Mindfulness Is Not An Option. It’s Good Hygiene.

Men washing in waterfall
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Do you wash your hands daily?

Why?

Because living means getting dirty. All day you come into contact with people, packaging, pets, surfaces, and food. Fingers get sticky. Palms get grimy. Washing your hands prevents disease, and frankly, it just makes you feel good. You can go out and interact with confidence because you’re not smelly or gross. Hygiene is important, not just for your own health, but out of respect for everyone who you come into contact with.

So now ask yourself, “How often do you ‘clean’ your mind?”

…Interesting question…

I see the possible answers bubbling up.

“My mind isn’t dirty.”

Sure it is. Check again.

“Watching my favorite drama helps me decompress.”

Yeah, watching Netflix feels pleasant and relaxing. It certainly can move your attention away from other stressors and distract you from your mental grime, but it doesn’t help get rid of it.

“Exercise helps me clear and freshen my mind.”

Exercise can refresh your mind space, but it is a roundabout approach. It is like dusting off surfaces without dealing with any of the accumulated mental junk.

“Ok, well then it has to be a good night’s sleep,”

True, sleep is a powerful mental reset (if you’re lucky to get enough of it). But sleep alone is often not enough for optimal mental functioning in the overstimulating world we live in. You need other cleansing to help manage the stickiness of daily life. This is where mindfulness comes into play.


Mindfulness is the Antidote to Daily Dirt

Mindfulness helps directly deal with the overwhelming amount of processing, decision making, assumption generating, future simulating and sensory integration you do on a daily basis. Every passing thought, feeling, image, memory, and sensation leaves a trace, a residue. These imprints on your mind might seem insignificant, but they build up over time. By the end of the day, your mind is ‘dirty’, your vision is cloudy, and your judgment is imprecise.

Mindfulness helps you detach from the daily ‘dirt’. It creates space to see what’s clinging to your mind. This way can notice if you’re carrying around unnecessary emotional baggage or acting unconsciously from an event you haven’t fully processed.

Mindfulness allows you to take stock of what’s actually going on for you, right now. From here, you can decide what to do with it all. You can decide whether it’s worth holding on to or ready to be let go. You can ‘clean’ your mind by bringing your attention back to the present moment with kindness and care.

The challenge is that unlike physical dirt, it’s difficult to know when your mind is full of grime. There’s isn’t the tangible signs of being covered with an unclean substance. But the more you practice, the more sensitive you become to what a clear and clean mind is like. You begin to notice when your mind feels cluttered and cloudy. You see the unprocessed and unconscious stuff accumulate, and now you have a tool–mindfulness meditation–to help you tidy up.

Take Care of Your Psychological and Interpersonal Hygiene — For Others

Washing your hands is not only good for your health, but it is also respectful of others. Similarly, maintaining good psychological hygiene through mindfulness is one way to become more aware when you are projecting your mental ‘dirt’ on others. Mindfulness, along with shadow work and other practices, prevents you from unconsciously spreading biases, reactive habits, and unwholesome judgments.

If you have reservations or hesitations about practicing mindfulness, I understand. But if it’s not enough to keep your mind clean for yourself, do it for others. They not only deserve to have your best self present during the day, but they also don’t want to be responsible for managing and cleaning up after your mental mess.

While you’re washing-up, breathe and smile 🙂

~ Jeff

P.S. Do you want to learn how to start practicing mindfulness?

Sign up for the “Commit to Sit: 31 Day Meditation Challenge” and receive daily practice in your inbox for the month of May. It’s only $31 and all of your money goes to support Inward Bound Mindfulness Education scholarships and programming.

Not only are you contributing to a great cause, for a dollar a day you can learn how to “wash your mind” and reap the benefits of this incredible practice.

Jeff Siegel
Jeff Siegel
Jeff Siegel, M.Ed, is a personal trainer, health, and wellness life coach, Harvard University mindfulness instructor, and professional speaker.

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