A Holistic View of Mental Health
How do you define mental health? Some people may think of mental health as being solely about emotions, mood, or thought patterns. However, mental health is much more complex than just feeling happy and thinking clearly. In order to see progress in therapy for mental health, it’s important that your therapist look at you holistically. As a therapist, my job is to assess different aspects of mental health and help you identify areas that need love and healing. Here are a few different aspects of mental health:
Your biology, your brain, and your mental health can’t be separated. The biological aspect of mental health includes things like brain structure and functionality, neurotransmitter production, medication use, exposure to toxins, sleep, nutrition and nutritional deficiency, movement, and nervous system function. We can talk for hours about your frustrations with, for example, your job. You’ll probably learn a lot in these conversations too! But, if your nervous system is in constant fight/flight mode due to trauma or your brain isn’t producing serotonin appropriately, you will probably still struggle with your mental health.
You’re probably pretty familiar with this aspect of mental health. The psychological part of mental health includes things like personality traits, mood, emotions, thoughts, memories, etc. Difficult emotions and poor mood are two very common reasons people come to therapy. Examples of emotions include anger, fear, joy, sadness, frustration, boredom, etc. Emotions arise as a result of internal or external stimuli. Emotions typically don’t last very long. Mood is a more stable, long lasting emotional state. So, if you feel briefly irritated in traffic, that’s an emotion. If you feel irritated all day by everything, that’s a mood state.
There’s a quote that is often misattributed to Freud that goes something like “before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes.” I’ll be the first to admit that this approach to mental health is a vast oversimplification. However... It’s also not totally wrong. It’s very hard to thrive in your mental health if your life is dominated by toxic, unsupportive, unsatisfying relationships. Humans evolved in tribes and are highly social creatures. Lack of meaningful social connection is a major contributing factor to mental illness.
Bigger social issues also come into play here. Discrimination, oppression, war, poverty, community safety, educational access, and access to other resources are all aspects of the social system that vastly impact mental health. The work you do in therapy can help you learn and grow in so many ways. But it is also vital that therapists, clients, and all people advocate for social change that supports the wellness of everyone.
Spirituality isn’t just about religion. I define spirituality as a feeling that you are connected to something bigger and that your life has purpose and meaning. Things like your values, your beliefs, and your life purpose all come into play with spirituality. There are many people who have what they describe as a life that looks good on paper, yet they struggle to feel happy and satisfied. Nothing is obviously wrong but something is still missing. If this sounds like you, maybe the spiritual aspect of your mental health needs some care.
Caring for your whole self
This is not an exhaustive list of things that impact mental health but rather some different categories that may need support when you feel your mental health is suffering. You may notice that some of these are working well for you but others are not. Or, you may feel that you could use some support in all the different areas. Either way, therapy can be a valuable tool to help you heal and reach your goals. If you notice that this content resonates with you, please reach out to me today to discuss how I can help.