A Definition and Theory of Mental Health
Your mental health is reflected in your thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors. Suppose one (or more) of these is causing a problem and you decide to change. What is the most efficient way of doing so? The answer lies in understanding a definition and implementing a theory of mental health. Together, they provide a guide to where the trouble lies and what is needed to make positive changes.
First, a definition:
Mental health is the state of mind determined by the correlation between inbornintentions and basic beliefs.
Next, a theory:
The higher the positive correlation between inbornintentions and basic beliefs, the healthier one’s mental health, and vice versa.
Perfect correlation between three inbornintentions (freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment, love) and basic beliefs is impossible because you are likely to hold basic beliefs required by legal, moral or societal standards that require your basic beliefs to be contrary to what you would otherwise choose for yourself. Thus, your mental health must always be somewhat compromised.
Even though perfect mental health is not possible because perfect correlation is not possible in practice, the closer to the ideal, the better the quality of life. No one has perfect mental health but anyone can improve in this area.
That said, it is possible to hold basic beliefs that are perfectly consistent with human dignity. No one can control your beliefs about yourself! You are always free to believe yourself to be a worthwhile human being based on the immutability of human dignity. Nothing affects your human dignity: not your accomplishments (or lack thereof), not your ability or willingness to choose (even when restricted by circumstances), not your behaviors (even if contemptible and deserving of judgment and punishment). Your worldview does not affect your human dignity (whether you love or hate anything outside yourself)! Human dignity is immutable.
Mental health is not defined by describing how someone behaves, feels or thinks or how he/she is able to cope with the vicissitudes of life. Attempts to define mental health that way are common but they explain nothing, have no predictive value and offer no guidance for change.
An even less useful definition is to state that mental health is simply the absence of mental illness. Stating what it isn’t offers no insight as to what it is. Mental illness and mental health are separate entities and need to be considered separately. It will help to understand this concept if you’ll wrap your mind around this thought: one can be completely free of mental illness and still have poor mental health or one can be mentally ill and still have healthy mental health!
To repeat, mental health is the state of mind determined by the correlation between inbornintentions and basic beliefs. The higher the positive correlation, the healthier one’s mental health, and vice versa.
How to improve mental health
When you identify a though, feeling, attitude or behavior in yourself that you would like to change, follow these four steps:
- First, understand the concepts of inbornintentions and basic beliefs and accept their existence in yourself and others (if you have not done so already).
- Next, use introspection to identify a subconscious basic belief that is contrary to or inconsistent with an inbornintention.
- Then, formulate a cognitive belief that 1) is contrary to the problematic basic belief just identified and 2) is consistent with an inbornintention.
- Finally, construct and practice new experiences that reinforce the new cognitive belief until it is integrated into your subconscious as a basic belief!
When your basic beliefs are in harmony with the inbornintentions, expect strong self-confidence, greater pride in your accomplishments, improved relationships and an enhanced quality of life! You’ll even sleep better! Your thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors will be more in harmony with what you want for yourself and for those within your sphere of influence. You will enjoy healthy mental health.
Questions for your consideration and comment
You wrote down your answers to the following questions after reading the segment on inbornintentions. Before reviewing your earlier answers, answer them again in writing.
- What is your self-concept? What do you think of yourself? Who are you?
- Do you make choices freely, without restriction?
- Do you have a positive view of others and of the world outside yourself?
- Do you accomplish tasks to your own satisfaction?
Now compare the results. How have they changed? Consider how they will, or can, change with further practice. Mark your calendar to come back and do the exercise again in six months. In a year.
All this takes time, energy and perseverance to accomplish. Not only that, but you are likely to sabotage your own efforts because you will subconsciously perceive change as a threat… bringing on anxiety and a defense mechanism that prevents the very change that you want to make!
This makes anxiety a factor in efforts to improve mental health. We’ll examine that complexity in the following section.
For the segment on How Anxiety Affects Mental Health, click here.