Just as we encourage physical hygiene to preserve our health, we also need a sense of emotional or mental hygiene too. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
Do you wash your hands before eating, or do you enjoy putting germs from who knows where into your mouth? Do you bathe and otherwise clean your body to help keep it healthy?
These are the things we do to help keep our physical selves healthy. But what do you do to keep your sense of mental and emotional health? How do you wash your heart or your mind? What do you do to clean up and get rid of the things which might cause illness?
The quote implies that we have well defined methods for maintaining our physical health. The quote says we need the same kind of thing for our emotional and mental health as well. The only question it leaves open is the effectiveness of our methods, and how evenly we apply them.
Why is hygiene for our emotional and mental aspects of ourselves important?
This is the question implied in the quote. We each have our own methods, developed over the years. It is probably a collection of habits which we picked up here and there.
They may even work fairly well for us, if we remember to use them on a regular enough basis, and apply it evenly to all situations. Many religions or philosophical practices have their own rules and patterns of behaviors to help us with emotional and mental hygiene.
But many of these methods were designed for a very different world, perhaps thousands of years gone. Different times, with different standards regarding what is acceptable, both emotionally and morally. What are those standards to you, and how well do they apply to our modern world?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Like real world germs, avoidance can be a real help. Most of us don’t put our hands into nasty puddles of goo in the first place. And if we did, we would probably wear protection, and then wash ourselves very thoroughly afterwards, right?
But what about similarly vile emotional or mental activities? How good are you at staying out of such situations, and away from those kinds of influences? Yes, we’ll all draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable activities in a different place. But we all draw the line somewhere, right?
Now consider how your habits and methods are holding up as the world changes. Temptations which were only available in certain parts of town, are now readily available on the internet. It was one thing to stay away when it was a long trip to go somewhere, and in public.
It’s quite another when it comes to you, on your computer, in the privacy of your own home. Now, with our megapixel smart phones, we can get anything from the net delivered to the palm of our hand. How well do the old habits work in this new environment?
There are probably many other ways modern times have rendered past methods of hygiene less effective. We are constantly bombarded with images and scenes which impact our emotional and mental hygiene. Sometimes it can be nearly on impossible to avoid them.
Consider glamour and fashion magazines targeting young women and girls. What do they do, emotionally, to these people? How does it shape their self-image and their views on their body? How does one clean up, emotionally, after that kind of exposure?
Consider comic books and movies targeting young men and boys. What do they do, emotionally, to these people? How does it shape their view of right and wrong, as well as the use of violence? How does one clean up, emotionally, after that kind of exposure?
For some people, they recognize it as something to be largely ignored, like the advertisements on TV or on road-side signs. But others are influenced, perhaps subtlety, by these things. When is it appropriate to help them, and when should we just let it be?
That’s a difficult question to answer, and will depend on the relationship, both personally and legally, you have with the individual. Often it only takes a little discussion from a friend or trusted relative to help them cleanse their minds and their hearts. Only you can determine if that’s an appropriate thing to do.
This post has no specific solutions for emotional and mental hygiene. Avoidance of things which harm us is, of course, the best defense. However, it’s not always an easy one. Unhelpful or evil emotions or thoughts, when detected, should be washed away.
The exact method will be unique for each of us. It would also be helpful to try to determine if there is a pattern of exposure that leads to our being repeatedly exposed to the contamination. Again, avoiding the source can be a very effective way to preserve our health.
As we wash our hands, I would suggest we also examine and then clean our emotions and our minds. I would imagine most of us wash our hands at least once a day.
How often do you wash your heart or your mind?