Mental Health Blog

What the Health is Mental Health?

Mental health is pretty complex. It doesn’t help that the definition of mental health seems to change depending on who you ask, unlike physical health, which is a bit easier to grasp. Like physical health, having poor mental health could lead to disease (Prince et al., 2007). About 14% of all diseases are caused by the disabling nature of depression, substance abuse, and psychosis. It is clear that mental health and physical health interact. If physical health refers to the state of your body, then mental health refers to the state of your mind — and that is one very convoluted organ. One way to define mental health is that it is comprised of cognitive, behavioural, and emotional health (Felman & Tee-Melegrito, 2022). What do these things mean, exactly?


Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses” and can cause a “perception, sensation, idea, or intuition” (Oxford Languages, n.d.). In other words, it is about what we see and learn. We use cognition just about every second of every day, even when we dream. It has a strong influence over what we feel, think, and do. Imagine having a very positive experience meeting a doctor at a young age. You experienced the meeting your senses (touch, smell, sight) and thoughts. This could influence your life in a very strong way — such is the power of cognition.

As you can see, cognition occurs almost all the time. What, then, is cognitive health? It is comprised of having the ability to think clearly, learn, and remember (National Institute on Aging, 2020). A lack in any of these departments would indicate poor cognitive health. Physical activity, a healthy diet, managing stress, and staying socially connected can help keep your cognitive health sharp (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.). Another way to maintain cognitive health is to avoid certain risks, such as excessive alcohol, smoking, brain injuries, poor sleep, social isolation, and a sedentary lifestyle.


Behaviour refers to the things we do and the things we don’t do. Using the previous example, imagine that the positive meeting with the doctor goes on to influence your decision to attend medical school and as a result, you study very hard. The behaviour here is studying. There is a clear link between cognition (meeting the doctor) and behaviour (studying).

Good behavioural health is engaging in behaviours that positively affect mental and physical balance (Retreat Behavioural Health, n.d.). For example, having a healthy diet, exercising, having sufficient good quality sleep, and engaging in personal hygiene. As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between what is required for good behavioural health and cognitive health. These are both very closely linked, as the steps to having good cognitive health require certain behaviours to be done or avoided.


Emotional health is the ability to cope with positive and negative emotions (Brennan, 2021). It involves emotional regulation, awareness, and coping skills. Having good emotional health is having the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times (National Institute of Health, 2022). When you think of mental health, emotional health is usually what comes to mind. In the case of the doctor’s visit, you felt inspired during the meeting (an example of positive emotional health) which goes on to positively influence your behaviours; these are rewarding, and positively influence cognitive health.

The steps to having positive emotional health also requires good behavioural and cognitive health. Firstly, building resilience is known to be essential; those with positive emotional health have fewer negative emotions and bounce back from difficulties faster (National Institute of Health, 2022). To build resilience, you can learn to avoid negative coping mechanisms, such as smoking, alcohol, or isolation. You can also use community resources or even attend therapy. Reducing stress, having good quality sleep, strengthening social connections, coping with loss, and practicing mindfulness are other ways to promote emotional health.

As you can see, there are a few moving parts when it comes to mental health. Cognitive, behavioural, and emotional health all come together to encompass its definition. Everything is interconnected and having a good balance is extremely important. It’s not easy to engage in the behaviours required to have good mental health, but it will be worth every step.


Brennan, D. (2021). What to know about emotional health. Retrieved from,to%20a%20professional%20for%20help.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Healthy aging. Retrieved from chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/

Felman, A. & Tee-Melegrito, R. A. (2022). What is mental health? Retrieved from

Image by pch.vector on Freepik. (n.d.) Retrieved from <a href=””>Image by pch.vector</a> on Freepik

National Institute on Aging. (2020). Cognitive health and older adults. Retrieved from

National Institute of Health. (2022). Emotional wellness toolkit. Retrieved from

Oxford Languages. (2023). Oxford languages and Google. Retrieved from

Prince, M., Patel, V., Saxena, S., Maj, M., Maselko, J., Philips, M., & Rahman, A. (2007). No health without mental health. Retrieved from

Retreat Behavioural Health. (n.d.) Behavioral health vs. mental health: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from

Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.