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Being Mentally Healthy

Updated on August 18, 2012
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What is mental health?

Is it a sense of happiness or joy? The ability to bounce back in a crisis? Resiliance? Honesty? Peace? Contentment?

According to the professionals, mental health is determined by the ability a human being has to function in society at a satisfactory level. Well that clears things up doesn't it?

The truth is, most of us who are searching for how to be mentally healthy, probably already do function in society at a reasonable level. Yet we still feel mentally unwell. What is the problem?

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Adjusting our definition of mental health

Unfortunately, most of us are bombarded with media's version of mental health. It includes regular shots of adrenalin and excitement, multiple adventures that keep life interesting and challenging, as well as passionate sex and feelings of being "in love" constantly. It is quite melodramatic, and seriously unrealistic.

Life is filled with mundane tasks, difficult relationships, and ho-hum moments. Learning to be mentally healthy in the real world takes an adjustment of our expectations. Happiness is not the warm feeling of hormones rushing through your body at the thrill of a new romance or adventure. That is excitement and passion- two elements that life throws at us on occasion. The operative word there is OCCASION. If we think life is all about passion and adventure, we will be depressed the majority of the time.

Characteristics of those who are mentally healthy

Characteristic
Description
The Negative
Stable
Not given to extreme highs and lows.
Unstable
Emotional
Able to feel emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, and joy. The ability to express these emotions.
Emotionally constipated
Introspective
Someone who can spend time looking deeply into themselves for answers to their problems.
Blaming others constantly
Spiritual
People with a strong faith in someone higher than themselves are shown to be more humble and willing to let go of things they cannot control.
They are their own god
Trustworthy
Typically, mentally healthy people can be relied upon to do what they say they are going to do.
Unreliable
Unlimited
People who don't limit themselves to certain experiences based on fear of the unknown or fear of failure. Willing to try something new.
Limited by fears
Not afraid of conflict
Willing to engage in difficult discussions for the betterment of relationships.
Always trying to make peace
Boundaried
Has an understanding of what problems are theirs, and what problems belong to others. Is not afraid to say no.
Unable to know where their problems begin and end
Resilient
The ability to change expectations in the middle of an experience. They know how adjust themselves when things don't go well.
Stubborn
Grateful
The ability to see the glass half-full, even in the midst of crisis.
Pessimistic
Outward thinking
A recognition that the world is a big place, and their problems are not the only problems in the world.
Self-focused
Responsible
Not given to blaming the world for his/her problems.
Nothing is ever their fault
Free
Not needing substances or outside influences to make them feel "okay".
Addicted to things like money, food, or alcohol

Identifying the problem

If you struggle with feeling mentally unhealthy, it is crucial you discover the root cause. Otherwise, you will chase solutions that ultimately leave you feeling defeated and continually depressed. The source of mental un-wellness can be difficult to discover, which is why finding a counselor to help you is crucial.

Causes of mental illness:

  • Biological imbalances
    Have you recently had a significant physical change (pregnancy, menopause etc.)? Is there a history of mental illness in your family background? Chemical imbalances in the brain can cause a host of issues and need to be addressed with therapy and medication.
  • Crisis or trauma
    These events can alter your brain chemistry as well. Imagine a forest. When you go through a trauma, your brain creates a path in the woods (imagine someone going through with a machete). Once the trauma is passed, a smaller hiccup in life will signal to the brain, "Go down this path! It's nicely worn in!" You begin to react to small problems as if they are catastrophic. Your brain needs a rest to redirect those paths in healthier ways.
  • Poorly developed habits
    Anything from addictive drinking, to endless video games, reality television, or other unhealthy lifestyle habits, can cause mental illness. A counselor who specializes in cognitive or behavioral therapy will be able to help you create new patterns in life.
  • Childhood issues
    Unfortunately, most of our emotional problems stem from issues in childhood. Young minds are incredibly impressionable, leaving us vulnerable to adapting a world view that is seriously skewed. If you struggle with broken relationships, blaming the world for your problems, and low self-esteem, chances are there are some untended wounds from your past.
  • Toxic relationships
    Nothing zaps our mental health faster than a toxic relationship. Problems such as abuse, co-dependency, explosive arguments, and other relational issues can turn the healthiest individual into a mess. The thing is, that mentally healthy people tend to stay away from these people anyhow, so there are two issues to deal with- the relationship, and why you allowed yourself in the situation to begin with.
  • Unreasonable expectations
    If you think life is about a constant thrill, you will be continually disappointed. Learning to deal with boredom, mundane moments, and every day tasks will go a long way in helping your mental health.

Can you fix it on your own or do you need professional help?

One thing people must understand; getting a therapist is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you are willing to do the work to get at the root of your problem. This is a sign of strength. There is no shame in therapy.

However, some mental health issues can be dealt with in other ways. If you are having a life hiccup that isn't characteristic of your normal state of being, perhaps you can fix it with some good ol' fashioned self-help.

Solutions you can do at home

  • Books
    There are hundreds of self-help titles on Amazon. Depending on your problem, you can find a ton of resources to give you steps and ideas to combat the issue.
  • Self-help groups
    Churches and other organizations offer groups for people in difficult relationships, financial problems, and other issues that can weigh us down emotionally. Stay at home moms need support groups too, as their stage of life is incredibly difficult and isolating.
  • Change your friends
    Find new people to hang out. Only invest in those who are positive, compassionate, non-judgmental, and drama free.
  • Journal
    Writing in a diary is not just therapeutic for you. It can reveal emotions and feelings you might be not be aware of.
  • Nature
    Find time to enjoy the outdoors, animals, gardening, hiking, swimming, or any activity that pulls you outside. A change of scenery can get even the most muddled brain out of a funk.
  • Invest in your spirituality
    Look outside of yourself for the meaning of life. You might be surprised how many mental problems are solved when you encounter the supernatural.
  • Develop new habits
    Any new habit takes at least 30 days to get ingrained in the brain. Try something new if you find that your depression hits you at night. Action influences belief.

Stressful life circumstances and a new baby can trigger post-partum depression.
Stressful life circumstances and a new baby can trigger post-partum depression. | Source

I think I need therapy. Now what?

Before you pick up the phone book and make a call, sit down and write out what you expect from a therapist. Counseling and therapy is a diverse field, and there are thousands of different styles and personalities. Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do you want a same sex therapist?
  2. Are you looking for action-oriented therapy? Do you want really practical advice?
  3. Do you suspect that many of your current issues have to do with childhood?
  4. Are you more comfortable one on one or in a group/couple?
  5. Are you willing to pursue the idea of medication?

Types of therapy

Style
Description
Best for:
Cognitive therapy
Challenging negative thought patterns in order to change behavior.
Depression and anxiety
Behavioral therapy
Treating unwanted behaviors with systematic changes to habits.
Phobias, OCD, fears
Psychoanalysis
Exploring the mind (especially the unconscious) through various techniques.
Deep-seated mental disturbances
Expressive therapy
Using art, dance, music, and play to deal with issues. Trained therapists guide patients through exercises determined to reveal problems.
PTSD, dealing with crisis and trauma
EMDR
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD
Couples therapy
Used to deal with problems occurring in marriage.
Marriage issues
Group therapy
Used often for teens and adults who deal with substance abuse.
Substance abuse, anorexia, gambling, etc.
All of these can be used in conjunction with one another, along with medication and other self-help strategies.

How to find a therapist

  1. Visit your primary care doctor to see if he or she has any recommendations. Your insurance company may also require a referral.
  2. Use online resources to find professionals in your area.
  3. Ask a trusted friend who goes to therapy, to recommend someone for you.
  4. Don't be discouraged if the first one you meet with isn't a good fit.

Keep in mind, a psychiatrist will be able to prescribe medication, while a clinical psychologist or licensed clinical social worker will not. However, if you find a counselor who cannot prescribe mediation but thinks you should be on something, many of them work with psychiatric nurse practitioners who will manage your medication. You can continue to see your counselor.

If you leave a session feeling uncomfortable, assess why. Is it because you don't like the style? If so, you can look for someone else. If however, you are uncomfortable because it brought up some unpleasant emotions, it may be the therapist is doing his or her job! Give it a few more sessions before you move on.

If after several months and a handful of therapists, you find no one who fits, you may want to explore the reality that you are unwilling to allow someone in. More than likely, you didn't run into 15 bad therapists, you just aren't willing to allow them access to your heart.

Don't lose hope!

One of the greatest attributes of a mentally healthy person, is the understanding that all bad days (or seasons) eventually end. You are not destined to feel this way forever. There is help and a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopelessness and despair are a sign of a real problem. If you ever feel like life isn't worth living anymore, call the mental health hotline. Someone is there 24 hours a day to help.

Time is another healer of mental struggles. You will get better in time, I promise.

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About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom of three. She struggled with a serious bout of depression after the birth of her third daughter who was critically ill. She also has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder as well as PTSD after a toxic and abusive relationship.

Her background ironically, is in clinical psychology. She writes from personal experience as well as academic understanding.

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    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

      Excellent hub, Julie! I think more and more people these days are having a hard time with some issue and don't feel mentally healthy. I have GAD too and have since a child. Like you said, there is hope out there and ways to help yourself. This hub covered them well...great writing!

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 4 years ago from New York, NY

      Thumbs up hub, not only for its information but also for its comments, like the one from Man from Modesto. So much of mental health comes from physical health and vice versa. None of us go through life unscathed from events or trauma; but the ability to bounce back comes from having a philosophy of hope and health gives us the strength to see beyond our own projections and limitations. "This too shall pass" means time is a wonderful healer too. Wonderfully written and to the point.

    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

      This is a really great article, Julie. Here are a few notes from my reading and observations over the years:

      1. The most mentally stable group of people- however you divide society - is runners. Exercising is like turning on the body's filter to a higher gear.

      2. There are testimonies of people who got off all their psych meds by simply focusing on their physical health. They do colon cleanses and juice lots of green veggies every day. Fresh fruits and vegetables are fungicides. Systemic fungus can severely damper the human body- and modern medicine almost completely overlooks fungus. In fact, read up on Dr. Tullio Simoncini of Italy- he "miraculously" cures cancer by treating it as a fungus.

      3. Deliverance- My own mother is practically normal today. Less than two years ago, she could barely climb stairs, was too afraid to venture outside, and would almost pass out at the thought of crossing the street. Now, she does all of that without even thinking. What did I do? Simple: I prayed for 15 minutes. But, not the standard, eyes closed, "please, please, please, God" praying. I prayed the way Jesus and the apostle prayed- with authority and faith. I learned this from the Holy Spirit and from theelijahchallenge.org

      Go to their web page for many testimonials of amazing healings (this is not a sham, and they don't want your money). Also, you can find their teachings for free on YouTube. Elijah Challenge & William Lau.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Well written hub with great information, thank you for sharing it.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Very wonderfully detailed hub on mental health and trying be be healthy or being able to become healthy. You outlined the topic, plus gave such great solutions (even detailing the different types of therapy), that I was very impressed. I have of course voted, shared and tweeted too :)

    • shruti sheshadri profile image

      shruti sheshadri 4 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Yes, all of us go through this, dont we? It depends on us how we try to improve, and u have given excellent tips! :) A great read.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Julie -

      Extremely detailed article. The inclusion of Hubpages may be necessary under the Poorly Developed Habits category.

      As always, a tremendous job!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      Along with Billy, I feel fine. Your hub deserves attention though; mentally unhealthy persons have caused so much trouble and is time to write more about it. Seems that drugs, alcohol and big daddy media are changing America. Great research!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Julie, very useful hub with lots of useful info for people to follow up on. Your personal photos are good too - like the one of you with your children - you look like you needed a rest :o)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great hub, great information, beautiful job of listing valuable information. I'm feeling very healthy mentally these days.

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