Because mental health isn’t only the absence of mental illness.
“I feel lonely in my relationship”, “I feel incompetent even though I just got a promotion”, “I can’t stop thinking about the visit to my in-laws”, “I can’t trust people”, “I am stressed all the time, and can’t rest or enjoy free time”, “I am successful but I am not happy”, “I don’t like what I see when I look myself in the mirror”,… so forth and so on. These are only a few of the typical examples people look help for on daily basis. As you can tell psychology is part of our daily lives. Perfect, common, and typical people like you and me looking for help to deal with everyday struggles, to learn how to make the best of themselves and to live life to the fullest. So are they mentally ill and that is why they have those problems? No, and even though the stereotype of therapy is still that is for people with serious problems, the reality is that it is like going to the dentist or a primary doctor: you go when something isn’t working the way it should or you want it to or because there is some pain.
Yes it is true, the field of counseling and psychotherapy started back in the days for treating the very mentally ill, people with serious neurological disorders and low or nonexistent levels of functioning. But much have changed and now we don’t only treat severe disorders but most of the field is focused on helping people thrive and not survive and to develop their full potentials. Nowadays, most people look for help to prevent unnecessary suffering and to be happy.
Lets look at the definition of Mental Health. According to the Webster dictionary Mental Health is “the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental disorder (as neurosis or psychosis) and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and ability to meet the demands of life.”
I also like the World Health Organization’s definition: “Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
So this is what mental health is about in the 21st century. And thank goodness for it because nobody needs to suffer unnecessarily. It was not so long ago, even just a generation ago that people didn’t have as much information or help as we do today, and for that we can be thankful. We don’t have to be victims of our past anymore. Today, with some effort and dedication we can change our destinies and be as happy as it is humanly possible.
Mental Health is not just the absence of a mental disorder, but the capacity of an individual to reach his/her full potential. It is not about being “OK” or “fine” is about being at our best. If you have a difficult moment, feel lost or are in a bad place, please look for help. However, I cannot emphasize enough that you don’t even have to be in distress or facing a crisis to start focusing on your mental health. Here there are a few things you can do to start improving your mental state today:
Spend time daily, face-to-face, with people you like. No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and be your best. Humans are social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship-even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others. Make spending time with people you enjoy a priority. Choose friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members who are upbeat, positive, and interested in you. Take time to inquire about people you meet during the day that you like.
Engage in meaningful, creative work. Do things that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for it – things like gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or building something in your workshop.
Make leisure time a priority. Do things for no other reason than that it feels good to do them. Watch movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend.. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.
Make time for contemplation and appreciation. Think about the things you’re grateful for. Mediate, pray, enjoy the sunset, or simply take a moment to pay attention to what is good, positive, and beautiful as you go about your day.
Be true to yourself. Try to get in touch with what really makes you happy regardless of societal or family rules or believes. The more you are honest to yourself and follow your inner self the healthier you would be.
Ah… and don’t forget, looking for help in case you need it is a sign of strength and not a weakness.
“Happiness is not the absence of problems,
but the ability to overcome them” – Nichiren Daishonin