of overcrowded gyms in January. You could join a gym if you want that to be your new form of exercise but I’m going to encourage you to try something new. Our brains respond well to novelty. Most gyms and studios offer a free class or a discounted two week trial. Go try something.

Day 4- Nature – Get out into nature. Nature is everywhere, even in the city. Nature naturally calms our system. If you can get to a forest or the ocean easily, do it! But if that seems difficult, go to a park, walk down your street and look at the trees, walk through a home depot garden center if need be. You can find something alive. Go be near it.

Day 5 – Mindful Meal – Cook your favorite meal (or again, use Youtube or Pinterest to find something) and actually set your table, even if its just one setting. Use your nice plates and silverware, light a candle and enjoy every bite. No screens. Just enjoy.

Day 6 – Remove Clutter – When you get home after a long day, you probably want to just fall on the couch. Try setting a timer for 10 minutes, clear whatever clutter you can in that time and then let the rest go. See if it makes a different to how you feel.

Day 7 – Create a Sleep Ritual – Often when you get into bed, your thoughts feel like the amp up and won’t let you go. If it’s hard for you to quiet down and get to bed, try doing a sleep ritual to wind down. Turn off all screens for 30 minutes before you get into bed and pick a ritual such as a lavender bath, sleep meditation, making a cup of sleepytime or stress relieving tea

Day 8 – Encourage Wake-Up – Of course you want to hit snooze 50 times. You are only human. Try and set up some incentives to wake yourself up. Cozy slippers and robe hung by the bed, a morning playlist, or a coffee machine with a self timer.

Day 9 – Contribute – Find a way to contribute a resource that you can. That could be a small sum of money to a cause that you care about. That could mean volunteering to bring snacks to your next meeting. Find a way to contribute what you can today.

Day 10 – Gratitude – List 10 things you are grateful for in your life right now. Try to be specific rather than one word answers. Something like “I’m so grateful my partner takes time to talk about our day together” instead of just “my partner”

Day 11 – Book a Treatment – We often don’t give ourselves permission to invest in something that will recharge our batteries and end up just running on fumes which may cost us far more. Check sites like Groupon or Travelzoo if you want to find a discount but find a treatment (massage, reiki, facial, psychic reading etc.) and book it today.

Day 12-Schedule a Brunch– or a lunch, or a dinner or a happy hour. Schedule time with people you enjoy (not just people you feel obligated to see) to do something fun and have time to chat. Connection is part of mental hygiene.

Day 13 – Help Someone – Focusing on others at times can help us get out of our narrow focus on our own worries. Is someone in your life anxious, unhappy or overwhelmed. Is there a reasonable way you can help them? Like offering to do carpool or make them dinner. Try it.

Day 14 – Strengthen Relaxation – The more we focus on sensations of relaxation, the more it programs into your brain. Do a relaxation meditation or visualization like a guided body scan (google it).

Day 15 – Learn to Pause – Before going into a anxiety provoking situation like a meeting or a presentation, pause for two minutes. Just focus on your breath or look out a window. As thoughts or anxious sensations come in, allow them to pass, letting them know you will attend to them in about two minutes but this two minutes is a total pause from it all.

Day 16 – Savor– Savoring is an actual skill, use as many senses as possible to fully immerse yourself in a situation. For example if you are eating, of course you use taste but spend some time using smell and sight to enhance and engage in the experience. Notice how the moment feels different when you savor it. Warning: For some reason, savoring kind of activates that kid in you who wants to laugh at the absurdity of, smelling your food, for instance. Its fine, once you allow that to pass you can actually experience it.

Day 17- Stop Waiting for The Other Shoe to Drop – Brene Brown calls this “Foreboding Joy”. It’s the idea that if we think up the worst case scenario, somehow it won’t affect us as much if it happens. But according to her research, that just isn’t true. If the other shoe does drop, its going to suck, and there’s not much we can do about that. But wasting your time imagining it just saps the joy out of this moment. She says the counterbalance to “foreboding joy” is gratitude. So if you all of a sudden go “Uh oh, what if my partner leaves me?!”, respond to that fear by listing all the things you are currently grateful for in the relationship. Because those things are happening now and the fear is happening in your imagination. Choose where you want to be.

Day 18 – Invest in Joy – What would you do or buy if you had a million dollars? Is there a way you can invest in that now with your current resources? For instance, if you said “with a million dollars I would travel the world!” could you go on a day trip? If you said “I would upgrade my whole wardrobe!” could you invest in one really nice piece for your closet?

Day 19 – Give the Benefit of the Doubt – It really easy to go to judgment. Its natural as a human. You are not a bad person. But take the extra step today to give the benefit of the doubt. When your mind goes to “Look at that idiot driving” or “Look at all that botox!” help your mind get to “Maybe he has a good reason to hurry” or “Being a woman in this youth obsessed culture must be hard”.

Day 20 – Find Flow– Flow is basically the state when you feel “in the zone”, where you are enjoyably engaged and focused in an activity. Is there an activity that already makes you feel this way that you could engage in more? Is there a skill you need to increase your ability in, so you can feel more flow-like?

Day 21- Box Breathing– Box breathing is a meditation technique that is easy to remember on the go. You take an inhale for a count of 4, hold for count of 4, exhale for count of 4, and hold for count of 4. Whenever you get stressed today, do a few box breaths and see if it helps you move forward with your day

Day 22- Wide Focus/Narrow Focus – For a lot of people, focusing on your breath even for 5 minutes can feel like an eternity. Today when you are overwhelmed, first try a wide focus taking in as much as you can around you. This means taking in almost a short movie of the moment, the sounds, the sights, the smells, take everything in. Then do a narrow focus, coming in and focusing only on your breath. Focus on your breath for as long as you can and if you get anxious or distracted, go back to wide focus and then come back to narrow. This is a great reset at any point in your day.

Day 23 – Identify Your Strengths – Take a character strengths quiz. You can take one at viacharacter.org or find one on your own. Once you have identified your strengths, as you hit bumps in the road throughout your day, focus on using one of your character strengths to overcome it.

Day 24- Download an App – The reality is, we use our phones for so much these days, why not include things that will be helpful. You can download a meditation app like Calm, Headspace or Pacifica. There are more interactive apps like Happify and Sanomind. Find one you like and download it. When you are bored, instead of opening social media first, try making one of these your go to.

Day 25 – Challenge Scarcity Mindset – It has been shown that our mind has a negativity bias. We can become fearful of lack at any moment. When you are worried you don’t have enough or get a sudden flash of losing all your money before retirement, close your eyes and think of all the things that are going right in your life. All the strokes of good luck, all the advantages. They are there if you look.

Day 26 – Be Intentional – Write a post it with your intention for the day. Think of whatever tends to bring you down and write an intention of how you will approach it differently today. It could be “I intend to speak to myself nicely today” or “I intend to accept traffic just as it is today” and put it somewhere that you can see it and live by that intention for the rest of the day

Day 27 – Say No – Say no to something you don’t want to do instead of saying yes just to be polite or well liked. Be really mindful when saying yes and make sure it isn’t a no in disguise.

Day 28 – Say Yes – Just as we need practice saying no and setting boundaries. We also need practice saying yes to going outside our comfort zone sometimes. So your kid wants ice cream at 10am today? Say yes today and trust it will be ok.

Day 29 – Do Something Just for Fun – Go to a trampoline park or rent go carts or one of those ridiculous four person bikes. Go do something you wanted to do as a kid but your parents wouldn’t let you. Go to an amusement park. Go have fun.

Day 30 – Self Reflect – Sometimes we make changes but don’t even realize it because we don’t reflect on them. That leads to returning to our old behaviors more quickly. Take some time and reflect on this January challenge. What was helpful? What do you want to do more of or less of? What did you learn about yourself?