When we talk about mental health, we think of having a sense of harmony in our inner life and relationships. Mental health gives us a sense of well-being, and helps us know who we can rely on for help or connection.
Among many things, good mental health enables us to:
- Value and care for our body and physical health
- Respect our interconnectedness
- Be present to others in healthy relationships or friendships
- Accept our humanness with self-compassion
- Act to fulfill our sense of purpose or meaning
- Feel emotional highs and lows, yet be able to return to a sense of peace and calm
It’s important to recognize what good mental health is. Everyone feels sad or troubled, or becomes upset sometimes. You can take in life’s ups and downs, and still enjoy good mental health. We know these difficulties will pass and we will be okay again.
But what if ‘feeling okay’ is a frequent challenge? It is important to know when situations or stresses cause issues that anyone would need support to handle in healthy ways. There are signs when it may be time to get help.
Recognizing when to Get Help for Mental Health
Sometimes it is hard to take good care of ourselves because thoughts or feelings keep getting in the way. When these feelings persist for weeks or months, it may be time to get advice or help from a good mental health resource or professional.
For example, these can be signs of a mental health issue:
- Having trouble getting enough sleep or eating reasonably well
- Feeling recurring worries or emotions that interfere with work, school, friendships or life
- Painful self-criticism
- Feeling alone or detached from friends and family
- Loss of energy to pursue interests
Some issues that challenge us can resolve on their own. But very often, mental health issues progress. Uninvited, they take hold in ways that leave us feeling stuck. That is why it is important to seek help early on, to prevent more difficulty and very real suffering that can wear down our mental and physical health.
The Great Benefits of Mental Health
There is so much good that mental health allows us to enjoy.
An insightful and beautiful description of mental health comes from author and neurobiologist Dr. Daniel Siegel.
Dan Siegel takes a unique perspective on well-being. He studies how the brain and mental focus impacts wellness and happiness.
He sees mental health as a harmonious flow of energies. When we can balance different energies within ourselves, and between the self and others, we experience integration. Siegel believes this gives us a sense of wholeness, health and connection.
Siegel offers this practical example of how the brain, body and relationships work together to enable well-being:
If you smile at me and I don’t smile back, your feelings will be different than if I resonate with your smile, feeling the feelings inside of me and then revealing that resonance with a returned smile on my face, in my gestures, and in my tone of voice. Our separate bodies become “connected” as energy flows from you in the form of a smile that then connects with me. Your eyes and your ears pick up how that energy was received and two separate “entities” become connected as one in the exchange. This is how people come to feel “close” to each other even with physical distance that separates their physical bodies.
When we are able to integrate energies like these, inside us and between us, this “is the basis of health,” says Siegel.
Good mental health enables us to enjoy life, cope with challenges, and find a meaningful role. It is the product of many factors – what we learn, our life and relationships, and the way our brain and body function.
Sometimes it is hard to balance these complex factors without support or guidance. As therapists, our work is to aid healing and strengthen mental health. We integrate many approaches, techniques and knowledge to help people take good care of themselves. Our goal is to help each person learn to build, maintain and enjoy good mental health in ways that work best for them.