Arthur Brooks, a Harvard Professor has been writing about the science of happiness for a while now. Late last year, he collaborated with Oprah Winfrey for his latest book ‘Build the Life you want’, in which they talk about ‘happierness’ where the objective is progress than an absolute state of bliss. In this article, he cites Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, who shared his strategy for achieving that goal of progress.

“Carl Jung, the onetime associate of Sigmund Freud who died more than 60 years ago. If you think you have a complex about something, the Swiss psychiatrist invented that term. Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Those are his coinages, too. Persona, archetype, synchronicity: Jung, Jung, Jung.”

Jung’s strategy was built on five pillars for a good life:

A. Good physical and mental health:

Whilst this is intuitive as lack of good health is bound to make us unhappy, Brooks says that a routine towards good health (not just the outcome) itself can alleviate pain or enhance happiness “researchers have identified how activities such as physical exercise can interrupt the cycle of negative emotion during moments of heightened stress, by helping moderate cortisol-hormone levels.”

B. Good personal and intimate relations, such as those of marriage, family, and friendships:

Jung could see what the longest running study on happiness – The Harvard Study of Adult Development has now found out. The study “comes to one conclusion more definitively than any other. In the words of my Harvard colleague Robert Waldinger, who has directed the project for nearly two decades, and his co-author, Marc Schulz, “Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period.””

C. Seeing beauty in art and in nature:

“Jung believed that happiness required one to cultivate an appreciation for beautiful things and experiences.” Brooks adds his nuances to this in the article.

D. A reasonable standard of living and satisfactory work:

Again intuitively it is hard to see how one can be happy without a basic standard of living. Brooks clarifies: “…money alone cannot buy happiness, nor can spending money to acquire possessions make one happy; but having the money to pay for experiences with loved ones, to free up time to spend on meaningful activities, and to support good causes does enhance happiness”
But it is on meaningful work he adds nuance: “The two elements that make work meaningful for most people are earned success (a sense of accomplishing something valuable) and service to others”

E. A philosophical or religious outlook that fosters resilience:

“Jung argued that a good life requires a way of understanding why things happen the way they do, being able to zoom out from the tedious quotidian travails of life, and put events—including inevitable suffering—into perspective

….Religious belief has been noted as strongly predictive of finding meaning in life, and spirituality is positively correlated with better mental health; both faith and spiritual practice seem protective against depression.”

Brooks ends with his own practical seven-point summary for us.

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