What is at the Core of Mental Wellness?

Mental wellness is the ability of an individual to be aware and mindful of their thoughts and understand that they can influence emotions and behaviours. From a psychological perspective, this is known as a cognitive-behavioural model of wellbeing. In other words, a mentally healthy individual can monitor and regulate their thoughts to achieve the desired emotional and behavioural response (Neenan 2017). This definition of mental wellness describes the way I practice wellbeing and will give an example to illustrate how thoughts are, in fact, at the core of everything.

Recently, I had a work-related task that was supposed to be completed by the end of the week. Given that I also had my assignments pending, I started to have worrisome thoughts about my ability to complete the work tasks on time. I came to the realisation that I couldn't meet my deadlines. I started thinking that my professors would get cross, and my boss would definitely fire me! As a result, I procrastinated (behaviour) the whole day. The next day, I adjusted my thoughts and tried thinking more positively about it. For instance, what would I be learning from this assignment and what opportunities might it bring for me? From there, I was able to set myself a schedule (behaviour) for the week, which included waking up earlier than usual every day to complete my work-related task. I became more solution-focused, felt more confident and more in control—hence experiencing wellbeing (Shojaee 2014).

World Health Organisation defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and can make a contribution to his or her community’ (WHO 2018). At the same time, a mental disorder is ‘characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others’ (WHO 2019). The illness-wellness continuum created by Dr John Travis (1972) was made for the purpose of inspiring people rather than treating them. There is mental ill-health like depression and anxiety at one end of the continuum, whereas at the other end, there are states of positive mental health where people thrive and flourish. We move through this continuum based on factors such as previous life experiences and current life circumstances. Each individual tries to push up the continuum towards mental wellness to achieve their full potential and live a satisfying life. 

We experience various emotions like anger, sadness, happiness, worry, fear, etc. A mentally healthy individual can experience all these emotions and not get too overwhelmed by them. However, mental illness is experienced when these emotions become severe, and the individual loses the ability to engage in daily activities and functions. If this persists over time, it can significantly impact family, work, and social responsibilities. For instance, a depressed individual will be occupied with thoughts of not being good enough (e.g. ‘it's all my fault’ or ‘what is the point?’), which forms a vicious cycle that may sometimes become hard to control. As a result, they might withdraw (behaviour) from friends, work, and family duties. An individual who is mentally ill has little control over their thoughts and struggle with regulating them. This is where individuals seek psychological therapy, which is mainly focused on changing perceptions and thought processes to feel good about themselves. This allows them to begin to move towards the other side of the continuum—to experience mental wellness. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy aims to improve mental health by identifying and challenging unhelpful and faulty thoughts, to produce change in emotions and behaviours. 

In summary, both mental illness and wellness can be described in terms of the person's ability to exercise control over their thoughts. When successfully managing thoughts by becoming aware of them, wellbeing is experienced—this can be observed in their emotional and behavioural states. Alternatively, when the individual loses control over their thoughts, they experience mental ill-health.

References
Neenan M (2017) Developing resilience: A cognitive-behavioural approach. Routledge.

Shojaee M and French C (2014) The relationship between mental health components and locus of control in youth, Psychology.

Travis, J.W., 1972. The wellness/illness continuum, Mill Valley, CA.

WHO (2018), Mental health: strengthening our response, <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response>, accessed 15 July 2021.

WHO (2019) Mental disorders, World Health Organization, accessed 15 July 2021.

One thought on “What is at the Core of Mental Wellness?

  1. Describe well the reason of illness but I am looking forward how to overcome with that situation rapidly, link and the references are valuable but suffering personnel wouldn’t go through to find out the solution rather looking for quick action simply says “ready to apply”.

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