What Is Mental Health?



Mental health is a state of well-being (happiness) of the mind. Modern humans are not happy with bread alone. We are happy with gourmet meals with complex flavors and tastes, perhaps with a glass of wine, served in pleasant and clean surroundings, often with good company and accompanied with music. The ingredients of this type of happiness are clearly both biological (genetic) and memetic (cultural). Happiness is the state of sustained pleasure, associated with reward, which is an emotion involving brain structures. The emotion of pleasure and reward seems associated with the dopaminergic activation of a circuitous pathway, first involving a descending medial forebrain bundle component and then involving the ascending mesolimbic ventral tegmental pathway eventually activating the dopaminergic nucleus accumbens. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, with its extensive connections with the limbic system, may link the conscious to the unconscious and ascribe meaning to perceptions by associating them with meaningful memes. Vaillant described six models of mental health: (1) mental health as above normal, (2) mental health as positive psychology, (3) mental health as maturity, (4) mental health as social-emotional intelligence, (5) mental health as subjective well-being, and (6) mental health as resilience. All these models of mental health can be achieved when the brain achieves a democracy of competing selfplexes and memes within it.


Mental Health Ventral Tegmental Area Positive Psychology Mirror Neuron Character Strength 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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