We hear a lot about mental health these days. But what is it really?
Good mental health means simply:
1. You are able to get along with yourself.
2. You are able to get along with other people.
3. You are able to get along with circumstances.
This is much easier to say than it is to accomplish. It is probable that no one meets these standards at all times, and there are many persons who have a lifelong battle even to approach them. This does not mean that such people are suffering from mental illness.
Many people have the impression that there is great virtue in a completely even disposition, often described in the phrase, "he is always the same." Such a condition would be less ideal than it sounds - it would be extremely monotonous. It is, moreover, entirely unrealistic because everyone is subject to moods. It is not abnormal to have variations in moods. The normal person customarily reacts to circumstances with appropriate moods. But even such an individual may have periods of depression or optimism.
There is a false and unrealistic philosophy of unwarranted optimism known as Pollyannaism. In an imperfect world there are many circumstances about which thoughtful people ought to be unhappy in order to be motivated to do something constructive about the situation.
The opposite extreme is excessive pessimism: looking at the dark and gloomy side of all circumstances, refusing to be comforted when there is sorrow, frustration or trouble and priding one's self on being the sensitive type.
The normal person with good mental health knows that the world contains much evil, but he also observes and appreciates much that is good. He knows that he himself has faults, so he does not expect perfection in others. He endeavors to overcome his own shortcomings, but he does not dwell upon them excessively.
A person with good mental health feels reasonably secure, and therefore has no need to dominate others. He is not tempted to push anybody around, neither does he permit anyone to push him around.
Good mental health and poise means contentment but not stagnation. No one is without worries and discouragements; the test of normality is to be able to deal with them either by removing their cause or learning to live with them. This means that one is not dependent exclusively upon prosperity, security, success, popularity, material possessions or other advantages.
The mentally healthy person puts his principal reliance upon the deeper satisfactions and the spiritual strength which lie in profound religious convictions, a sound philosophy of life, a clear conscience and a high regard for his fellow man.