We all have basic psychological needs. When these needs are acquired they lead to a greater sense of happiness and success. These basic psychological needs are just as important as the body’s need for water, rest, food, and sex. Meeting these needs is just as important as balancing them as well. Failure to do so can lead to a number of stress symptoms, burnout, divorce, or psychological problems. After an extended amount of neglect a person may become physically sick. It is important to take action and seek a positive mental health.
What is Positive Mental Health?
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, but mental health is such a broad term. Some use it to describe our brains health, others may use to include our psychological state, and then there’s those who attach emotions to it. When its really a combination of all three. Merriam-Webster defines mental health as: The condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by the adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life.
Our mental health is made up of our social-wellbeing, emotional-wellbeing, and psychological-wellbeing needs. Jahoda (1958) established a more in-depth look at positive mental health. She narrowed it down even more to (1) attitude toward one’s own self; Acceptance, self-reliance, and self-confidence. Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses coupled with the conviction that the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. (2) growth, development, and self-actualization; the realization that one’s potential is under said persons own control. (3) integration; the balance of the id, the ego, and the superego. This balance is flexible, changeable to fit the current situation, and a resilient to stress. (4) autonomy; this refers to self-determination and independence in decision making. Acting independently from the outside world and behavior is not dictated by environmental circumstances. (5) perception of reality; Viewing the world without distortion of ones own wants and needs while being empathetic to those around them. (6) environmental mastery; achieving success in some social roles and appropriate function while in those roles. Having positive interpersonal relations and the ability to adapt, adjust, and solve problems in an efficient manner. Finding the balance in those categories is what makes the mental health positive. The term “balance” is very relative though. Balance just means that you are satisfied with the social, emotional, and psychological areas in one’s life. The rations of balance are different person to person, for example, an introvert may have less of a social life than and extrovert, but they get just the amount they need to keep it all in balance for their mental health. Through out life everyone has the chance to either be disabled by the unbalance of their mental health, be happy and feel fulfilled with life, or maybe just struggling in-between. It is important to know that each of those positions are normal to go through.
There is an ongoing debate on the relationship between normality and positive mental health. There is an agreement though that the definition of psychopathology is easier to define than normal behavior. This is because across the board culture, subculture, social views, and situations are different and that absolutely compromises the ability to define what is normal. When normalcy can’t be defined what does that mean for positive mental health? It is believed that both topics are fluid. Though normality it is just a way of measuring positive mental health, in reality, it is so much more. A mentally healthy person will be “normal”, they will have an unrealistic positive self-evaluation. They are more aware of their strengths verses their weaknesses and perceive themselves as better than the average person. This is the illusion positive mental health can create along with an exaggerated sense of self control. Taylor and Brown (1988) cite evidence that depressed people are more likely to have realistic perceptions of the control that they have in their own lives verses that of a nondepressed person. Positive illusions enable people to function in an adaptive manner. According to Taylor and Brown (1988), illusions promote the engagement of several criteria for positive mental health, including happiness/contentment, the ability to care for others, and the ability to create intellectual and productive work. Mentally healthy people learn from negative experiences, but positive illusions help cope with the stresses and strains. “The mentally healthy person appears to have the enviable capacity to distort reality in a direction that enhances self-esteem, maintains beliefs in personal efficiency, and promotes an optimistic view of the future” (1988, p. 204).
Positive mental health in the past and its future.
Throughout history mental health has been viewed as illness and disease vs the actual complexity of checks and balances that it truly is. In mid-19th-century America, the “insane” asylum was widely seen as the symbol of an enlightened and progressive action to no longer ignore or mistreat its “insane” citizens. After World War II, asylums began to show their true colors and people no longer thought they were a useful treatment. Instead, the emphasis was on prevention and the provision of care and treatment in the community. It wasn’t until 1958 when Marie Jahoda developed the concept of positive mental health when wrote the book Current Concepts of Positive Mental Health. As stated earlier in this text she created six categories that she said made up one’s positive mental health. Which was followed by others who not only agreed to what she was saying but would go deeper into the topic. These include but are not limited to: Jourard and Landsman (1980) who proposed similar criteria for positive mental health: self-regard, ability to care about others, ability to care about the natural world, openness to new ideas and to people creativity, ability to work productively, ability to love, and realistic perception of one’s self. Jensen and Bergin (1988) conducted and nationwide survey of 425 professional therapists across a variety of fields to determine values associated with positive mental health. Eight themes were revealed. The 2 extra that concluded different to Johanda’s 6 were self-maintenance, and forgiveness. Taylor and Brown (1988) created the idea of positive illusions which really broke down Johanna’s thought of the attitude towards one’s self. These are just a few of the break throughs that positive mental health made before the turn into the 21st century where today we are still using these original findings and trying to advance our knowledge of what is positive mental health. As of today, there is a proposed definition that is cumulative to everything that has been discovered so far:
Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one's own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.
Sense positive mental health is so subjective we have found the best way to measure it is by surveys. There is a plethora of surveys for different areas of one’s life that can help determine the state of a person’s positive mental health. Objective measures can also be used such as a person’s income, education, unemployment history, social history, criminal background, and medical history. This is a topic that is still being studied and researched. It has so much potential and the future has many possibilities.
How to attain and support a positive mental health.
Attaining positive mental health can be a lifestyle change. There’s no overnight fix or just a switch that can be turned on, it’s about dedication to one’s self and taking charge of their own life!
Strong family ties and supportive friends can help a person deal with the all the big and little stresses of life. They can make someone feel included, cared for, and supported. They can offer different point of views from whatever is going on inside one’s own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve those pesky everyday problems. There’s usually nothing better than catching up with an old friend face-to-face, but sense that’s not always possible, giving them a call, dropping them a note or chatting with them online instead are great alternatives. Keep the lines of communication open and welcomed. It’s good for the mind! It’s worth it to work at a relationship that makes a person feel loved or important, but if being around someone is damaging to the mental and emotional health, it may be the best decision to take a break from them or call it quits completely. It’s completely possible to end a relationship in a way that feels ok for both of the parties involved. It can be hard to cope when someone close dies or losing them to other situations. Counselling for bereavement or loss can help a person explore feelings and express them positively.
Talking to someone is a great step in attaining a positive mental health. Talking about feelings has been associated with being a sign of weakness, it is definitely not, it’s part of taking charge of one’s well-being and doing what is needed to keep the mind clear and healthy. Talking can be a way to cope with a problem that has been lingering around in the head for a while. Just being listened to is good for the mind. It can help a person feel supported, less alone, and it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others you care about to do the same. It’s not always easy to describe how the mind is feeling; if one word can’t be used, then use as many as possible. Loved ones don’t need to be sat down for a big group conversation about your well-being. More often than not people feel more comfortable when these conversations develop more naturally - maybe when things are being done together. Sometimes it might feel awkward at first, give it time, make talking about feelings something that is normal.
Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in the brain that make the mind and body feel good. Regular exercise can boost the self-esteem and help a person concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and other important vital organs healthy and functioning. Exercising doesn’t just mean doing a certain sport or going to the gym, walks in the park, gardening or housework can also keep you active. Experts say in majority people should do about 30 minutes’ exercise at least five days a week. Trying to make physical activity that part of the day that is spent reflecting.
There are strong connections between what we eat and how we feel. For example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect on our mood and energy. Food can also have a long-lasting effect on the mental health. The brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in the body. A diet that’s good for one’s physical health is also good for the mental health. A healthy balanced diet includes: different types of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and bread, nuts and seeds, dairy products, oily fish, plenty of water. Eating at least three meals each day and drinking plenty of water keeps the mind sharp and energized. Try to limit how many high-caffeine or sugary drinks are consumed and avoid alcohol in big quantities.
Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for the mental health of anyone. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning the kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work or a weekend exploring a new place. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress the mind and body. Give some ‘me time’ to each day. Taking a break may mean being very active, or it may mean not doing very much at all. Take a deep breath… and relax. Try yoga or meditation, or just putting those feet up.
Listening to the body is important. If you’re tired, give yourself time to sleep. Without good sleep, our mental health suffers, and our concentration goes downhill. Sometimes the world will just have to wait.
Find a hobby
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past before kids, careers, and life got in the way? Enjoying oneself helps beat stress. Doing an activity that is enjoyed probably means you are good at it and when a person achieves something it boosts their self-esteem. Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or morning walks can help someone forget the worries for a while and change one’s mood. It can be good to have an interest where you’re not seen as someone’s mom, dad, partner, or employee. You’re just you!
Accept who YOU are
Some of us make people laugh, some are good at chemistry, others cook fantastic meals, or can solve life’s mysteries. We’re all different. It is much healthier to accept that we are each unique and to wish you were more like someone else is pointless. Feeling good about oneself boosts confidence to learn new skills, visit new places, and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps to cope when life takes a difficult turn. Be proud of who you are, recognize and accept what you are not good at, but focus on what can be done well. Working out things about yourself that you still want to change is okay as long as their realistic. If they are, work towards the change in small steps.
Supporting a positive mental health is simply a continuous cycle of retaining it. It is okay to not be okay at times and to feel a flood of emotions. This is what it is to be human; to feel and to live! Listening to your body is the most essential part of the entire process. Know what you like and dislike and be open about it. Never quit discovering who you are!