The science of well-being: an integrated approach to mental health and its disorders

World Psychiatry. 2006 Jun;5(2):71-6.


Psychiatry has failed to improve the average levels of happiness and well-being in the general population, despite vast expenditures on psychotropic drugs and psychotherapy manuals. The practical failure of psychiatry to improve well-being is the result of an excessive focus on stigmatizing aspects of mental disorders and the neglect of methods to enhance positive emotions, character development, life satisfaction, and spirituality. In this paper, a simple and practical approach to well-being is described by integrating biological, psychological, social, and spiritual methods for enhancing mental health. Evidence is presented showing that people can be helped to develop their character and happiness by a catalytic sequence of practical clinical methods. People can learn to flourish and to be more selfdirected by becoming more calm, accepting their limitations, and letting go of their fears and conflicts. People can learn to be more cooperative by increasing in mindfulness and working in the service of others. In addition, people can learn to be more self-transcendent by growing in self-awareness of the perspectives that lead to beliefs and assumptions about life which produce negative emotions and limit the experience of positive emotions. The personality traits of self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendence are each essential for well-being. They can be reliably measured using the Temperament and Character Inventory. A psychoeducational program for wellbeing has been developed, called "The happy life: voyages to well-being". It is a multi-stage universal-style intervention by which anyone who wants to be happier and healthier can do so through self-help and/or professional therapy.