Consider different perspectives, says clinical psychologist Kimberley Carder

What is good mental health and how do you define it? 

Measuring mental health is trickier than measuring other types of health—one’s physical health status can be determined by a series of biological tests.

Mental health and mental wellbeing, however, are a bit trickier. Feelings can be hard to recognise for some people, and the severity of negative feelings could also be hard to track and measure. 

We ask Kimberley Carder, a clinical psychologist at Hong Kong-based psychology practice MindnLife, to learn how she measures mental health when working with her clients. 

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How good mental health is defined

“When people come into therapy, my working definition of good mental health is: how many multitudes of perspectives are you able to truly consider?” Carder says. 

People with higher mental well-being may be able to consider alternative ways of viewing one story and perceive them in a more positive light, says Carder. “When our mental health is in a poor place, we have very rigid and fixed thinking. Good mental health is being able to truly consider another perspective, like— ‘Maybe it was more like this’, or ‘perhaps I've got blinders on.’”

Pondering a different way to perceive something to make it hurt less is something that may come up, she adds. “People whose mental health isn't in a good place refuse that.” 

“It’s my measure of where clients are at mentally when they talking through the issues that are hurting them the most,” she says. 

Why do people with poorer mental well-being have trouble considering another perspective?

“We become quite attached to our pain. In some ways, our pain can become quite seductive, because it knows how to lure us in,” Carder says.

“It’s usually when we look at therapy from a cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) model, or we’re looking at the thought process that people are attached to—sometimes we’re attached to things even though they hurt us. And we don't even realise that.” CBT is a form of therapy based on the theory that works with people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Three tips to achieve better mental health, according to Carder

  1. “When you notice yourself being caught in certain thought patterns, give yourself time to hit the pause button and truly consider different perspectives and different degrees of outlook.”
  2. Creating a routine—such as getting out of bed at 7:30am—or not drinking on a work night could also be very beneficial to your mental health. “Our brain loves patterns.” Finding things that matter to you and holding yourself accountable to your goals may help you feel more fulfilled in life. 
  3. “Make the days count,” Carder says. “It's so easy these days for everything to just mush into one. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “What was your highlight of the day? What was your favourite part of the day that went well? Scan the day for things that you enjoy because it's easy to pull down to the lowest common denominator right now.”

If you’re currently in a mental health crisis, please contact Hong Kong’s Clinical Psychological Service of the Social Welfare Department at +852 2343 2255 for free professional help and advice. For emergency services, please visit the government’s Department of Health emergency hotline page.


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