According to Carl Gustav Jung – one of the founders of psychotherapy – there are five basic factors for happiness. Those basic elements in theory are easy to achieve and maintain to experience happiness. They all however seem to escape our attention when it comes to actually acting upon them. Those five basic factors for happiness include mental and physical health, good personal and intimate relationships, the ability to perceive beauty in all its forms, the reasonable standards of living and a philosophic or religious approach or attitude to cope with the ups and downs we are all bound to experience in our lives. I have decided to examine how can traveling influence all five factors for happiness and how it actually forms one interdisciplinary element – a sort of bridge that makes happiness possible.
Even though the very notion of happiness has been around since the beginning of the history of the humankind, the more scientific approach aiming to explain this phenomenon has a relatively short history. Carl Gustav Jung actually formulated his thesis in 1960 when interviewed by journalist Gordon Young, who asked, “What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?” He named the five factors precisely answering:
“1. Good physical and mental health.
2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.”
More recently the scientists in the field of positive psychology examine further the factors and circumstances that help us achieve happiness. Happiness itself is a state, a feeling that very often seems to escape any scientific definitions and norms. How do you measure happiness? How do you decide if a person is happy or not? Why are we so different when it comes to defining it and why do we actually so often look for happiness in all the wrong places. If you look carefully at the five factors for happiness, you will realise that one thing we very often associate with happiness – money – is not on the list. You won’t find there wealth, luxury, power and above all you will not find there mindless consumption. Why? Because all those things do not account for happiness, they account for instant gratification, we so often tend to mistake for happiness.
Of course there is nothing wrong with cheering yourself every now and then with a shopping spree or a luxurious SPA, but if you rely on money to make you happy, you are sooner or later going to realise you’ve bet the wrong horse. During that interview Jung also added that, “All factors which are generally assumed to make for happiness can, under certain circumstances, produce the contrary. No matter how ideal your situation may be, it does not necessarily guarantee happiness.” Jung also made one more strong point, stating that, “The more you deliberately seek happiness the more sure you are not to find it.” This sort of model thinking is somehow popular amongst many. We are taught to believe that the more we look for happiness the more distant it gets. There is, however, a quite strong argument that might prove this specific Jung’s statement wrong. I found out for myself that the more mindful I am about happiness, the happier I become. By deliberately seeking to strengthen those elements of your life, that according to Jung account for happiness, you can make yourself happier.
One way of deliberately strengthening those five factors for happiness is to travel. Why? Because when you travel you directly or indirectly can shape all five factors. We’ve argued that traveling is absolutely natural for human kind – we all have a modern nomad gene. But traveling is not only natural – it is also very good for us. When it comes to the first factor – that is physical and mental health – it has been proven that traveling can boost your mental health, it is a great form of taking care of your body, mind and soul. The sleep cycle regulation, the problem-solution capabilities, the cardiovascular system, the nervous one – the list of potential benefits goes on. So if you decide to deliberately seek ways to strengthen your physical and mental health you might consider traveling one such way that is not only enjoyable, but beneficial.
The second factor is all about our social life that can take the form of relationships, friendships, families and all forms of intimate and platonic relations. We, humans, are social beings. And this clearly shows in our behaviours, habits, customs and cultural norms. Even if you are one of those people I admire a lot, who decide to travel the world alone, you do not necessarily spend all the time on your own. As many solo travellers recount they actually are more socially activated than they would be when traveling in groups. Whether you decide to travel solo or not, one thing is for sure – traveling helps you form better relations, be more open-minded, empathic, understanding and it simply makes you a more fun person to be with.
The third factor is a more abstract one – the faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature may seem very vague notion. But when you think about it once again traveling is a great way to work on that specific factor. I honestly can not think of a better way to experience the beauty of the world, of the fellow humans, of both nature and culture than traveling. And that is precisely what the faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature is all about. It is about finding beauty, exploring it, cherishing it and basking in it’s light. When you travel you seek the beauty both in nature and art which is a cultural form of our creative talents. The fourth factor is all about work – the work that is viewed as the way to sustain the reasonable standards of living. Reasonable being the keyword. To be happy you do not have to become slave to consumerism and work. To be happy you simply are happy with what you have and traveling can also help you develop this sort of attitude. On one hand it is because when you travel you get a chance to view the world of others who do not have the privileges we have. On the other hand when we travel we very often have to learn how to live in a more simple manner. We have to chose things we pack, we sometimes need to settle for less to see more. And this way we can discover that we actually do not need all the stuff that clutters our lives back home.
The fifth factor touches the religious and philosophical aspects that once again can be easily found in travels we all metaphorically and literally embark on. Traveling teaches you a lot – it helps you stay humble at times and gives you strength to fight the adversities. It heals you and it shows you ways to live, solve problems and be open-minded. Just like religion does. The very symbol of the road and travel is crucial to all the religions and philosophical systems of the world. To travel is to discover not only the territories you explore but more profoundly to discover the truth about yourself. Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist – no matter what you believes an truths are, the universal human values all can be found in the philosophy behind the very act of traveling.
Happiness continues to escape clear definitions and according to some can never be defined clearly. No matter how you view your own happiness, no matter what you may think of Jung’s approach and other scientific minds’ conclusions, you might want to try one ultimate factor that bonds the five elementary pillars that support happiness – and that is traveling.
What do you think? Do you agree with the five factors? And do you find that mindfully pursuing happiness makes you happier, or less happy? Do you find travels happiness boosting? Please share your thoughts in comments.
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