Mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. It includes how you feel about yourself and how you adjust to life events. Your mental health influences how you think, feel and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships.
Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
It has always been easier to define mental illnesses than to define mental health. In the United States, the American Psychiatric Association has traditionally been the organization to define mental disorders (beginning as early as 1917 when it was known as The Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions of the Insane).
More recently, many have recognized that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. Even though many people do not have a diagnosable mental disorder, it is clear that some are mentally healthier than others.
The World Health Organization states that mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. It involves a state of well-being in which people are able to cope with the normal stresses they face in daily life. Mental health allows people to recognize their own abilities, work productively, and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
Mental health refers not only to emotional well-being but also to how people think and behave. There are a number of different factors that have been found to influence mental health.
A person's ability to enjoy life is frequently used as an indicator of mental health and wellness. It is often defined as the degree to which a person enjoys the most important aspects of their life.
Some factors that have been found to play an important role in life satisfaction include the absence of feeling ill, good relationships, a sense of belonging, being active in work and leisure, a sense of achievement and pride, positive self-perceptions, a sense of autonomy, and feelings of hope.
The ability to bounce back from adversity has been referred to as "resilience."3 People who are resilient also tend to have a positive view of their ability to cope with challenges and seek out social support when they need it. Those who are more resilient are better able to not only cope with stress but to thrive even in the face of it.
Social support is important to good mental health. Loneliness has been shown to have a number of negative health effects. It has been linked to problems with both physical and mental health including cardiovascular disease, depression, memory problems, drug misuse, alcoholism, and altered brain function.
Decreases in social support caused by life changes such as going to college, facing social adversity, changing jobs, or getting divorced can have a negative impact on mental health.
Fortunately, research suggests that it is not necessarily the number of supportive connections you have that it is the most important; it is the quality of these relationships that matters.
Having rigid expectations can sometimes create added stress. Emotional flexibility may be just as important as cognitive flexibility. Mentally healthy people experience a range of emotions and allow themselves to express these feelings. Some people shut off certain feelings, finding them to be unacceptable.
Lack of psychological flexibility has been linked to some types of psychopathology, while research suggests that increase flexibility is connected to better life balance and improved resilience.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that an estimated one in five U.S. adults experiences a mental health problem each year. There are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood that a person may experience poor mental health.
Risks to mental health can include:
Some of the factors that can help offer protection against poor mental health including having supportive social relationships, strong coping skills, opportunities for engagement in the community, and physical and psychological security.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that some of the ways that you can promote and maintain mental health include:
It is also important to be able to seek help if you are having difficulties. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional if you want help improving your mental health or addressing a psychological problem.
1. A mentally healthy person has an ability to make adjustments.
2. A mentally healthy person has a sense of personal worth, feels worthwhile and important.
3. A mentally healthy person solves his problems largely by his own efforts and makes his own decisions.
4. He has a sense of personal security and feels secure in a group, shows understanding of other people’s problems and motives.
5. A mentally healthy person has a sense of responsibility
6. He can give and accept love.
7. He lives in a world of reality rather than fantasy.
8. He shows emotional maturity in his behaviour, and develops a capacity to tolerate frustration and disappointments in his daily activities.
9. A mentally healthy person has a variety of interests and generally lives a well-balanced life of work, rest and recreation.
A healthy individual is not only physically healthy but also mentally healthy. The modern concept of health extends beyond the proper functioning of the body. It includes a sound, efficient mind and controlled emotions. “Health is a state of being hale, sound or whole in body, mind or soul.” It means that both body and mind are working efficiently and harmoniously.
Man is an integrated mechanism, a psychosomatic unit (body-mind unit) whose behaviour is determined by both physical and mental factors. It is a normal state of well-being, and in the words of Johns and Webster, “is a positive but relative quality of life”.
It is a condition which is characteristic of the average person who meets the demands of life on the basis of his own capacities and limitations. By the word ‘relative’ we imply that the degree of mental health which an individual enjoys at a time is continuously changing.
It is not mere absence of mental illness that constitutes mental health; on the other hand, it is a positive quality of the individual’s daily living. This quality of living is manifest in the behaviour of an individual whose body and mind are working together in the same direction.
His thoughts, feelings and actions function harmoniously towards a common goal means the ability to balance feelings, desires, ambitions and ideals in one’s daily living. It means the ability to face and accept realities of life.
Other definitions of mental health refer to such abilities as of making decisions, assuming responsibilities in accordance with one’s capacities of finding satisfaction; success and happiness in the accomplishment of everyday tasks of living effectively with others and showing socially considerate behaviour. Mentally healthy individual or a well-adjusted person possesses or develops in his daily living.