Welcome to 2016. To ring in the new year, I want to share with you a conceptualization of “mental health” that is pretty comprehensive. From a February–March 2010 article by Jonathan Shedler in American Psychologist entitled “The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”, below is a list of characteristics and attributes that a mentally healthy person might possess. A mentally healthy person:
- Is able to use his/her talents, abilities, and energy effectively and productively.
- Enjoys challenges; takes pleasure in accomplishing things.
- Is capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship characterized by genuine intimacy and caring.
- Finds meaning in belonging and contributing to a larger community (e.g., organization, church, neighborhood).
- Is able to find meaning and fulfillment in guiding, mentoring, or nurturing others.
- Is empathic; is sensitive and responsive to other people’s needs and feelings.
- Is able to assert him/herself effectively and appropriately when necessary.
- Appreciates and responds to humor.
- Is capable of hearing information that is emotionally threatening (i.e., that challenges cherished beliefs, perceptions, and self-perceptions) and can use and benefit from it.
- Appears to have come to terms with painful experiences from the past; has found meaning in and grown from such experiences.
- Is articulate; can express self well in words.
- Has an active and satisfying sex life.
- Appears comfortable and at ease in social situations.
- Generally finds contentment and happiness in life’s activities.
- Tends to express affect appropriate in quality and intensity to the situation at hand.
- Has the capacity to recognize alternative viewpoints, even in matters that stir up strong feelings.
- Has moral and ethical standards and strives to live up to them.
- Is creative; is able to see things or approach problems in novel ways.
- Tends to be conscientious and responsible.
- Tends to be energetic and outgoing.
- Is psychologically insightful; is able to understand self and others in subtle and sophisticated ways.
- Is able to find meaning and satisfaction in the pursuit of long-term goals and ambitions.
- Is able to form close and lasting friendships characterized by mutual support and sharing of experiences.
It is a rare bird who possesses all of the above, all of the time. Even so, striving to integrate, internalize and live out the above is a worthy goal and the work of a lifetime. Do you recognize yourself in the above list? How so? How much? How often? Is 2016 the year to set some intentions that will allow more of the above to be expressed in you and by you? What could it hurt to pursue acquiring or embodying some (or if you are REALLY ambitions, all) of the above?
Until next time, Peace.