Definitions of mental health are changing. It used to be that a person was considered to have good mental health simply if they showed no signs or symptoms of a mental illness. But in recent years, there has been a shift towards a more holistic approach to mental health.

Today, we recognize that good mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. Nor is it absolute – some people are more mentally healthy than others, whether you are mentally ill or not. These realizations are prompting a new kind of focus on mental health that identifies components of mental wellness and mental fitness and explore ways to encourage them.

Consider these key characteristics when assessing your own mental health:

  • Ability to enjoy life – Can you live in the moment and appreciate the “now”? Are you able to learn from the past and plan for the future without dwelling on things you can’t change or predict?
  • Resilience – Are you able to bounce back from hard times? Can you manage the stress of a serious life event without losing your optimism and a sense of perspective?
  • Balance – Are you able to juggle the many aspects of your life? Can you recognize when you might be devoting too much time to one aspect, at the expense of others? Are you able to make changes to restore balance when necessary?
  • Self-actualization – Do you recognize and develop your strengths so that you can reach your full potential?
  • Flexibility – Do you feel, and express, a range of emotions? When problems arise, can you change your expectations – of life, others, yourself – to solve the problem and feel better?

You can gauge your mental health by thinking about how you coped with a recent difficulty. Did you feel there was no way out of the problem and that life would never be normal again? Were you unable to carry on with work or school? With time, were you able to enjoy your life, family and friendships? Were you able to regain your balance and look forward to the future?

Taking the pulse of mental health brings different results for everyone; it’s unique to the individual. By reflecting on these characteristics, you can recognize your strengths, and identify areas where your level of mental fitness could be improved.

Source: Canadian Mental Health Association. Try the Mental Health Meter.