Happiness Defined? Quantified??

Empiric Science: Possibilities & Limits Measuring the Natural Cycle of Life

Dr. Yukio Ishizuka’s has applied in the last 30 years the new method of positive mental health to over 2000 patients in private practice (representing 40,000 session hours). He has examined well over a million computer generated graphs of the patient’s daily subjective self-assessment. Based on this information, he has hypothesized the following on the ability and limits of tracking what is going on inside people’s heads:

Insights on Defining and Measuring Happiness:

1. My misery is your heaven, your heaven my hell.

Psychological distress or well-being such as “anxiety,” “peace,” “depression” or “happiness” are essentially subjective experiences that can only be observed and reported by the person who is experiencing them. What makes one person happy might make another miserable and vice-versa. Furthermore, happiness to one person may not be exactly the same thing as happiness reported by another. It may even be different for the same person at a different time. Nevertheless, since the experience of well-being or distress is a subjective internal phenomena, the best expert to measure it is still oneself. There are of course some exceptions. An individual, who is psychotic, may have lost the capacity to reason or a “realistic” perception that makes self-rating a valuable exercise. Individuals who have difficulty in introspection may do less well in this therapy than in others.

2. I see the world through colored glasses and can consciously switch pairs.

My inner state of mind affects what it is I see and experience. To put it in terms of physics, the observed object is not separate from the observer. Since the mind is aware of its own consciousness, it can choose to focus on one thing and selectively ignore another. Depending on what we decide to observe and measure, we may be creating what we look for and find. Hence if individuals observe and measure precisely diseases and disorders, they may be creating them where they might not have otherwise existed. Conversely, if individuals chose to observe and measure “positive mental health” or well-being, they may be able to create it where it may not have otherwise existed!

Naturally, part of being happy is being conscious of it. In this sense, it is clear that the observer may well influence the experience of life by the intention or act of assessing it according to the Lifetrack model. This is an intended effect. Daily self rating oneself attempts to change not only the objectively measurable life experiences but the “unconscious measuring rod” or subjective perception of experience. The scale should serve to help individuals discern that they are getting much happier, rather than believing that there level of happiness is “constant.” Taking such a psychological leap is more than just symbolic. It empowers incremental thinking. In short, the observer may be “creating” what one observes by choosing to observe it.

3. Now I’m happy, now I’m not.

Psychological experience is a quanta and is discontinuous. It occurs in spikes of thoughts, feeling and actions. Happiness and depression are not steady states, but can change from one moment to the next. For this reason, the total adjustment sheet (even one self rating) is really a snapshot of moments. Even with a simple 10 point scale, assessments may be different if the same person performs the exercise only a few minutes later (depending on what happened in the meantime) or what the person might have happened to think about when another self-assessment was being made.

Despite this fundamentally subjective and changeable nature of the self assessments, in the experience of Lifetrack therapy, repetitive self assessments according to the same fixed model yield highly valuable information. To use an analogy, one can imagine that each of the individual ratings are much like a droplet in our psychological experience. These droplets when viewed individually or in isolation may not tell us much. However, when a person uses the same model consistently over time, the droplets accumulate creating patterns, which take the shape of a fountain.

In this sense, one can think of one’s overall psychological state as a fountain, which keeps a certain shape, but consists of constantly changing and discontinuous droplets. While we may not objectively compare the level of happiness of one patient to another (objective subjective), we can compare the level of happiness in the same person at different points in time, particularly if such self assessments are performed frequently and regularly (daily for example.) Although memory is short, one can reliably observe if one is happier or more depressed than the day before.

4. Hold on! One thing at each instant.

If at this very moment I am conscious that I am happy, I cannot be conscious that I am depressed (two seconds later is a different story.) Anything one focuses on takes one’s attention and consciousness away from something else. This phenomenon is similar to the uncertainty principle in physics. That is, in the frontier of the “exact” science of physics, it has now been repeatedly proven by experiments that if one measures exactly the “momentum” of a sub-atomic particle, the same observer cannot know anything about the “position” of the same particle or vice-versa. Hence, by choosing to observe one aspect of nature “exactly,” one must at that instant give up knowing “anything” about some other property of the same object being observed.

If this same principle of “uncertainty” applies to the observation of phenomenon of the human mind, the implication may be fundamental. As far as tracking the mind is concerned, it suggests that when one is doing the self-rating, one cannot think of the “accept” and “depend” element at the very same instant. Hence the model is really a collection of “snapshots” that are arbitrarily pulled together. However, for lack of a better way to capture dynamically changing states of mind this may be a good beginning. Although we can individually see the droplets and patients can attempt to describe their experience at one given point in time, it is only when we see the fountain that we capture personality. The tracking does not provide the totality of the experience, but is a tool during therapy to trigger insights and ask relevant questions.

5. Nirvana cannot be fully captured in words, or digits. So why bother?

The subjective experience of happiness, well-being, depression and the like cannot be adequately or fully described. It can only be experienced by each individual. This raises the inevitable question, “If ‘reality’ of psychological phenomena can only be experienced and not described fully – how can we track it?”

The physicist Finkelstein wrote similarly about how “experience” in the exact science of physics cannot be fully communicated to others (remember Einstein’s analogy about a physicist never being able to see under the watch). He argued that despite that one cannot fully communicate experience to others, if we can show how to make the experience happen and show how to measure it, then we can help others to have it. This is precisely what has been done in Lifetrack therapy.

Evidence and Empiric Data at the Basis of a New Science

The accumulated evidence of daily self-rating data of more than 1,200 patients throughout their treatment on 41 parameters (9 parameters each for the three spheres or a total of 27 total, 5 positive peak emotions, 5 peak negative emotions, 4 for physical health peaks), may constitute the largest database of positive mental health indicators existing.

We are open to future research and work undertaken in coordination with NIMH, academics and others that could be of benefit to the field of positive mental health and psychology.

Copyright © 2010 Lifetrack Corporation

Read Health and Happiness, Science of Health (life way), Criteria for Health Models (science of happiness), Happier? (fear of the unknown), Why it works (objective subjective), Insights (life purpose), and Applications (international behavior).

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Cycle of Life, Defining Happiness, Measuring Happiness
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