In physical health, benchmarks such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are often used to measure well-being. But the metrics are less tangible when it comes to mental health, making it challenging to gauge progress. How do we define “good” mental health? And how can one self-assess their mental health status in daily life?
What is good mental health?
Before diving into metrics, defining what good mental health looks like is crucial. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises their abilities, can cope with the everyday stresses of life, works productively, and contributes to the community.
Based on this, some core components of good mental health include:
- Emotional well-being. A generally upbeat mood and outlook, resilience, and healthy emotional regulation
- Cognitive functioning. Ability to focus, problem-solve, and engage in complex thinking
- Social competence. Capability to form and maintain fulfilling relationships
- Psychological flexibility. The skill to adapt to change and bounce back from adversity
Traditional metrics for measuring mental health
Traditional methods like psychological assessments, scales, and surveys such as the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) or the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) are commonly used to evaluate mental health. While these tools are clinically validated and helpful, they are not always accessible or applicable for self-assessment in daily life.
Everyday metrics for self-assessment
- Mood fluctuations. If you find yourself consistently happy during the weekdays and not just on weekends, that’s a positive sign.
- Reaction to stress. Being stuck in traffic used to ruin your day, but now you listen to a podcast and stay calm.
- Concentration levels. You successfully finish reading a book you’ve been putting off, indicating improved focus.
- Decision-making. Choosing a restaurant for dinner no longer feels like an overwhelming task.
- Social interactions. You begin to engage more in social activities and feel genuinely excited about them.
- Conflict resolution. A disagreement with a friend is resolved through a calm and rational conversation rather than heated arguments.
- Adaptability. A sudden change in weekend plans doesn’t ruin your mood, showing your adaptability.
- Life satisfaction. You start feeling content with your work-life balance, indicating holistic satisfaction.
- Adaptability. How well you adapt to changes or unexpected events is a sign of mental resilience.
- Life satisfaction. Overall satisfaction with different aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and self, can be a holistic metric.
Self-reflective practices such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness can be employed to track these metrics. Here’s how:
- Journaling. Write down your daily experiences, emotional states, and thoughts. Look for patterns over time to identify areas of improvement or stability.
- Mindfulness and meditation. Practising mindfulness can help you become more aware of your current mental state. Apps that prompt you to check in emotionally can provide valuable data.
- Self-checklists. Create weekly or monthly checklists using the metrics listed above. Evaluate yourself and see how you fare over time.
When to seek professional help
Despite the utility of self-assessment, it’s essential to consult professionals for a thorough evaluation, especially if you notice a declining trend or if symptoms persist. Consult a healthcare provider if you notice a declining trend in your self-assessment or persistent symptoms.
Measuring mental health is a complex, multifaceted undertaking beyond standardised tests and clinical diagnoses. While these tools offer valuable insights, tracking everyday metrics offers an additional layer of understanding, empowering individuals to take charge of their mental well-being.
By utilising these metrics and incorporating self-reflective practices, individuals can gain a more comprehensive view of their mental health. Yet, it’s crucial to remember that self-assessment is a supplement, not a substitute, for professional evaluation and treatment. Therefore, regular check-ins with healthcare providers remain indispensable for a holistic approach to mental health.
In this ever-evolving field, the exploration of more nuanced metrics and self-assessment techniques continues to expand, making it an exciting time for anyone interested in mental health research and self-improvement.
Remember, the journey towards good mental health is an ongoing process, but it is a wholly achievable goal with the right tools and mindset.
Maxwell E. Guttman, LCSW is a psychotherapist and owner of Recovery Now, a mental health private practice in New York City.