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Defining Mental Health

Hey! This is a strength and conditioning website, why are we talking about mental health?

Ok, bare with me on this one, because it’s a total game changer once you understand the implications strength and lifting have on one’s mental health. And don’t worry, this isn’t going to be ad for the benefits of fitness on one’s mental health (and I’m not talking about the limited bullshit of it being a stress reliever. I’m talking, neutralizing depression, ADHD, anxiety, bi-polar, PTSD and more than half of everything else in the DSM-V. That’s vastly out of the scope of THIS site...for now). That’s tired and because of mass media, shallow.

For years, we’ve known the benefits of fitness to mental health or as the tabloids and pseudo-scientists call “stress”.

But keep in mind these articles are coming from journalists in neither the field of strength or mental health, so it’s no wonder their review or synopsis’ are so shallow. So all this begs the question, no necessity, of how we define mental health for the average person.

As government defines it, mental health:

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problem

But what’s this got to do with you? The C.D.C. reports:

...about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.

OK, but how’s this help us define mental health as it pertains to strength and conditioning?!

For our purposes let’s suppose an optimal definition of mental health is the absences of “well-being”; which states:

...the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions, resilience, satisfaction with life domains, or the realization of their potential. Positive evaluations of life including the presence of positive emotions (e.g., happiness, serenity, interest), social ties, and perceptions of life satisfaction and meaning, are commonly referred to as “well-being”.

This definition serves to include the obvious populations of individuals that may suffer from severe debilitating mental illness, (psychosis to name a single), but also encapsulates those that are affected by less obvious appearances (the grieving family of a lost grandparent, the heartbreak from a divorce or just the prolonged stress from financial uncertainties).

Now that we have the definition it is not difficult to realize the CDC may be off by how many people will be removed from a state of “well-being” in their lives; as such it is important to have a front line defense  to combat this inevitability when it arrives.

Coming full circle:

This is why fitness (however you define it, we just so happen to like being strong) is your buffer to limiting the impact of mental illness, and keeping you in a prolonged state of “well-being”.

In our next article we’ll be talking about using fitness as a tool to boasting mental resiliency and how that fortifies a front line defense. It’s no use to having soldiers with no means to fight.

Citation/links in italics:

  1. mentalhealth.gov

  2. cdc.gov

  3. cdc.gov2