Often, people don’t really start thinking about their mental health until something goes wrong. It’s not until a person experiences depression, addiction, divorce, or the loss of a loved one that they really start to see that they might need professional help, as they might go to a doctor for a physical illness. In fact, it’s easy to take psychological health for granted. As long as a person is functioning throughout their day, then it’s easy to assume that they are doing okay.
Sadly, it’s easy to get away with telling everyone that “everything is fine” when it’s not. Psychological illness is easier to mask. Part of the problem, however, is that many people don’t give their psychological health a lot of importance. However, the truth is, psychological health includes many aspects of one’s life, if not every aspect. Psychological health can affect a person’s emotional, social, relational, physical and even spiritual well being.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines psychological health as a state of well-being in which a person realizes their potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.
If we were to break this down a bit, being psychologically healthy might mean:
- Having the ability to cope with every day stress
- Being able to work productively at home, work, or in a volunteer setting
- Working towards goals or having a sense of purpose or meaning in life
- Having healthy relationships
- And having the ability to make a contribution to your community
However, what about having confidence when you’re at a job interview or having a good sense of what’s right and wrong? These are also a necessary parts of psychological health, in order to succeed and find fulfillment in life. Consider the following list as additional signs of psychological health:
- Having a sense of self-confidence and self-appreciation.
- Being focused on goals and having direction.
- Having resiliency – the ability to get back on your feet and move forward when life becomes challenging.
- Respecting others and yourself.
- Having positive and healthy relationships
- Performing well at work.
- Having an appreciation for knowledge and education.
- Knowing the difference between right and wrong.
- Having the ability to learn from mistakes and grow from them.
- Recognizing that drinking and drug use can be crutches to hide pain.
- Being proud of achievements and abilities.
- Knowing how to be accepting of others.
- Having an understanding that success is the result of determination, hard work and a positive mental attitude.
- Taking good care of the body and staying physically healthy
Some people might include their spiritual well being in psychological health. Of course, not everyone is spiritual or religious. But for those who are, spirituality can add to a person’s psychological health. Having practices that bring meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and joy to a person’s life can help promote mental health. Some spiritual practices that add to psychological well being include:
- Meditation – a practice of staying in the present moment and becoming aware of your inner and outer experiences
- Yoga – moving the body in certain poses in order to become aware and more attuned to your physical and emotional states
- Prayer – calling upon a higher being
- Gratitude – focusing on what you’re grateful for on a regular basis.
- Church – Attending a church group or service weekly or more often.
- Practicing your faith – listening to a pastor, , rabbi, or monk on a regular basis.
- Creativity – Writing poetry, painting, or dancing regularly.
If these practices don’t seem to bring you any psychological or emotional benefits, there are other daily habits and practices that are important for mental health. And these apply to everyone, whether they are spiritual or not.
Take good care of yourself physically. There is a strong connection between your physical health and your mental health. Exercise, eating well, and getting good sleep on a regular basis can bring great benefits to your overall well being. In fact, exercise can address all the aspects of one’s health: physical, physiological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Physical activity can release endorphins, help with the health of the brain, and help the brain make new neural connections. Also, eating healthy foods and getting approximately 8 hours of sleep each night can support overall physical health.
Learn about the health of your mind through psycho-education. Certainly, one of the best ways to stay psychologically healthy is to learn about mental health. Learn about yourself and what your emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual needs are. Just as you might want to stay on top of what’s healthy for you physically, you can also take time to learn about what’s needed to maintain your psychological health. In the mental health field, this sort of learning is called psycho-education.
Stay connected to a community. This community might be a circle of friends, family, or the community you might find at a 12-step meeting. No matter the type of community, having a group of people around you who are also striving for health and well being can support your own. Also, in a community, you can share and hear the stories of success, failure, and how those failures were overcome by others. Community is often an essential component to feeling connected and psychologically well.
These are suggestions for staying psychologically healthy. However, even during times of mental illness or recovery from addiction, the above suggestions can be useful. Remember that staying psychologically healthy is much more than the absence of mental illness; it’s also experiencing fulfillment, connection, and joy in your life.