What Is Mental Health?

16 Signs of Psychological Wellness

Alina | Psychodynamic Psychology


Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

What is mental health? What does psychological wellness feel like? Happiness? Mastering all negative emotions? It’s tricky, isn’t it.

Only very recently has there even been an interest in understanding mental wellness — mostly pioneered by the positive psychology movement.

Before, the focus was always more on mental illness and even worse: in an effort to improve the diagnosis of mental illness, there was an increasing movement towards external observable symptoms. And a movement away from internal experiences.

All that makes it really hard to put words to the question: What are our inner experience and abilities when we are psychologically well?

For a long time mental health has been understood as being free from symptoms. No anxiety, sleep problems, or distrubing impulses, sadness.

But thriving in life has to be more than just freedom from something. If we look at living a meaningful life grounded in psychological wellness, we want freedom to love, work, play.

This article and video above are inspired by and a summary of a brilliant lecture given by master clinician Nancy McWilliams (plus some of my own musings). In her lecture, she put together 16 signs of mental health that I want to share with you in this article.

You know those quotes that are attributed to famous people but you don’t know whether they really said that? Freud has a few of those and one of those is:

“Health is the ability to love and work.” — Sigmund Freud (apparently 😉)

1. Capacity to Love

Mental health involves the capacity to love. That is not just being able to engage in authentic intimate romantic relationships. It’s also the ability to have deep friendships, the ability for devotion required to raise children. This already hints at the fact that mental health is not just happiness. Relationships are hard, raising children…