One of the biggest challenges to overcoming anxiety, and one of the reasons that one-size-fits-all anxiety programs don't work, is the need to address the underlying way that we talk to ourselves. This great TED TALK by psychologist Dr. Guy Winch speaks to that challenge of improving, what he calls, our psychological or mental hygiene.
Dr. Winch draws strong analogies between our diligent physical hygiene - washing hands, brushing teeth, using bandaids, etc. - and our relative lack of mental hygiene. Life can be wonderful, but it's also challenging. We get a dozen little psychological nicks and cuts everyday. Sometimes they are inflicted by others - we are rejected for a job or a date or we get called a mean name. Sometimes we even inflict those little mental cuts on ourselves - we criticize ourselves looking in the mirror or we get down on ourselves for how a work presentation went. We can experience many of these little mental wounds every day. Sometimes they are much bigger - we get fired, a parent dies, a marriage ends, a child moves away. All of these thoughts and events can hurt. If they were physical hurts, we wouldn't think twice about cleaning the wound with soap and water or slapping a bandaid on there or even going to our doctor for help.
But when it comes to mental health, we almost never think to do that - we have poor mental hygiene. And just as physical wounds can become infected and grow to be much more painful and dangerous than they were initially, so too can mental wounds. We begin to obsess about a coworker's slight or our own perceived failures - we "ruminate." (Read more about rumination in my earlier article.) Rumination can be quiet harmful to our mental health and contributes directly to anxiety and depression. As Dr. Winch notes, distracting yourself for 2 minutes each time you find yourself ruminating can go a long way to improving your mental hygiene. There are lots of things we can do to improve our mental hygiene and yet we almost never think to. Check out this TED TALK to learn more.