When it comes to mental health there’s a definite difference between mental health vs mental illness but there’s also quite a range of difference along the continuum between good mental health through to poor mental health.
At its most basic, mental health can be defined as ‘the absence of mental illness’ but that’s a bit too simplistic. For instance you’ll know quite a few people without a mental illness but if I asked you to line them up in order of ‘most mentally healthy’ to ‘least mentally healthy’ you’d probably have an opinion and some idea of how to do that.
It would be the same with physical health. If I gave you a group of people without physical illness and asked you to line them up in order of most to least physically healthy you’d go about the task, probably mostly relying on sight as a means to gauge body toning, where they’re carrying extra weight, the shape of their body, complexion, stature, brightness of the eyes, etc.
Just as being without physical illness doesn’t mean you have excellent physical health, being without mental illness doesn’t mean you have excellent mental health either – some people have poorer mental health than others but they’re not mentally ill.
What contributes to better mental health needs more of an explanation than I can give here but psychotherapy believes our childhood experiences have a lot to do with it. Nevertheless we're influenced by all sorts of experiences through our lifespan and we're all born with our unique characters. Still we would all benefit from a nurturing environment which provides the support necessary to help our helps us navigate through the trials and tribulations in life. When we get that supportive environment it helps us learn to trust ourselves and it helps us understand how to respond to life's challenges in a thoughtful way rather than react out of habit. When we're thoughtlessly reactive we're more at risk of acting thoughtlessly and in a way which may further complicate the situation.
If we recognise at some point that we didn't have a supportive environment as a child or if we struggle at a certain point in our lives we need to seek assistance so we can develop those underdeveloped areas of our character.
Just like those who work to develop and maintain their physical health, people who want better mental health need to work at it as well.