Mental health is the goal of any good psychotherapy.  So what does it actually mean to be mentally healthy?  Below are some ideas, based on the work of psychologist Jonathan Shedler. He defines a mentally healthy individual as someone who:

  • Generally finds happiness in life’s activities.
  • Can be energetic and socially active.
  • Enjoys challenges and takes pleasure in accomplishing things.
  • Understands their talents and abilities, and is able to make good use of them.
  • Is able to find meaning and satisfaction in the pursuit of long-term goals and ambitions.
  • Is able to understand themselves and others well.
  • Can express themselves well in words.
  • Tends to express emotion appropriately in each situation.
  • Appears to have come to terms with painful experiences from the past, and has grown from such experiences.
  • Appears comfortable in social situations.
  • Is sensitive to other people’s wants, needs, and feelings.
  • Is able to form close and lasting friendships.
  • Has loving relationships with family.
  • Is open to different viewpoints.
  • Can hear information from others that is helpful but challenging, and can benefit from hearing it.
  • Is able to approach problems in new ways when old approaches have failed.
  • Is able to stand up for themselves when necessary.
  • Has moral standards and tries to live up to them.
  • Tends to be responsible.
  • Enjoys belonging to and contributing to a larger community (like a school, church, neighborhood, or organization).
  • Is creative.
  • Appreciates and responds to humor.

Mental health is aspirational — something that we aspire towards. Like physical health, it is always a work in progress and there is always more we can do. Psychotherapy is one way to work towards better and better mental health over time!