The precise definition of good mental health can be hard to nail down. Defining and discovering how to maintain your mental health for yourself can improve your overall well-being.

Mental health affects how we think, act, and feel. It contributes to how we cope with stress, how we conduct our relationships, and the level of risk we assume with the choices we make.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, a global mental health crisis has taken root. The prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide increased by 25%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Even before the pandemic, school-aged children experienced mental health challenges. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36.7% of adolescents reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in 2018-19.

Good mental health involves being able to prioritize your own well-being and that of others, and being able to alter your behavior when a situation or relationship isn’t working for you.

Defining what good mental health looks like for you may help nurture and improve your overall well-being.

Good mental health isn’t the same thing as a lack of a mental health disorder. You can have “poor” mental health and not have a mental health condition. You can have a diagnosed mental health condition but function well physically, emotionally, and socially.

Some define good mental health as the ability both to value life and to engage in life.

Valuing life refers not just to your own life but to the lives of those you love and regarding their lives as valuable both to you and independently of you. It means wanting to care for yourself and your loved ones.

Engaging in life, in turn, means the ability to behave differently depending on your circumstances, instead of expecting everything to bend to your will. It can mean noticing your feelings but neither relying on them to guide you nor ignoring them.


A 2022 systematic review indicates that the pandemic negatively affected many children, with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress being the most commonly reported difficulties.

Mental health visits to the emergency room for children ages 5-11 increased by 24% during the pandemic.

Allowing children social time with friends and family, providing opportunities for moving their bodies, even if indoors, and limiting screen time are all ways that families can help young children maintain good mental health.

According to a large 2021 cross-sectional study, increased physical activity and decreased screen time were associated with improved mental health for children coping with pandemic-related stressors.


One reason given as a contributing factor to the youth mental health crisis was the loss of connections forged at school between students and their peers and their teachers.

Many teens also missed significant events like sports, proms, and graduations during this time, leading to grief over what was lost.

Adolescence is a time when children rely less on their immediate families for support and more on their peers, and connections with teachers become more valuable.

Additionally, many teenagers said their home environments were unhealthy during the time they were isolated during the pandemic. 55% reported emotional abuse by a family member during this time, and 11% reported physical abuse.

During the pandemic, more than a third of teenagers said they had developed “problematic” internet habits as a result of trying to socialize with peers online.

Establishing healthy social connections with friends and trusted adults, limiting screen time, and being physically active are all ways that teenagers can help boost their mental health.

Additionally, families should check on the support available to their teens in school. School psychologists and counselors are in short supply. Consider asking your teenager to identify adults in their school who can help them if they’re struggling.


It was difficult to attain work-life balance during the pandemic when many of us worked from home, and others spent long hours doing front-line work in healthcare, customer service, or retail.

Working to reduce stress, by connecting with family and friends or through physical activity, can help adults better regulate their mental health.

2021 research states that paying attention to physical health by monitoring the quality of your sleep and eating healthfully, as well as moving your body, can also boost mental health in adults.

Among elderly adults, many of whom suffered greatly from isolation from friends and family during the pandemic, increasing social connections and becoming more physically active may help guard against deteriorating mental health.

Good mental health is what helps many people cope well with stress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health for many was compromised by stress and grief, compounded by:

  • isolation
  • a lack of physical activity
  • a loss of social connections

This has resulted in what many term a mental health crisis, both among children and adolescents as well as among adults.

Consider taking small steps to limit your daily stress, like ensuring that you reach out to friends or family at least once per day and that you move your body in some way.

If you believe you need professional support, consider reaching out to a therapist or a support group. Consider visiting Psych Central’s directory to find a therapist near you or online.