Defining "mental health"
I find the way conventional "Western / biomolecular" medicine defines "mental health" to be very, very strange.
First, it is commonly understood that DSM-V diagnoses such as "Major Depression Disorder (MDD)," and "Generalized Anxiety Disorder" are made by addressing various criteria and this approach is commonly regarded as being authoritative.
For example, MDD (by definition) is associated with changes in
- emotion - ex. depressed mood
- behavioral/action - ex. sleeping significantly less or more
- body - ex. weight changes
- cognition - ex. diminished ability to think
MDD affects the entire person, yet for an unclear, baffling reason, the medical profession considers MDD a "mental disorder." To me, it is just an awful name and does not really explain anything.
My definition: mental health is having a consonant structure/function of cognition and thinking that is optimized for the individual. (CF Osteopathic tenet "Structure and function are interrelated")
A person's mental health is poor if they are unaware of and/or limited by
1) self-sabotaging and self-deceptive thoughts
2) automatic thoughts
3) false/incorrect beliefs
4) cognitive biases
1) unclear or incomplete thinking and reasoning
2) decreased ability to recall memories, knowledge
3) decreased ability to form/keep new memories, knowledge
4) decreased ability to innovate by accessing knowledge, memory etc.
5) decreased insight to oneself and make the best decision.
A mentally healthy person is
1) aware and observant of their thoughts and whether they are valid or not
2) able to internally ascertain the truth of their thoughts/beliefs
3) able to optimally develop the ability to access and make new memories/knowledge and use them to formulate a solution/conclusion
My definition does not say anything about the body, emotions, behavior, or psyche.
- I believe that these aspects of a person are intimately related and inseparable, but this formulation/model gives us insight into a useful systematic approach
- I believe it is beneficial to consider aspects of psychic health and mental health separately.
In other words, imbalance within any of the following can "cause" Major Depression Disorder: body, psyche, emotion, cognition, spirit.
My "mental health" refers specifically to the structure and function of cognition and thoughts that is internally valid.
So how do you improve your mental health?
1) observe and be aware of your own thoughts, beliefs, biases
2) determine which of those thoughts, beliefs, biases are harmful / wrong and eliminate them (this last step requires elements outside of mental health)
3) continually access and form new memories/knowledge
4) continually update structure of thoughts/beliefs/biases and memories/knowledge, which allows improved functioning (problem solving, innovation, pattern finding, etc)
Sorry if I made this sound simple, because it quite difficult to do.