[Mental Health—that which promotes the optimization of mind, body, soul, and interpersonal relationships]
What does it mean to be mentally healthy?
First, let’s think of mental health along a continuum on which one is either moving toward health or away from it. Each of us is either engaged in a style of life that is characterized by words such as wellness, wholeness, holistic, healthy, holy—words that all derive from the same word root, the Old English hal, meaning healthy—or is living a life that is less so.
Second, we are learning that what we call mental health is not restricted to that which is happening in the brain. Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and foremost spokesperson in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, has taught us that the mind is both embodied (flowing from the brain and throughout the body) and relational(affecting and being affected by our interactions with others) and that a healthy mind leads to a life of connectedness and meaning, the essence of spirituality.
Mental health is about our minds, our physical bodies, our spiritual dimensions, and our interpersonal relations.
With that introduction in mind, I propose four truths of mental health:
- Each of us–every single one of the 7.4 billion of us—carries our own propensity for creating mischief for ourselves and others, and each one of us from time to time acts out of that propensity.
- Each of us—every single one of the 7.4 billion of us—spends a fair amount of time in denial about the mischief we’re responsible for.
- The first step on the road to personal wellness is the recognition, admission, and acceptance of those first two truths.
- Each successive step on the road to personal wellness involves the ongoing commitment to notice that mischief when it starts to manifest itself, to say ‘no’ to it, and to choose an alternative action.
Each of us is on a journey of personal wellness—health in mind, body, soul, and interpersonal relations. To the extent to which we embrace these four truths that journey will be more life affirming than otherwise—not without the expected bumps and bruises, and the occasional traumas and tragedies, that naturally attend life on this earth but a journey at the fulfillment of which we can look back and say, with integrity, “I did good.”