There are hundreds of terms and criteria used in mental health professions to define and diagnose mentally unhealthy persons. Yet even today, despite the explosion in self-help, there are very few standards or guides to formally categorize happy people. The media magnifies the problem by focusing on diagnosing our unhealthy habits and behaviors, and even our :30 commercial breaks are littered with messages of terrible conditions you may be suffering from, and pills you can take to cure them.
So why not change the paradigm and use the same clinical standards to diagnose happy people? Barry John Johnson, a mental health practitioner specializing in mindfulness, set out to do just that. It seemed very appropriate to share his happiness diagnosis tool here. Enjoy:
In the field of mental health, for the purposes of diagnosis, we use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a.k.a. the DSM. At best, this fat book is a general guide to help categorize features belonging to certain mental health disorders for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment (and meeting insurance company requirements). On the other side it is often criticized for creating overly simple and perhaps harmful labels for complex human beings. In general, the DSM is a downer. It’s based upon a disease paradigm. It focuses on the negative. And nobody really wants to meet any of the criteria spelled out in there.
That got me thinking of the opposite, that there is no DSM discussion of which criteria might delineate a grounded, mentally healthy, human being. This might create something positive, something to strive for and treatment plans and programs could focus on helping individuals fulfill these criteria.
So I am taking a stab at it, trying to stay away from too much clinical language, and certainly not labeling it a disorder, even though it may be more uncommon, than common. In the style of the DSM…
Generally characterized by a pervasive and persistent pattern of positive cognitions and attitudes; a solid sense of self; stability and calmness in stressful situations; often serving to help others, as indicated by meeting seven or more of the following criteria:
1. Practices universal self acceptance, does not tie personal value to external factors including material objects, or the opinions of others.
2. Demonstrates humility, a natural offshoot of gratitude, never being self important, judgmental or thinking less of others.
3. Displays Self Identity Constancy, being the same person at work, home, play or generally within differing social groups. Is not chameleon-like.
4. Has the ability to be alone, while not being anti-social; can enjoy quiet time without distraction or interaction with others. May be seen meditating.
5. Able to accept criticism, evaluate it and process it appropriately.
6. Demonstrates emotional regulation skills, never denying or suppressing emotions, but mastering what is taking place within their own body and selecting the appropriate expression of those emotions, including basking in positive feelings.
7. Features a tolerance for uncertainty, setting intentions and goals but not trying to totally control all outcomes, situations or the opinions of others.
8. Engages in proactive problem solving versus letting issues fester.
9. Cannot tell a lie.
10. Has a sense of humor about life and themselves; often seen laughing, dancing, playing.
Have you, or someone you know been self-diagnosed with HaPs? Wonderful.
Barry John Johnson is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, California. His practice is mindfulness informed specializing in helping people with anxiety, life transitions and enhancing personal happiness. Barry is credentialed in conflict resolution and is a former CEO/City Manager of local governments. His great joys are meditation, intuitive arts and independent spiritual studies.