The mind is a powerful machine. Most students tend to see their minds as an object that provides them with the tools they need to succeed and foster innovation, but our minds also have the capability to detrimentally affect our perception of the world. It can cause us to question our fundamental instincts, doubt our own intelligence, and even drive us insane. In these situations, the mind exerts a negative influence over our body and does more harm than good. Ultimately, this can push individuals toward a more secluded lifestyle and catalyze their separation from society. As Berkeley students, we’ve all had that one experience where we run across a homeless person on Telegraph who seems to have completely lost his sense of self. He has no awareness of social norms and can barely remember English. As human beings, it is natural for us to ponder his deindividuated persona: what changed his life so significantly? Why does he act the way he does? How can someone be so different? It is through questions like these that we gain an insight into the mind’s negative potential and learn about the true importance of mental health.
There is no way to accurately define mental health because it represents an abstract branch of science. In the most basic sense, it refers to the way we think, feel, and act when faced with life’s daily struggles. Mental health is a critical aspect of everyone’s life, yet it often goes unrecognized by many. Most people are more concerned about infectious diseases and epidemics raging around the world. Who has time to worry about their own minds when they’re concerned about the threat of cancer, diabetes, and the millions of other diseases out there, right? Wrong. It has been shown that mental health correlates very closely with physical health; the way people think strongly influences their daily routine and overall perception of others. And why shouldn’t it? We’ve all grown up under the natural assumption that our actions are shaped by our thoughts. What’s even more interesting is that having good mental health also significantly decreases one’s chance of contracting those same diseases that everyone fears. Talk about a circular remedy.
College students tend to have the best understanding of mental health because they experiment with it every day. Staying up all night to cram, over-analyzing every homework problem, or even attempting to make the faintest sense of Schrödinger’s infamous equation. It’s safe to say that we all have days where we question our own mentality and intuition; however, what most students don’t realize is that even a small amount of negative thinking can have great implications. Our mind can get into a cycle—one that starts to lose focus and spirals out of control. In the end, it could culminate in a mental disorder, which occurs when the negative thoughts of our mind start to have noticeable impacts on our behavior. Granted, this is a rather extreme case, but my whole point is to raise awareness and not to instill fear. So many of us take our mental well-being for granted and, in doing so, lose sight of its true value. Thus, by being informed, students like us become aware of our mental well-being and start to understand the implications of our actions.
So, I suppose that brings us to the question: what defines “good” mental health? Now, I can write an entire different post on this, but the simple answer is optimism. Sure, this might be hard to do, especially with all the killer midterms we all have to deal with, but it’s not impossible. Optimism incorporates a wide range of attributes. It pushes us to pursue what we love and see disappointment as a way to improve our individualities. It gives us a different perspective—one that emphasizes resilience and determination. So next time you’re not down in the dumps, take a moment to acknowledge how far you’ve come and what you have to be proud of. And by doing so, you’ll not only feel better but also take the first step in enhancing your mental health.
- Mental Health and Mental Disorders from Healthy People by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services <http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=28>
Article by Prerak Juthani
Feature Image Source: Financial Tribune