Part of the reason Happy was created was to help shape a forward-thinking definition of mental health. Let’s start with what mental health is not. It’s not a measurement of “normal” or a measurement of something being “wrong” with you or an analysis of you by another person.
We define mental health as the practice of being aware of your thoughts, your behavior, your happiness, and your ability to interact and engage in the world the way you want to.
We look at mental health through the same lens as physical health, which is wider understood. Sometimes you have a pain in your arm, stomach, or foot, and you realize there might be an issue to look into. It’s the same thing with mental and emotional health. For example, if I realize I have not felt like my best self lately, and I’m not as excited or happy as I have been or want to be, I will look into it and address it. It’s that simple.
Our mental and emotional health is the basis from which we operate and show up in the world for ourselves, much more so than even our physical health.
Mental health is connected to what we think and feel and how we operate. It is also associated with how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. What’s important to know and understand about mental and emotional health is that you are not your thoughts—the same way that you are not your stomach.
Historically, there has been much cultural importance placed on our brain being the center of who we are and the source of our beliefs, thoughts, and sense of self.
We don’t mean that you can’t trust your thoughts or brain, but you have to see your brain as a part of your body, just like your stomach. Sometimes it works with you, and sometimes it has its own plan. When your stomach is upset, you don’t see it as your stomach turning against you or that you can’t trust it; it is just a circumstance that one of your organs is going through. It’s the same thing for the brain and emotions.
Sometimes we deal with challenging circumstances that can clog our brains, thoughts, and emotions (I’ll skip the second obvious taco reference), and we need to take time to clear them out. Sometimes this happens naturally over time (“time heals all wounds”). And sometimes we need some help, either by a practice of cleaning out our minds, external aids like medication, or a lifestyle and wellness shift, etc.
There are many factors that affect your mental and emotional health.
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, which could be positive or negative (such as trauma or abuse)
All of our life experiences affect us in some way, both negative and positive. The objective of being aware of your mental health is to stop and constantly look at the things you are picking up during your life and decide if you want to keep them or not. Habits, friends, hobbies, trends, thoughts, labels, behaviors—all of it.
When it comes to mental health, we have the ability to take a step back outside ourselves and make choices about who we want to be and how we want to show up.