Why we should be talking about what GOOD MENTAL HEALTH is!
If I were to ask people if they had Mental Health issues most people would say no.
They would say no because our society gives out the message that if you are not mentally ILL (with a recognised problem such as depression, anxiety, bipolar etc), then you are mentally healthy.
But the truth is, it's just not true.
Would you say that someone was physically healthy just because they didn't have an illness or disease?
Probably not, because it's more obvious that physical health exists on a scale. Some people are much fitter than others, for example.
We've recently realised our society is hurtling towards massive physical health problems because of obesity and inactivity. We are now, quite rightly, bombarded with education
about how we should all be moving more and eating less.
If you go to the doctor for a general checkup it is fairly normal for them to tell you you need to work on your physical health but when was the last time you went to the doctor and they told you you needed to work on your mental health?
An absence of mental illness is NOT the same as mental healthiness.
We all know how good physical health should basically present itself; A stable healthy weight, regular physical exercise, good diet etc.
But do you know what excellent mental health looks like?
Does anyone teach that?
If I were to ask you to describe a mentally healthy person, what would you say?
Social media seems to say a mentally healthy person is HAPPY! All the time.
Negative emotions are as much part of the human experience as positive ones.
A sign of a mentally healthy person is someone who can deal with negative emotions. It's unhealthy to be telling people that if they aren't Happy then there must be something wrong with them.
Here are the things I personally think constitute a state of EXCELLENT MENTAL HEALTH.
1. Emotional Balance
The ability to be willing and able to process positive and negative emotions and being able to take responsibility for how we feel.
2. Appropriate Internal Control
The absence of externally controlling behaviour towards yourself or others. You can’t control others. You can ask others to change but you can’t force it so trying to is not healthy. You also shouldn’t try to control situations which are out of your control, it just leads to mental anxiety. This can have knock on effects on your physical as well as mental health.
3. The Absence of Avoidant Behaviours
Not choosing to indulge in behaviours that help us avoid feeling negative emotion. We might over eat, binge drink, get addicted to drugs or sex or gambling. These are temporary distractions and false pleasures which ultimately lead to problems. You need to deal with the causes of the negative emotions.
4. Your State of Mental Health Should NOT be Dependent on External Sources.
If you feel you are mentally healthy because you have a great job or a fantastic family / relationship, what would you do if that great job or loving relationship was no longer there? You need to be able to generate your own feelings of self worth/value, confidence, self esteem and love. That way you will be more emotionally resilient when one of life's inevitable storms hit.
5. Future Planning
People with future plans and goals to work towards are proven to have better mental health.