The definition of “good mental health” and 9 tips to help improve it  

May 11, 2023
chalkboard with the phrase: mental health matters"

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, in this blogpost we’ll be exploring the definition of mental health and nine tips to help improve it. 

 What is "good mental health?"

There are several interrelated definitions of good mental health. For example, from a European neuropsychopharmacology group, good mental health can be defined as a state of well-being that allows individuals to cope with the normal stresses of life and function productively.  

Others have defined good mental health as the ability both to value life and to engage in life. 

Valuing life refers not just to your own life but to the lives of those you love and regarding their lives as valuable both to you and independently of you. It means wanting to care for yourself and your loved ones. 

Engaging in life, in turn, means the ability to behave differently depending on your circumstances, instead of expecting everything to bend to your will. It can mean noticing your feelings but neither relying on them to guide you nor ignoring them. 

Mental health affects physical health

Having a positive mental state also affects one’s physical state. Research conducted in 2003 by Cohen, Doyle, Turner, et. al., demonstrated that study participants who reported positive emotions like happiness and satisfaction had lower risks of catching a cold virus than those who reported negative emotions like depression and loneliness. In other research conducted by Kim et al in 2013 showed that people with a firm purpose in life faced a reduced risk of coronary disease.

What is “Positive Psychology?”

In the field of mental health,  a relatively new psychological discipline has recently emerged. Defined as “positive psychology” or the “psychology of human flourishing”, it is based upon identifying and strengthening the positive aspects of human experience, such as authentic happiness, hope, motivation, empathy, and self-esteem, which research has shown enhances wellbeing. 

According to Positive Psychology, there are four aspects of this wellbeing

The pleasant life.

Consisting of positive emotions and the drive to do things that enhance pleasure and self-satisfaction.

The engaged life

Where a person preoccupies themself with deeper insight into their emotions and character strengths and models their life accordingly.

The meaningful life

In which the individual achieves a heightened sense of self and seeks the true meaning of happiness.

The achieving life

Where a person is driven to work harder and dedicate themself to achieving their ambitions. In an achieving life, a person derives happiness and a true sense of self from acting on their dreams and making them successful. 

9 tips to maintain good mental health 

  1. Attend to physical health. Get regular exercise, eat a balanced—preferably clean—diet, and get enough sleep.   
  2. Practice self-care. Set aside time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax, such as engaging in hobbies. In corporate other practices in your every day, such as prayer or meditation, reading, taking walks in nature.
  3. Put self-compassion at the top of your list. Self-compassion is a form of self care, care for the psyche or soul. Be sure to treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance. Be mindful of self-criticism and negative self-talk. 
  4. Manage stress .Find healthy ways to manage stress, as excessive stress can have a detrimental effect on both your mental and physical health. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engage in relaxing activities like listening to music, taking a bath, or watching a funny movie. 
  5. Limit exposure to negative influences. It’s important to limit your exposure to negative influences like media, social media, and negative environments, as they can contribute harmful stress, anxiety, or inadequacy, disrupting your positive quality of life. 
  6. Make gratitude a regular practice. Practicing gratitude is not only a good practice but it is one of the many positive interventions employed by  practitioners of positive psychology. Be intentional and take time each day to acknowledge and appreciate the things you are grateful for. Gratitude can shift your focus to the positive aspects of life and improve your overall outlook. 
  7. Engage in meaningful activities. Find activities that bring you a sense of fulfillment and purpose. This could involve volunteering, pursuing a passion, or engaging in activities that contribute to your personal growth. 
  8. Build strong relationships .Your social network can help you maintain good mental health. Strong and healthy social connections with family, friends, and colleagues can provide support, companionship, and a sense of belonging, which all contribute to good mental health. 
  9. Seek support. If you're experiencing difficulties in maintaining good mental health, don't hesitate to seek support from trusted individuals, such as friends, family members, clergy, or a mental health professional. 

Just as you would attend to your physical health, also attend to your mental and emotional health as they are interconnected, affecting your quality of life.

 Do you have a growth mindset? Find out by taking this quick quiz.