As I (Paul Antonik Wakfer) have described in detail elsewhere, the nature of each human individual is such that his existential purpose in life is the achievement of the maximum possible amount of happiness within his lifetime, however long that turns out to be. While a healthy body and brain is certainly conducive to this purpose of life, a person cannot fully realize it without a good life outlook to guide his choices. The creators of this website also define good in terms of the nature of human beings. We accept that humans exist as part of an objective reality that is specific, stable (not changing chaotically), rational and ultimately knowable (though constantly changing), rather than arbitrary, chaotic, evanescent, mystical and indeterminate. (See the essay: "Social Meta-Needs: A New Basis for Optimal Human Interaction" for more elucidation of such an environment.) It is as an axiom of reality that what sets humans apart from all other known lifeforms is the degree of the human potential to be consciously aware of one's self and surroundings, to logically reason and acquire knowledge of reality, and to volitionally act to mold oneself and the world around one with an intent to increase one's own happiness, including the happiness of any others for whom one cares and indirectly of everyone with whom one interacts and with whom they interact (which is almost everyone on Earth). Not only is this human potential a defining characteristic among known lifeforms, but it is the essential characteristic of human nature, ie. that characteristic without the full use of which a human cannot succeed in acquiring happiness truly appropriate to his nature. Thus, a good outlook (or sense of life) is defined as one which allows, nay even demands, that its bearer seek to develop and exercise this potential to the fullest extent possible.
This section describes and presents the philosophical viewpoint which is required to optimally increase one's lifetime happiness, and a practical approach to both attaining and maintaining happiness within the current human social environment, where mysticism, irrationality, and coercion inconsistently coexist with science, rationality, and liberty. Clearly any time-bounded lifespan will necessarily reduce the lifetime happiness that can be achieved and because of its inhibition to long-range planning will stifle many projects that otherwise would greatly increase the choices of all and thereby also increase their lifetime happiness potential. This is also apparent in the associated section on interpersonal quality enhancement wherein are considered the derivative ideas of the psychological, social, political, and economic interrelationships that are required in order to optimally increase one's lifetime happiness through the synergistic effects of value exchange to mutual advantage (both material and non-material) between individuals.
Metaphysics and Epistemology
Reality exists as something that is definite, that has certain specific properties and not certain other properties at any given instant of time. This is an axiom of existence because without existing as something nothing could truly exist at all. Reality is by definition the sum and only the sum of all those things that can knowingly and objectively be detected. Since not being able to detect something means, by definition, that it can never affect one, there is nothing to be gained by including it within reality (see Ockham's Razor). This definition of reality also implies that the human mind and body is capable of detecting and describing all of reality (since anything not detectable is not a part of reality). Reason is the set of methods of thought by which the human mind can consistently and effectively detect and describe all of reality. Furthermore, reality can not only be described, but its events form patterns in time and space whose regularity can also be detected, and prediction methods determined even though the patterns are never totally identical from one point in space or time to another. In other words, reality is not a chaotic set of events, but has order and structure to it which humans can learn to describe, and which descriptions humans can use to predict and/or to mold it (reality) to their purposes.
Mind, Body and Environment
Each human's thoughts, behavior, moods, physical reactions and environment/life situations are intimately connected, each effecting the other, and can result in a person who is happy or one who is dissatisfied, to varying degrees, with hirself and life. Understanding the interplay of these factors - the cognitive model, as it is termed by the cognitive therapy school of psychology - is the first stage of acquiring a potentially valuable tool for self analysis and improvement by every individual. Distorted thinking is a part of everyone's thought processing at some time (no one is perfect), but when it predominates (in the many possible forms) over a long period of time, or even momentarily, the result is a reduction in current happiness, and often a failure to optimally increase long-run happiness. Underlying automatic (spontaneous, non-purposeful) thoughts and images (sometimes not even immediately recognized) that accompany negative moods can be caused by a distortion of what are the actual perceptions of oneself by others. The tools of the cognitive model can be used to replace such distorted automatic thoughts, and the knowledge thus gained can then be extended to replace distorted beliefs about one's self with beliefs that are more realistic (valid for reality).
The cognitive model includes the conclusion (following numerous studies) that purposeful changes - ie. to replace distorted thinking, improve mood or reduce an avoiding behavior - in one or more of the five intimately connected areas of a person effects any (and often all) of the others. While small changes in all five aspects of one's life may be necessary for a person to feel better, it is changes in one's thinking that are often the most important for creating long-term improvement and thus for optimally increasing the person's lifetime happiness.
Cognitive therapy will not be effective for a person who merely reads written material or listens to a speaker describe the model of interaction between the listed five areas of life, because these are too passive. Instead, active participation on the part of the reader of books on the cognitive model or as a client/patient of a cognitive therapist is essential for progress toward increasing happiness. Written exercises and assignments/"homework" are a major part of the methods and provide benefit far in excess of what mental imagery, recollection or meditation will do. Seeing one's descriptions and thoughts on paper cannot be evaded or easily forgotten and are therefore available for periodic review and updating. Challenging one's assumptions/beliefs is another often used cognitive therapy activity, and when coupled with a written description, permits the person to evaluate and work towards replacing previously held distortions.
A person does not need to be incapacitated by depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship problems, etc. to gain benefit from the methods described in current books by experienced cognitive therapists. While the cognitive model was developed by Aaron T. Beck in the late 1950s as a method of treating depression, has met with enormous success in this area and is supported by numerous published studies, it has been successfully extended in more recent years to these additional areas mentioned and others, also described in many journal papers. It is not difficult to see that the model could be further extended to become an emotional/mental health maintenance tool from at least the age of adolescence. Learning to evaluate one's self - moods, thoughts, behavior, physical reactions and environment/life situations - in order to prevent or minimize problems would benefit the individual enormously. And for those who have experienced annoying but not necessarily debilitating problems, learning about the cognitive model and incorporating its methods for removing or quickly stopping distortions can be invaluable for preventing the emotional paralysis that can potentially follow certain stressing situations.
Unlike simply thinking positively in response to an unpleasant occurrence, the cognitive model suggests that a person consider viewing a problem from as many different angles as possible. Looking at a situation from various perspectives - positive, negative and neutral - can lead to new conclusions and solutions.