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Happy 5: Daily Habits for a Healthy & Happy Mind – No. 1 – “Move”

Last Christmas, I launched my Happy 5 idea with all the aplomb, of a party popper spraying it’s colourful spaghetti all over Granny’s head whilst she’s trying to eat her sprouts. However, it was important to get the idea out there, and to get the ball rolling too. It’s March now, and I’m back to expand on the idea a bit, and to look for more collaborators too… Especially some solid science geeks – is that you?

First let’s have a recap, from the first blog i wrote:

“The point of the “happy 5”, is that by having a very basic understanding of our own brains, or our “wet ware” as my friend and Neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis puts it, we have the power to help steer this miraculous piece of kit, towards happiness. Or as Lord Richard Layard, and other Economists who study the “Science of Wellbeing”, may put it, we can be agents of our own happiness. In short, we can take responsibility for, and improve how we feel, by being mindful of 5 daily habits for a healthy and happy mind – the happy 5!”

Marcus Warry (me), the other day

So what are the Happy 5?

  1. Move
  2. Give
  3. Connect 
  4. Calm 
  5. Grow

This isn’t particularly new, or a panacea for all things happiness related – and I’m not a self styled guru who’ll make you part with thousands of pounds to come to one of my eccentric retreats where you’ll find me sat on a throne wearing super tight underpants. 

I’m not a fan of cults, cheesy self help books or indeed, speedos… I’m basically a pretty normal fellow who’s massively simplifying ideas that are already very well researched, in “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy” – or CBT, as it’s more widely known. And I’m trying to spread the message that we all have the power and ability to make ourselves a little bit happier, when we understand some relatively simple things about our own brain chemistry! That’s the essence of the Happy 5.

“All people in a bad mood should go for a walk, and if it does not improve, walk again”

Hipprocates, rather a long time ago

Today, I’m going to expand on “move”, number 1 in the Happy 5.

I think “move’ is perhaps the most obvious, and already widely known element of the Happy 5. If you’re feeling a bit low, should you:

a/ lay on the couch eating crisps 

b/ go for a walk … 

If you answered b/ – well done, buy yourself a banana. Moving around, or exercising releases endorphins in the brain…

Endorphins are natural chemicals produced by the body that act as neurotransmitters in the brain. They are often referred to as “feel-good” chemicals because they can induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria and reduce feelings of pain and stress.

Endorphins are produced in response to various stimuli, including exercise, laughter and certain foods. When released, they bind to specialised receptors in the brain, particularly in areas associated with emotions and pain regulation.

There is a wealth of peer-reviewed research supporting the role of endorphins in mood regulation, pain management, and overall well-being. However, this will be elaborated on in future podcasts and blogs – for those who’d like to know more about the science behind the Happy 5.

I was feeling a bit flat the last couple of days – what?!

Surely the author of the Happy 5 should have a constant smile on his face?! Well it’s actually why I decided to write this blog, and also to practice what I preach – so I went for a 30 minute stroll earlier.. And felt instantly better – you get in a bit of “connect” too, as you walk past people and smile at strangers etc – this releases oxytocin, but that will be the subject of a future blog!

Anyway, the point I want to make here is that moving doesn’t have to be going to the gym for hours, or running a marathon.. It can be:

  • A 10 minute stroll to the shops – maybe get something healthy and yummy to cook for supper?
  • Playing a song and having a dance for 5 minutes! Take it reggae style, or go nuts and start head banging.. Up to you
  • 10 minutes of stretching.. Call it yoga, tai chi, whatever – just take a stretch (a cat doesn’t call it tai chi)

You get the point – it can be anything, to get a tiny trickle of endorphins. The more you do the better of course. When you feel down or depressed, it’s not easy to do even these small things, but it’s so important to try, so that you give your body and mind a chance to get out of the rut.. The effect of doing a few small things is cumulative… and it will become easier, the more you do.

When this becomes a book, there will be a section at the start where I thank people for helping out, and I’m inviting you now, to be in that section, if you feel you have particular knowledge of experience that could make this more interesting or more useful for people. Or maybe you can help to spread the word?

On that note, I’d like to thank Ceri Napier for giving me warm and encouraging feedback on my first blog that launched the Happy 5 concept –  her idea about the importance of connecting with nature for our wellbeing will certainly be featured at a later date.

If you’re picking your quiz team in Australia, never pick a Koala.

 Also thank you to Vanessa King, author of “10 keys to happier living” and one of the board members for Action for Happiness for this next fun fact. Moving around more might be why humans evolved to have massive brains… Koalas have big skulls and tiny brains – but why?

It’s because koalas realised they could get away with only eating Eucalyptus leaves – meaning they could sit in a tree all day rather than foraging around like they used to. So, their brains got smaller.. But the skull stayed the same size. And that’s why you should always choose the kangaroo instead.

So, as we wrap up our exploration of “Move” in the Happy 5, let’s not forget the simple yet profound power of putting one foot in front of the other. Whether it’s a leisurely amble to the shops, a spontaneous dance party in your living room, or a gentle stretch to start your day, each movement is a step towards a healthier mind and a happier heart.

And if you ever find yourself in need of a reminder to get up and get moving, just think of the koalas lounging in their trees, their tiny brains rattling around in their huge skulls, a testament to the perils of too much sitting around. 

So here’s to stepping into each day with purpose and vitality, knowing that with every step we take, we’re one step closer to a healthier mind and a happier heart. Let’s hop our way to happiness, let’s be more kangaroo…


Picture credits – me finally getting used to using DALL-E 3

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  1. Great piece! I like how you articulate the benefits of moving without making it seem like a painful task. I will look out for the next blog 😊

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