Mental hygiene: learn about the things you need to do to look after your mind and keep a good quality of life

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) itself makes it clear: "Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health". The COVID-19 pandemic has also put our psychological well-being to the test and there is only one way to preserve it: by looking after our mental hygiene. Below we explain how to avoid negative behaviour, achieve emotional equilibrium and improve our quality of life.

Mental hygiene
Good mental hygiene gives us balance, health and well-being in our day-to-day lives.

The coronavirus crisis has been a major blow to our spirits and now millions of people over the world are showing signs of psychological stress due to the fight against COVID-19. In general we are talking about frequent attacks of anxiety or depression resulting from stress through confinement, social distancing, fear of becoming infected, the economic situation or the loss of loved ones to the disease, according to a UN report on the effects of the pandemic on mental health.


The psychological repercussions of this health emergency have highlighted the necessity to maintain well-being through mental hygiene. This medical practice, initiated by the American psychiatrist Clifford Whittingham Beers back in 1909, defines the set of practices that allow a person to enjoy mental health and be in harmony with his or her socio-cultural surroundings. The behaviours that it covers are designed to prevent negative behaviour, provide emotional stability and improve quality of life.

Good mental health enables us to learn, reason, interact, produce, face difficulties and put our best face on things, to quote a few examples. That's why the UN and WHO warn that its decline presents a grave social and economic problem: depression and anxiety alone produce annual losses of over $1bn at global level, whilst serious mental health issues reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years.


In a world with over 264 million people suffering depression and a pandemic threatening an explosion in the number of cases, as the UN warns in the report mentioned earlier, mental health has become a top priority for governments. The UN itself considers it imperative to urgently strengthen psychological care services in the face of alarming figures coming from countries like the US, where 45 % of the population have seen a deterioration in their emotional state due to the coronavirus, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

In these difficult times, mental hygiene is the key to protecting society's most vulnerable, such as the young. In the UK, one of the countries worst affected by COVID-19, 32 % of adolescents with underlying health problems have been adversely affected by the pandemic, and 31 % of Italian and Spanish parents say that their children feel more lonely due to the isolation measures. These figures should not be overlooked since suicide is the second leading cause of death worldwide in the 15-29 age group.

mental health
Mental health during COVID-19.

  SEE INFOGRAPHIC: Mental health during COVID-19 [PDF] External link, opens in new window.


Mental hygiene begins with the individual and we all need to look after our emotions, as the WHO recommends. For this, mental health experts agree on the need to adopt a series of habits for emotional self-care:

  Cover your basic needs

The first thing we need to do to feel OK is to satisfy our basic needs, such as eating and sleeping properly. These are key to psychological well-being and we should not let them slip.

  Look after your self-esteem and learn to be trusting

To enjoy good mental hygiene it's important that we accept ourselves as we are. As well as having faith in ourselves, it's also important to trust others.

  Manage your emotions and learn self-control

This isn't about blocking out our feelings or letting them take us over, but rather about knowing how to identify and interpret them and regulate their intensity in order to respond appropriately. That is why it's key to emotional intelligence.

  Manage expectations and set concrete objectives

Maintaining motivation and being perseverant is fundamental to surpass ourselves, which is why we need to set achievable goals so we do not become disheartened. We don't have to abandon our dreams, but we do need to manage expectations and reality.

  Think positively and be on the lookout for negative emotions

Sometimes, we're bound to be plagued by doubt and fears, but we can always counter them and limit their extent through positive thinking.

  Learn to relax and handle adversity

Stress is a very useful natural bodily reaction to cope with adverse situations. But it can be very harmful to health when things settle down and we must learn to switch off. For instance, through techniques as mindfulness.

  Feed your social life and find support in others

As human beings we are sociable by nature and we need to interact with others to have fun and share our concerns.

  Exercise regularly

Regular exercise helps, not just to keep us physically fit and improve our health, but also to clear our heads. Resting for a while after sport is also important.