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Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental health is about more than mental illness

When we think of mental health, we often think of mental illness. But there is more to mental health than not being ill – there is all that makes us healthy mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and in our relationships with others. Mental health includes cognitive fitness, emotional well-being, adapting to life’s challenges, balancing multiple roles, and having fulfilling relationships with others and ourselves.  

  • Cognitive fitness means how well the brain performs its many tasks, such as memory, concentration, logic and processing. Cognitive fitness means being able to think through problems, find solutions, and tackle novel situations with creativity. These cognitive skills might sound like they should be on auto-pilot, but they are easily influenced by factors such as fatigue and stress. Most people have had the experience of forgetting things or being unable to concentrate or make decisions when under pressure. Impaired cognitive skills are also common in mental illnesses such as depression.
  • Emotional well-being is the acceptance of one’s self and being comfortable with who you are, as well as being able to experience a wide range of emotions and manage those feelings constructively. Emotionally well people are able to accept and express their own feelings. Important aspects of emotional well-being include having goals and pursuing them, and participating in a variety of healthy relationships. Mental illnesses often affect one’s emotional well-being. Some people feel too much, others feel numb or disconnected; some are worried, and others are blue. Experiencing any of these from time to time is normal and part of responding to life’s challenges. But when it is pervasive or unrelenting, it may be indicative of a more serious mental health difficulty.
  • Psychological health means adapting to and responding to life’s challenges without being overwhelmed. It involves growing in response to challenges and developing new aspects of yourself. Good mental health doesn’t mean that problems won’t arise in life – setbacks beyond our control affect everyone from time to time. In addition to setbacks, we also get positive surprises in life. Coping with and adapting to changes and crises is part of good mental health.
  • Most women play more than one role in life: professional roles, family roles, community roles, and personal roles. It can sometimes be challenging to be many things at once, and finding a balance between responsibilities is a life skill that many women must actively cultivate.
  • Having meaningful relationships in life is an integral part of our mental health. As women, our relationships can be a great source of fulfillment. Conversely, when there is a disruption or crisis in a relationship we can experience a significant amount of stress.   

How to cultivate good mental health?

Our mental health is influenced by many factors, including stress, hormones, life stages and life events, relationships, family and spirituality. Just as we can pursue physical fitness by taking care of our bodies, we can also pursue optimum mental health by taking care of our minds. In fact, there is a lot of crossover between the two: factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep are essential to both body and mind.

Good physical health can be thought of as more than being able to lift a certain weight or run a certain distance. Rather, it is often about the broader aspects of health, such as being physically strong and resilient, and experiencing physical fulfillment. The same can be said of good mental health: personal, professional, familial, and spiritual pursuits can help foster emotional richness, balance, and enhance your well-being and resiliency.

In terms of enjoying the triumphs of daily life, as well as coping with its challenges, it’s crucial to take care of your mental health. There is no doubt that our level of mental fitness and emotional well-being affects how we live our lives, how we function in relationships, how we cope with stressful events, and how we tackle our daily activities.


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital