Today, 20th March 2017, is International Happiness Day. It does beg the question, why the hell shouldn’t we celebrate every day like it’s IHD but we’re not shy in spreading the joy (especially on a post-Paddy’s Day Monday!).
Happiness means different things to different people and can look even more contrasting but, for us at least, there is one silver bullet that will give you more satisfaction and contentment than anything else – to travel the world.
Here’s 8 ways in which regular travel have a direct and significant positive affect on an individual’s happiness both in the short and long term…
1. Science Says So
At some point in time, the ideology that higher levels of happiness are equated with higher levels of income and as a result material possessions took root in our collective psyche. We’re not sure how this happened but while that new car or diamond necklace will give your mood a brief jump, science has proven that money spent on experiences rather than things deliver far more happiness over time.
It’s totally logical and it’s totally logical because it’s universally true. No matter what material possessions you set your heart on, it’s highly likely plenty more people will too but the experiences you have when you travel are yours and only yours. That’s much more special than a fancy car.
“Our experiences (and our stories) are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods”.
2. Routine Is The Natural Enemy Of Happiness
It doesn’t take long for Bill Murray to exhaust all remaining joy out of his Groundhog Day. If you spend your time surrounded by such levels of familiarity then you’ll eventually become miserable too.
The same places, the same foods, the same people and even the same activities that you may have, at one point really enjoyed, no longer keep your brain in good shape. They cannot continue to excite or inspire you for any stretch of time. Travel disrupts the relentless flow of routine as it erodes away our happiness. We’re not saying that a lazy night on the couch is a bad thing, but if it becomes ‘your thing’ then expect to feel less happy as a result.
You don’t need to turn everything on it’s head but it’s healthy to refine how you spend your time and much more likely to result in long term happiness.
3. Meeting As Many People And Making As Many Friends As Possible (or more…)
Just because you’ve grown up with certain types of people, often carrying similar attributes and backgrounds, doesn’t mean that they’re the kind of people you should spend all of your time with.
In fact, you should always look to challenge the familiar in order to grow.
When you travel, particularly when you travel solo (which everyone should do at least once) you’re forced to interact with others who you’ve only met. It might seem daunting at first, but the chances are the people you meet are more likely to be on the same page as you than you might think.
They’re exploring like you, they’re excited about the adventure like you, want to see this part of the world like you and crave new interactions with interesting people, like you.
You never know, you could wind up on a beach somewhere of halfway up a mountain meeting the love of your life. It happens…
4. If Something Goes Wrong, You’ll Deal With It And Your Self-Confidence Will Sky Rocket
You’ve missed a connecting flight, you’ve got off at the wrong stop, you haven’t had Wi-Fi in 14 hours, there’s a cockroach in your bedroom.
Things will go wrong at some point in time, particularly if you’re travelling for an extended period of time. These are opportunities to grow, not difficulties to shy away from. Fixing whatever it is that’s gone wrong, coming out of the other side and being able to reflect on your maturity and independence in dealing with it will have a hugely positive impact on your self-confidence.
5. Switching Off And Taking A Step Back
In 2017, this is a really underrated one.
If you’re like most millennials, the chances are your phone will deliver you a notification of some sort at least 200 times a day. 200 times you get distracted from what’s going on where you are. 200 times you could miss a great conversation. 200 times you could ignore that astounding sunset. 200 times you could have missed learning something new. You get the idea…
There will be times when you’re in a blackout and can’t contact home or reach the internet. The more this happens, the less time you’ll spend ‘catching up’ on irrelevant celebrity articles, Instagram feeds and falsified lifestyles on social media. You’ll learn how to reclaim living in the moment and your mental health will love you for it.
6. Travel Really Is The Best Education You Can Have
You’ll learn more about the world, yourself and your values in a month’s travelling than four years in a lecture hall. Fact.
It is a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Learning makes our brains fire on so many different levels, releasing buckets of serotonin in the process. This delivers massive natural highs from achieving something you didn’t think you could (eg learning a new language), becoming obsessed with something you never tried (eg surfing) or becoming inspired by a different way of thinking (eg meditation).
The more you’re willing to leap out of your comfort zone to try something new, the more powerful the satisfaction will be when it crosses the bridge to being within your comfort zone. Your comfort zone can expand as endlessly as you want to and each time it swallows up new ground, you’ll feel great about it.
7. Helping Others When You Travel, Helps You More
Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone and not felt good about yourself in the process? It’s practically impossible (unless you’re a clincal psychopath).
Building empathy and giving back to those less fortunate delivers a powerful and long lasting satisfaction. Opportunities to experience situations like this are infinitely multiplied while you travel , particularly when your adventures leads you to less well developed countries and economies than in Western Europe.
Sustainable tourism is becoming one of the hottest travel trends in 2017, with more and more people getting greater satisfaction and fulfillment out of adding value to the places they visit which aren’t categorised monetarily.
Thinking about a life changing month in Thailand? Spend a week of it, teaching kids English or working with animals and it’ll almost certainly stay in your memory longer than a beach party.
8. New Appreciation For Home
Home comforts are also necessary for lasting happiness but too many of them and your appreciation will diminish. You’re far more likely to appreciate the things at home you once took for granted when you arrive home from an adventure. The more contrasting from home, the more powerful the sense of gratitude.
Meeting new people will have been so exciting, but you’ll miss your family and friends. Exploring jungles will have been exhilarating but you’ll miss the familiarity of where you grew up. Setbacks which happen in your career, your relationships or your lifestyle will be put in perspective because you’ve seen the perpetual happiness exhibited by those with less fortunate.