Understanding Mental Health

As with many other things, health is often taken for granted until we start to lose it. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual:

  • realises his/her own abilities
  • can cope with the normal stresses of life
  • can work productively and fruitfully
  • is able to make a contribution to his/her community

The importance of maintaining good mental health is crucial to living a fulfilling and healthy life. Good mental health can enhance one’s life, while poor mental health can affect the person’s quality of life. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and their behaviour. They are able to handle life’s inevitable challenges, build strong relationships and lead productive, fulfilling lives. When bad things happen, they’re able to bounce back and move on.

Unfortunately, too many people take their mental and emotional health for granted – focusing on it only when they develop problems. But just as it requires effort to build or maintain physical health, so it is with mental and emotional health. The more time and energy you invest in your emotional health, the stronger it will be. The good news is that there are many things you can do to boost your mood, build resilience, and get more enjoyment out of life.

These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships.

  • Ability to enjoy life
    • Living in the present
    • Learning from the past
    • Planning for the future
  • Resilience
    • Recovering from hard times
    • Coping with stress in a healthy manner
  • Balance
    • Living in moderation in every aspect
    • Balancing work and play, activity and rest, self and others
  • Self-actualisation
    • Recognising strengths
    • Pursuing interests
    • Fulfilling potential
  • Flexibility
    • Expressing emotions adequately
    • Adjusting expectations and perspectives
    • Adapting to change when necessary

  • Learn to be at peace with yourself. Get to know who you are, what makes you really happy, and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself. Identify your abilities and weaknesses together, accept them, build on them and do the best with what you have.
  • Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Some find it helpful to keep a journal or blog, to express their thoughts which in turn help them to understand more about themselves. It can also be a collection of positive emotional moments, to remind us during times of adversity that we can deal with it.
  • To work towards our objectives, it is helpful to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-limited).
  • Develop a healthy lifestyle by taking balanced meals and exercising regularly. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid cigarettes and other harmful substances.
  • Make time for family and friends. Nurture the relationships and share life’s joys and sorrows with them.
  • Create a meaningful budget. Financial problems cause stress. Over-spending on our wants instead of our needs is often a significant source of stress.
  • Volunteer. Being involved in the community gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction, and helps to make a difference.

“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow