How to Have Good Mental Health

Let’s talk about your mental health.

Note your initial reaction to that suggestion. What do you expect when someone wants to talk about your mental health? In our society, people often expect to hear some kind of criticism. The little man or woman inside may be accusing me of thinking you are crazy.

Pay attention-I want to talk about your mental health-your mental and emotional assets. I believe that discussions about anything -mental- in our society should begin with assets-so that all parties come to the table with the understanding that people are not labels. Any person, who has ever had a condition such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia etc., must separate the diagnosis from their definition of themselves.

So what is mental health?

This question has been a question of hot debate since people began thinking about their thinking. In the past, mental health, as well as health in general, was defined as the absence of a disease or illness. This definition would define someone who spends their day doing nothing more than watching television as -mentally healthy- when they have the capacity to do much more.

Current definitions of mental health involve behaviors of coping, productivity, and quality connections with others.

1. The World Health Organization definition (World Health Organization 2007):

-A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.-

2. The Surgeon General of the United States definition (Department of Health and Human Services 1999):

-The successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.”

What Can Mental Health Do?

Though mental health and health both involve our body, -mental health- generally refers to the effective functioning of our thoughts, moods, and behaviors (Public Health Service 2001). Effective thoughts, moods, and behaviors lead us to take care of ourselves, physically and mentally. We pay attention to what we eat, how we feel, how we interact. We are able to detect when something is -off- and make the necessary adjustments. We help build a world that facilitates the health and mental health of others.

Mental health is the foundation of our health. -There is no health without mental health- (World Health Organization 2007).

Do I Have Mental Health?

Everybody has mental health-thoughts, moods, and behaviors that work. The answers to the following questions can help you identify the mental health you possess:

* What mental processes and behaviors can help me -keep going- every day, as well as during times of crisis? * How can I mobilize my effective mental processes and behaviors to recover from illness? * How can I use my effective mental processes and behaviors to have a more abundant life?

Do You Want to Know More?

Stay tuned to Moxie Mental Health, where stories of how real people have transformed themselves, their families, and the world around them are posted three times weekly: Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

The next blog will discuss research from the field of Positive Psychology that has identified and classified specific mental strengths. The blog will help you identify several specific mental strengths that you own. Your strengths can be your means of encountering the difficulties you face with spirit and courage-enabling you to emerge from the fire as a grander, more magnificent person.


Katrina Holgate Miller, PhD, MFT is a freelance medical journalist specializing in mental health.

Her professional experience has encompassed many facets of mental health care, including mental health assessment and treatment, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse (victims and perpetrators), couples counseling, and adolescent group counseling. For the past five years, Katrina has worked with patients across the country to help them resolve their barriers to adequate and effective mental healthcare and chemical dependency/addiction treatment.

Her writing tells the stories of the patients who used their moxie to overcome their distress.