Happiness is a Subjective State of Mind
How a person evaluates and accepts himself or herself is ultimately dependent on that person’s own subjective criteria—not external objective standards.
The subjective factor is the meaningful yardstick in the experience of inner wellbeing, psychological health and optimal adjustment.
The Inner Game & Happiness (objective subjective ?)
One’s sense of happiness and misery has nothing to do with whether other people find they can survive in your impossible job or whether they actually find such challenges intoxicating. Since it is subjective experience, rather than objectively measurable external elements that contribute to well-being, the only meaningful measure of experience is performed by the very person who experiences states of inner wellbeing.
Who Decides who is Well?
In medicine, the doctor decides if the patient is ill or well. It is not left up to the patient’s subjective opinion. If a patient is tested and found to have AIDS, that patient is sick even if in the early stages of the disease the patient may not be suffering from any symptoms. The patient’s feeling healthy does not discard the objective reality of the presence of a fatal disease.
Blind and Sick, but Happy?
In medicine, an objective approach is the more scientific and reliable of the two. What may be true about the body, however, may not be accurate about the mind. If someone is miserable, it doesn’t really matter that a whole panel of psychiatrists “objectively” decide according to some statistical norm that he has an ideal and well-adjusted life. In the person’s mind his life may be hell and unless he changes it or his perception of it, he will continue to feel miserable. The reverse is just as true. If someone is old, blind and sick yet is at peace and content, then it doesn’t matter that a panel of doctors “objectively” decide that he is really miserable, but doesn’t know it. Whatever the panel concludes will make little difference to one very happy individual.
Why it Works : The Positive Psychology Approach?
One of the founder’s of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has brought to the forefront ideas on how flow (being in the present) is facilitated. He mentions the need for clear goals, concentrating and focusing, direct and immediate feedback, balance between ability level and challenge, a sense of personal control, an activity that is intrinsically rewarding, and action awareness merging. Most of the time flow is experienced through one’s work (because of the sheer amount of time and energy we attribute to it).
In the Lifetrack model, one can also experience and measure wellbeing in the Achievement sphere (see work definition). Flow or well-being can be experienced in a task, in the self dimension of achievement (the ability to gain satisfaction and self-control) as in one’s interpersonal relationships at work.
When we view criteria that help induce states of flow and apply them to the three spheres of our psychological existence, we can better understand why the Lifetrack method works to increase positive mental health in all three spheres. With focus, clear goals on what determines and contributes to inner health (self, intimacy and achievement), we consciously build spheres of our lives that contribute most to flow and wellbeing. We experience happiness by building presence in our three spheres.
Direct and Immediate Feedback
When one tracks oneself daily in spheres that contribute to psychological health and well-being, hard numbers put a setback—which frequently look like the end of the earth—into the proper perspective. The humor and expertise of the therapist may allow him to use information provided by the patient to predict ahead of time unexpected psychological responses to emotions. He or she helps the individual concentrate and focus on improving areas of health, rather than decreasing symptoms of distress.
A Sense of Personal Control
Subjective self rating in spheres that contribute to health help us learn from mistakes rather than repeat them. Having people artificially stick a number also reinforces the idea that the subjective is controllable. It gives us a lever to hold on to and shape. If you accept your spouse at only a 4 on a 10 point scale means that you could experience a closer relationship.
In sessions, one is actively coached on how one might adjust optimally in each of the parameters of well-being. Although you might presently accept your spouse at a 4, how might you strive to make that five? How about a six? By moving progressively, there is a balance between the ability level and challenge.
Action is Intrinsically Rewarding
Since improvement in the three spheres of our life (self, intimacy and achievement) contribute to our own happiness and wellbeing (peace, friendliness, physical wellbeing, happiness and mastery) our effort is intrinsically rewarding. Because a greater experience of inner self, intimacy and achievement is the objective of therapy, the self rating exercise is not simply an act of passive mental accounting. Rather it is an active process in which we must think, feel and act in ways to improve in each of the positive parameters that provide us with a sense of inner well-being and happiness.
When rating oneself, one is encouraged to ask, “How can I think, feel and act in order to make this score go up even further?” The individual is encouraged to go beyond a previous best level of 10 with therapy ending often within six months at a level of 50 or 60 (or 5 or 6 times beyond a previous optimal level of adjustment). At this higher level of adjustment in the three spheres, the individual’s sense of peace, friendliness, physical well-being, happiness and sense of mastery also peaks. Positive peaks of well-being go far beyond a previous best level of experience.
Subjective Rating and the Conscious Choice for Health
According to the Lifetrack approach, health is as an internal state, which is experienced when an individual is fully alive and intimately involved with the world. To experience and maintain psychological health is seen as a conscious choice. Like athletic skill, building health demands practice, constant attention, and commitment. It becomes a life way and is applied daily without much thought.
While most may apply themselves to work, with clear goals, concentration and focus at the office, and direct and immediate feedback by peers, these conditions are often not applied to other spheres of our lives (self and intimacy). The Lifetrack adjustment sheet helps us become conscious of all spheres of existence and their impact on each other, allowing us to focus on key elements of inner wellbeing. Clear goals in inner wellbeing are defined, quantified and tracked allowing individuals to focus only on the key psychological spheres that contribute to inner well-being or that may give a sense of life purpose. A therapist or coach may accompany to help the individual overcome initial resistance, and peaks of stress.
Enhancing Health by Focusing on Key Spheres of Life
To enhance an individual’s capacity to build health and well-being daily, Lifetrack has developed a scale that enables us to measure subjective well-being and health in three psychological spheres of existence: self, intimacy and achievement. A daily self-rating enables people to measure, track and review progress. The goal is to surpass one’s own previous best sense of happiness or well-being in all three spheres. By focusing on building health in three critical spheres of life (rather than reducing disease), personal challenges and painful setbacks are transformed into life changing opportunities for growth.
Defining and Quantifying Inner Growth
Individuals commit approximately five minutes a day (some do the exercise 3 times a day) subjectively rating themselves in forty-one elements of human personality and experience. These elements include satisfaction with self, emotional and sexual closeness with a spouse or lover, and fulfillment at work. Together, these 41 elements help succinctly capture the three spheres of self, intimacy, and achievement, positive and negative emotions, and physical conditions that contribute to health and happiness.
Feedback, Perspective, Focus on Health
By computer, daily self-assessments are then translated into graphs enabling individuals to view fluctuations in each of their three spheres over time. This visual feedback helps focus efforts on building health optimally in all spheres of our lives. A trained therapist who discusses during weekly therapy sessions how to go beyond a previous best can analyze the feedback. Often the sessions involve a spouse or partner who will remain with the individual long after therapy has terminated. The process of self-rating and self-assessment is a subjective and reflective exercise encouraging individuals to develop new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that contribute to their psychological health and happiness.
Awareness of the Cycle of Life and Measuring Happiness
By defining and quantifying experience, people gain the ability to understand, mold and shape the subjective factor—the very inner game—responsible for our sense of misery and happiness. Dr. Yukio Ishizuka uses self rating to help individuals visualize the changes in his or her psychological adjustment or psyche over time; gaining tremendous insight from the lessons of the past. Rather than repeating patterns of coping, individuals are encouraged to try new and more effective ways of handling life’s challenges and experiencing optimal health.
Balancing Ability level and Challenge
Naturally, there are limits to using subjective experience as a yardstick to well-being. A positive mental health approach does not rely solely on just the individual’s perception of his well-being. In life the input of others and reactions around us influence our perception’s of ourselves. In therapy, an outside party—the therapist, is constantly following one’s subjective response to events. By focusing on actively building health, the therapist helps push the individual to grow at a faster rate that he or she may normally undertake. This may initially provoke stress.
A good sense of humor and an excellent therapist often helps one overcome this initial stage of resistance. Of course not everyone can move at a rapid pace. When a patient’s perception of events is so distorted—such as in an acute psychotic condition (where the mind becomes fragmented, disjointed, and otherwise under paralysis) one’s own understanding of well-being may become meaningless.
Like any approach, there are limits to using subjective experience as a yardstick to well-being. This means that when a patient’s cognitive capacity is impaired as in an acute psychotic condition, chemical, environmental and supportive psychotherapy approaches should be employed before the self-reflection and self-rating exercises in therapy can be helpful. Yet, the ultimate goal for all is the same: building and balancing a sense of self,intimate relationships and achievement.
The Experience of Well-being
Clear goals, concentration and focus, direct and immediate feedback, balancing the ability level and challenge, a sense of personal control, activity that is intrinsically rewarding may all contribute to the experience of flow or presence (a loss of self-consciousness, a distorted sense of time, a quietness or presence in the moment), but they do not guarantee it. The experience itself is dependent on the consciousness of the individual at the time he or she focuses on any one sphere of his or her life.
Filling out the Lifetrack total adjustment sheet is a tool to create a mental inventory of elements that contribute to inner wellbeing. Filling it out helps ‘make conscious’ the elements of inner wellbeing necessary so we can better focus and become present in key areas that contribute to inner health. When the accounting is not merely passive, but active the individual experiences greater presence in actively growing each of the three spheres of psychological existence (self, intimacy, achievement) to his or her fullest capacity. Often the experience of flow or inner wellbeing cannot help but follow growth in any one life sphere (see happiness the goal of Lifetrack therapy?).
Copyright © 2010 Lifetrack Corporation
Read our section Health and Happiness, a Science of Health (life way), Criteria for Health Models (science of happiness), Happiness Defined? Quantified? (cycle of life), Happier? (fear of the unknown), Insights (life purpose), Applications (international behavior).
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