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Marks' Five Ways to Well-Being


Explanations > Emotions > Happiness > Marks' Five Ways to Well-Being

Connect | Be Active | Take Notice | Keep Learning | Give | So what


Researcher Nic Marks identified 'Five Ways to Well-Being' during a study for the UK Government. Here are discussions and notes on each of these.


We are a social species and need to connect with others, to belong, to feel a part of something outside ourselves. This social connection expands and supports our sense of identity as we feel that others with whom we connect become a part of our extended selves. Paradoxically, when we connect with others we get away from self-obsession which can be the source of much unhappiness.

When we are isolated, we become lonely, with that deep ache we get from a lack of connection. It is no surprise that one of the most powerful forms of social punishment is ostracization, being rejected from the group, and the fear of this keeps many in line.

Be Active

Evolution has made us active, which was very useful for many centuries for chasing and growing our food. The modern era, however, has made exercise less necessary. And when we do not exercise we become overweight and, paradoxically, more tired.

When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, which are natural opiates. This is the 'runner's high' that can make exercise even a bit addictive, which is probably a good thing. As well as the physical benefits, exercise has all kinds of mental health benefits, from making us more resilient to stress to getting us out of a bad mood. It even boosts memory and helps us think faster.

Take Notice

We can easily go through life or just walk down the road and miss much of what is around us. This is a form of mental laziness as we focus on the easy, familiar things and those which are of direct interest to us.

Artists and photographers develop ways of looking at things where they pay attention to even the smallest detail. This is not difficult and can be learned. The result is that the world becomes a fascinating place. Being curious also helps as this keeps us looking for new and interesting things.

Keep Learning

Many people stop learning when they leave formal education and most houses contain very few books. Yet learning today can be very cheap or effectively free and the internet is full of knowledge.

The brain rewards us for two things. Firstly when recognizing the familiar, we get a warm sense of comfort. And when we learn something new, we get a much more powerful buzz of delight. So why do we not just keep learning? Because there is often a hill of discomfort we must get over before the 'aha' of new knowledge. A way to address this is to find ways to enjoy the learning and especially to not feel bad when we do not 'get it' first time.


In many ways, we are a selfish species and are constantly materialistic as we fill our houses and lives with 'stuff'. Yet we can get a lot of pleasure out of giving. Giving does not have to be expensive and sometimes the best thing your can give is your time and attention. Just listening to a person's woes and triumphs can be a precious gift.

Giving is related to connecting as it is a social activity. When we give something of ours, we effectively extend our identity as we still feel that there is something of ourselves with the person in the gift we give.

So what?

Try them out. Focus on one per day and see how you feel afterwards. This is a simple and useful list.

See also

Ways to Happiness

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