Is your mind fit and strong — and how would you know?
We tend to judge our mental health by the presence or absence of illness or struggles, rather than gauging what’s working well for us.
That’s a pity because knowing your mental strengths can help you maintain and work on them, which can hugely contribute to your quality of life.
So, luckily for us, Karen Nimmo, Clinical Psychologist has developed a DIY test.
It assesses mental health (and strength) rather than illness (and vulnerability), and includes the key areas clinical psychologists consider when working with people.
The activities of the mind are divided into mood, emotions (or feelings) and thoughts. But Karen has added five categories that further explore mental capacity — and show where people might shine when they’re at the peak of their mental powers.
This is not a Yes or No test because the mind does not (or should not) function in black and white. Give yourself a rating of 1–3 for each of the bold statements below. (1 = excellent; 2 = average; 3 = could-do-better).
TAKE THE MENTAL HEALTH TEST
1. Your Mood.
Everyone has ups and downs. Days when they feel sad, frustrated, content or relaxed. An optimistic, stable outlook has a significant positive spinoff for your mental health. If your mood is stable (within reason), you generally feel good about life, and approach most days with optimism, then give yourself a "1".
2. Your Emotions.
We all have worries and problems that trigger reactions — the important thing is to be able to manage them. If you can express both positive and negative emotion in healthy ways and you can manage your feelings without letting them erode relationships, work and other activities (and your family, boss, workmates and friends would agree) then give yourself a "1".
3. Your Thoughts.
Overthinking and distraction are hugely common in busy lifestyles and can erode performance and peace of mind — as well as eat away at relationships. If your thinking is mainly clear and decisive, you are able to focus and be fully present for whatever you're doing and whoever you're with, and you can think flexibly when the situation requires it, then give yourself a "1".
4. Your Stress Levels.
Stress gets negative press but in reality it's an integral part of life and can aid motivation and achievement. If you are able to manage stress well, you have at least one sound technique to counter stress/calm down (that does not involve vigorous exercise or a screen) — and you consistently remember to use it — then give yourself a "1".
5. Your People.
Our relationships hugely influence our day-to-day levels of happiness (and distress). If you feel positive about your key relationships (partners, children, parents, close friends) and spend time more with people who enhance your life than those who detract from it, and you do what you can to make your key relationships rich and rewarding, then give yourself a "1".
Your feelings about yourself can be protective in tough times and undermine you in times of struggle. If you like yourself, you have an inner critic and are able to silence or move past it, you enjoy spending time alone, free of guilt and angst, and you would enjoy being friends with yourself, then give yourself a "1".
7. Your Future.
One of the hallmarks of sound mental health is having an optimistic view of the future. If you see your future as hopeful, you are excited about your plans, possibilities and dreams, and building a life that feels meaningful to you, then give yourself a "1".
8. Your Extra Dimension.
This includes the ability to dream (in daylight hours) to think creatively, to invent things, to come up with fresh ideas. If you have great ideas, able to act on some of them, and have at least one healthy outlet for your creativity, then give yourself a "1". Note: all forms of creativity count. Answering I’m not creative earns you 3 points. Everyone is creative is some way.
Top of the class. You’re in great mental shape. Try to identify why this is so, and if it has always been this way, because your answers hold the key to what works for you. And that will help you to replicate and maintain it — and return to it when times are tough.
Middle of the Pack. You’re doing okay and any struggles might be due to current issues in your life. Take time to identify (a) your best areas so you can maintain them and (b) your biggest struggles so that you can put a little more focus on that part of your mental health. Pick one area and aim to get up the grid for next year.
Hmm. There’s room for improvement, but you don’t need me to tell you that. This result doesn’t mean you’re unwell, just that you possibly need a friendly ear and some guidance as to how to make things better. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re worth it.
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