DEFINING MENTAL HEALTH: Growing Good Mental Health #2
There are many places you can go to find definitions for mental health:
Webster’s Dictionary, National Department of Health; National Department
of Mental Health to name a few. (For those of you not residing in USA I bet
your national government has an agency that also defines mental health.)
Please refer to these sources if you’re interested in a formal definition. I
have included some in abbreviated versions at the end of this post.
I want to offer you a working definition that helps define daily habits and
practices. This is my interpretation of the definition from William Glasser.
(Part of the definition is also offered at the end of this post.)
But first some questions:
- When was the last time you laughed and had fun? Who were you with?
What were you doing? Was it today? Yesterday? Sometime within this
week? This month? Are you experiencing enough fun in your life?
- When was the last time you felt safe and secure? Do you feel safe and
secure most of the time, or less? Where are you? Do you feel a greater
sense of safety and security being with certain people? Do you feel
unsafe and insecure with certain people? Are you experiencing enough
safety and security in your life?
- When was the last time you felt like your work, your opinion, you being
“there” made a positive difference? Who were you with? Who were you
influencing? Did you feel respected? Was the respect mutual? Are you
experiencing enough power in your life?
- Who is your best friend? Who is the person you tell your secrets to and
share your dreams with? Who is the person you can just be with, in
companionable silence? Are you experiencing enough love, belonging and
connecting in your life?
- Where do you feel like you have choices in your life? Where do you feel
penned in or restricted? Which feeling is greater for you, freedom or
restriction? Do you want more freedom? Do you feel overwhelmed and
frightened by too much freedom?
Choice Theory psychology states that all people are bone with five basic
psychological needs. They are: the need for love and belonging the need
for power that includes power over, power with and power within, the
need for fun, the need for survival that includes safety and security, and
the need for freedom.
You are mentally healthy when you are responsibly and respectfully
meeting your basic needs most every day.
Glasser’s definition begins with, “You are mentally healthy if you enjoy
being with most of the people you know, especially with the important
people in your life . . .” He is referring to our need for love, belonging and
connectedness, He believes and teaches that this is our most important
need of all. COVID-19 gave us enough experiences and evidence of this
fact to last a life time! We were separated from the people we like, love
and are most important to us! I personally was stuck in my home, where I
live with my dog and cat. They are great companions, but simply could not
replace my children, grandchildren, sisters, tennis and choir buddies. Who
did you ache to see, connect with and hug during your COVID isolation?
For me, this resulted in me feeling sad and lonely. Was I mentally
unhealthy or ill? No. I was fortunate enough to connect through phone and
Zoom calls. But it wasn’t the same. I was able to continue my employment
using Zoom, but I missed chatting and connecting in casual chats with my
co-workers in the kitchen fetching a snack or coffee. We were all business
on a Zoom call without any of the usual informal catching and sharing
To help increase your own personal understanding of these ideas, I’m
offering you a homework assignment.
Between now and August 31, (the next time I will post about Growing
Good Mental Health) keep track of how you’re doing meeting your needs
for love, power, fun, survival (safety and security) and freedom. Use a
journal if you like, (I’m an avid journal writer but I know that’s not true for
everyone) or create some kind of a system to help you keep track. Sorry, I
haven’t created a mental health Fitbit yet. (Anyone want to create this with
Please ask questions or leave a message.
This blog originally appeared in drnancybucksubstack.com.
GROWING GOOD MENTAL HEALTH #2
The copyright for this written material remains with the author, Dr Nancy
Buck. It is being reproduced with permission on Stand for the Silent