Updated: Apr 18, 2020
There's always new terminology and jargon which is introduced into our vocabulary and we accept it, own it, eventually start using these words in our daily conversations. They become verbs and adjectives that are part of the colloquial and the everyday. Words like depression which literally meant a sunken dent in a physical entity now mean something completely different and often lose the depth, gravity and meaning when used to suggest that one is having a terrible day or feeling rubbish, sad, annoyed because something didn't go well at office or home.
One such term to be introduced is mental health. It is thrown around very casually. Most professionals use it from a scientific and academic definition's perspective. This article attempts to clarify the meaning of mental health and what it encompasses.
Let's start with a definition, American Psychological Association dictionary gives the following:
"a state of mind characterised by emotional well-being, good behavioural adjustment, relative freedom from anxiety and disabling symptoms, and a capacity to establish constructive relationships and cope with the ordinary demands and stresses of life."
Understanding the Variables of Mental Health.
Each Variable is a minefield on its own. Following is a very, very short introduction to each of these variables.
Well-being is another term which has gained a lot of traction. Mental health and well-being go hand in hand, one can't exist without the other. Well-being is characterised by happiness, contentment and satisfaction with life and physical health. Emotional well-being includes all this and then the ability to use stress management techniques and resilience to enhance pleasant and positive emotional states.
The situation and circumstances pose demands on our behaviour and when we make adjustments in our behaviour based on our desire to change in view of the circumstance we are essentially showing good behavioural adjustment. A well adjusted person has the capacity to demonstrate appropriate psychological and social responses according to the demands of the circumstances and situation.
Anxiety is a response to perceived threat. The response is usually apprehension, tension, worry or fear. Anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms of heavy breathing, difficulty breathing, sweating, shaking, and rapid heart beat. Anxiety also brings with it some other symptoms like, insomnia, irritability, hyper-vigilance, lack of concentration, fatigue, overthinking etc. These symptoms can cause further distress and negatively affect mental health.
Constructive relationships are based on mutual respect, good & open communication, understanding, flexibility, need fulfilment of all the members, equality of interests and ideas.
Good mental health therefore, comprises of a feeling of satisfaction with life, physical health, manageable anxiety and constructive relationships. It is important to remember that good mental health is not absence of stress, anxiety or difficult life situations but a manageable, healthy and effective coping with these variable. There are certain practices and techniques like, scheduling, sleep routines, done lists etc. which can be effective in improving mental health. However, that is a separate topic requiring in-depth discussion and will be featured in future posts.
American Psychological Association Dictionary, https://dictionary.apa.org/mental-health