I just ran into a very intriguing article “Happiness in Schizophrenia -Research suggests mental illness doesn’t preclude enjoying life,” describing a recent stuyd published by researchers in the journal Schizophrenia Research.
What first struck me upon reading the article was the unconventional perspective the researchers were taking towards schizophrenia (and mental health in general). The idea in and of itself that a “severe form of serious mental illness” is not a life-sentence to but that there are actually concrete steps an individual can take to increase happiness is rather out of the ordinary! It shifts one from a “glass half empty” perspective of coping mechanisms and pharmaceuticals to a “glass half full” perspective with a positive orientation. Now this is patient empowerment at its best! Their suggestions are psychotherapies targeting positive coping factors such as resilience, optimism and personal mastery (I’d suggest HeartMath), behavioral modifications, and mindfulness training.
Instead of rehashing a brief article I’m just going to put on my integral glasses for a second, looking at the 5 elements of AQAL, and make some quick observations to stimulate thought.
The authors conclude that:
Level of happiness was NOT correlated with:
UL: cognitive function, severity of positive or negative symptoms (unspecified), anxiety levels, mental health metrics, and cognitive function
UR: duration of illness, severity of positive or negative symptoms (unspecified), physical function, medical comorbidity, age, gender, medication status,
LR: sociodemographic characteristics, education, living situation (59% were in assisted living)
Level of happiness was correlated with:
UL: higher mental health-related quality of life and positive psychosocial factors: lower perceived, stress, higher resilience, optimism, and personal master, attitude toward aging, spirituality(unspecified).
LL: spirituality (unspecified)
I find the it interesting that the predominate impact were factors largely in the UL – interior-individual quadrant. The near-absence of the LL quadrant points to a blind-spot on the part of the researchers – the cultural context and meaning-making around “mental illness” and schizophrenia, interpersonal factors, and the quality of the support system (family, friends, care-givers). I’d also be curious to know more about what they meant by spirituality. As a herbalist I’d like to get some more specifics on the UR: nutrition, exercise, food intolerances, and a look at other possible psycho-physiological (mind-body) patterns.
Gender was controlled for.
Now they may also be running into a type which may help understand further why some individuals “are happy” and have the various “positive psychosocial factors” and those who don’t. Glass half empty vs glass half full is partially a personality trait and also learnable and trainable. As a herbalist I’d like to get some ideas of how constitution relates. Is a given constitution more or less prone to being “unhappy” or “happy,” or is health and balanced constitution they key (I’d venture this is more significant but that’s just a hunch).
Current severity of symptoms.
Happiness itself is a state – in this study they appear to be looking for a general affect over the course of a week.
This was not looked at directly though age and cognitive function may provide very limited clues.
Many of the psychosocial factors are developmental lines (or types of intelligence) or involve lines: Cognitive, spirituality, stress perception and resilience, personal mastery, etc.