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  • So efficient and hushed are our  brains in their day to day operations,  

  • we are apt to miss what an extraordinary  and complicated achievement it is to feel  

  • mentally well. A mind in a healthy state isin the background, continually performing  

  • a near-miraculous set of manoeuvres that underpin  our moods of clear-sightedness and purpose.

  • To appreciate what mental health might be  

  • (and therefore what its opposite  involves), we might take a moment  

  • to consider some of what will be going on in  the folds of an optimally-functioning mind:

  • First and foremost, a healthy mind is an  editing mind, an organ that manages to sieve,  

  • from thousands of stray, dramatic, disconcerting  or horrifying thoughts, those particular ideas and  

  • sensations that actively need to be entertained  in order for us to direct our lives effectively.

  • Partly this means keeping at bay punitive  and critical judgements that might want to tell  

  • us repeatedly how disgraceful and appalling we  are - long after harshness has ceased to serve  

  • any useful purpose. When we are interviewing  for a new job or taking someone on a date,  

  • a healthy mind doesn't force  us to listen to inner voices  

  • that insist on our unworthiness. It allows us  to talk to ourselves as we would to a friend.

  • At the same time, a healthy mind  resists the pull of unfair comparisons.  

  • It doesn't constantly allow the achievements  and successes of others to throw us off course  

  • and reduce us to a state of bitter inadequacy.  

  • It doesn't torture us by continually comparing  our condition to that of people who have,  

  • in reality, had very different upbringings and  trajectories through life. A well-functioning  

  • mind recognises the futility and cruelty of  constantly finding fault with its own nature.

  • Along the way, a healthy mind keeps  a judicious grip on the faucet of fear.  

  • It knows that, in theory, there is an endless  number of things that we could worry about:  

  • a blood vessel might fail, a scandal might eruptthe plane's engines could sheer from their wings…  

  • But it has a good sense of the distinction between  what could conceivably happen and what is in fact  

  • likely to happen - and it is able to leave us in  peace as regards the wilder eventualities of fate,  

  • confident that awful things will either not  unfold or could be dealt with ably enough  

  • if ever they did so. A healthy mind avoids  catastrophic imaginings: it knows that there  

  • are broad and stable stone steps, not a steep and  slippery incline, between itself and disaster.

  • A healthy mind has compartments with heavy  doors that shut securely. It can compartmentalise  

  • where it needs to. Not all thoughts belong at  all moments. While talking to a grandmother,  

  • the mind prevents the emergence of images of  last's nights erotic fantasies; while looking  

  • after a child, it can repress its more cynical  and misanthropic insights. Aberrant thoughts about  

  • jumping on a train line or harming oneself with  a sharp knife can remain brief peculiar flashes  

  • rather than repetitive fixations. A healthy  mind has mastered the techniques of censorship.

  • A healthy mind can quieten its own buzzing  preoccupations in o rder, at times, to focus on  

  • the world beyond itself. It can be present and  engaged with what and who is immediately around.  

  • Not everything it could feel has to be felt  at every moment. It can be a good listener.

  • A healthy mind combines an  appropriate suspicion of certain people  

  • with a fundamental trust in humanity.  

  • It can take an intelligent risk with a strangerIt doesn't extrapolate from life's worst moments  

  • in order to destroy the possibility of  anything good emerging with a new acquaintance.

  • A healthy mind knows how to hope;  

  • it identifies and then hangs on tenaciously tofew reasons to keep going. Grounds for despair,  

  • anger and sadness are, of course, all around. But  the healthy mind knows how to bracket negativity  

  • in the name of endurance. It clings to  evidence of what is still beautiful and kind.  

  • It remembers to appreciate; it can - despite  everything - still look forward to a hot bath,  

  • some dried fruit or dark chocolate, a chat withfriend, or a satisfying day of work. It refuses to  

  • let itself be silenced by all the many sensible  arguments in favour of rage and despondency.

  • Outlining some of the features of a healthy  mind helps us to identify what can go awry  

  • when we fall ill. We should acknowledge the extent  to which mental illness is ultimately as common,  

  • and as essentially unshamefulas its bodily counterpart.  

  • True mental health involves a frank acceptance  

  • of how much ill health there will have to be in  even the most ostensibly competent and meaningful  

  • life. And we should be no more reluctant to  seek help than we are when we develop a chest  

  • infection or a sore knee - and should consider  ourselves no less worthy of love and sympathy.

So efficient and hushed are our  brains in their day to day operations,  

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B2 mind healthy mental mental health health functioning

What Is Mental Health?

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/07
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