Redefining Mental Health

by Neseret on January 30, 2013

CrocusHow would you define mental health?

Is it the presence or absence of mental illness?

Is it the ability to experience more peace, joy, love, beauty, and creativity?

Is it the absence of negative emotions?

Is it about your moods and thoughts or both?

Is it about our ability to achieve our highest potential?

Is it our ability to be resilient despite challenging circumstances?

Is it based on our genetic makeup and environment or both?

Is our mental health connected to our physical and spiritual health or both?

What exactly is mental health?

The World Health Organization defines mental health as

a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. In this positive sense, mental health is the foundation for individual well-being and the effective functioning of a community.

The Canadian Mental Health Association defines mental health as

striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process. At times, you may tip the balance too much in one direction and have to find your footing again. Your personal balance will be unique, and your challenge will be to stay mentally healthy by keeping that balance.

Mental health is neither the presence or absence of mental illness.

Our mental health is a byproduct of the interaction between our environment, physiology/genetic makeup, and most importantly our thoughts and beliefs. Mental health is a spectrum. Each of us experiences various mental states and emotions every moment of our life.

Our mental health is interconnected with our physical, social, and spiritual health. Our mental state affects our physiology and vise verse. Experiencing mental health means experiencing health and wellness in all aspect of our life – physical, mental, emotional, social, financial, and spiritual.

Mental health includes our ability to experience a range of human emotions. It includes our ability to be aware of, FEEL, and express all of our emotions constructively. It is part of our ability to be vulnerable. It is at the core of our ability to be gentle, caring, and compassionate. It includes our ability to experience and feel the feeling of fear but act courageously despite it. It includes our ability to connect, build, and maintain loving and nurturing relationships.

Mental health is our innate desire and capacity to expand, grow, and change.

Mental health includes having the opportunity and ability to engage in meaningful work as well as frivolous fun. Mental health is the understanding and integration of all or our experiences – past, present, and future. It is our ability to gain perspective of the whole as suppose to parts and pieces.  Mental health is part of our experience of being human on this planet.

It is our ability to overcome challenges and learn to thrive. It is our sense of safety and security. It is our experiences of daily living and the simple things of life. It is our ability to imagine and create. It is our ability to innovate and adapt. It is the source of our inspiration and hope for the future.

Interestingly enough in our attempt to understand mental health we’ve spent most of our time focusing on mental illness. This is similar to the medical model which focuses on illness and the signs and symptoms of illness in order to better understand health?

Does this make any sense?

Thankfully we’re now making some shift in our thinking and focus when it comes to mental health. Our definition of mental health is broadening and changing slowly. A great example of this is an area of study called positive psychology.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. This field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. The Positive Psychology Center is located at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Martin Seligman is the director of the center and Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology.

It does make a lot of sense to focus on and study what helps us thrive as human beings. I want to know the mental makeup of individuals who lead successful, meaningful, and happy lives. I want to know what allows  individuals to be resilient and adaptable. What makes the difference for them?

What is your definition of mental health?

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please take time to share your questions and comments below. Share this article on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.

Peace, Love & Gratitude,


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

anxiety and panic May 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Hey! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted
to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading through your blog posts.
Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal
with the same topics? Thanks a ton!


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