Quantifying happiness and well being
While I was a student I remember being taught “abnormal psychology”. For at least 8 weeks (and it did seem a lot longer) we learnt about all the different ways in which people can have a range of psychological problems. We were very engrossed in the whole convoluted business of mental illness. Of course we do need to understand the different ways in which people experience a range of mental illnesses. That is a useful start. However, at some point I remember asking the lecturers when we were going to learn something about how we can help people to get better. And the truth is in those days very few people were talking about wellness and recovery. So I have been delighted to see the new policy ideas on “No Health Without Mental Health”. It actually appears to be a strategy for wellbeing. Many people have argued that a more positive model of mental health is about far more than just the absence of symptoms or diagnosable illness. It is about quality of life. Part of this is about how to have meaningful relationships on the one hand and also enjoy solitude some times. How to develop skills in managing difficult thoughts and deal with stress are some other important considerations. In my trainings on Mental Health Awareness I am increasingly looking at how professionals from a range of organisations can work together with people, actively and in collaboration, to develop wellness plans. The idea being that with the right kind of help people can and do recover and develop resilience. People can then contribute to the world around them.
When we are happy we can tell. We can also sense when someone else is happy. However, we often describe it not as having happiness but being happy. This suggests something about action. There is a new group called Action for Happiness which is pointing out that doing things for others, connecting with people, random acts of kindness (there are some who go around giving free hugs to people) are ways in which we can increase happiness. Being engrossed in something you love, walking in nature and exercise have all shown to help. If happiness is something about creating flow states rather than having, then perhaps, it is something that can be cultivated even if it is not easy to quantify.
Until next time.