When we hear the words mental health, most of us unconsciously translate the term to refer to mental illness. If one is pursuing mental health they must be lacking in it and therefore somehow mentally ill. The unfortunate stigma that surrounds the concept of mental health prevents many of us from not only seeking help when needed but also from reaping the benefits of being truly mentally healthy.
Often healthcare is focused on the resolution of disease. Programs aimed at prevention are still focused on disrupting a potential pattern of disease or disorder. Rarely do we discuss the systemic optimization of the human mind and body.
I often ask my clients where they are aiming in their life. If one is aimed at not being sick, they are not necessarily aiming in the direction of optimal health, longevity and peace of mind.
We live in a time of fast food, busy schedules, social media, instant access and instant gratification. Our grocery store shelves are filled with frank-n-foods and the minds of our younger generations filled with YouTube videos of other people watching YouTube videos of other people playing video games. In the same way that we need to teach our children physical habits that promote health and longevity, we also need to teach them habits of mind that promote the same things. As adults, professionals, parents, citizens and community leaders we are responsible for teaching our youth about inherent worth, healthy boundaries, imperfection, interdependence and moderation.
There is no stigma in optimizing your health. Mental or otherwise.
If we intend to prevent some of the tragedies that flood our 24 hour news cycles, we need to turn our attention to where it is we are aiming. Optimizing mental health and healthy habits of the mind must be a part of that vision.