How the Five Domains can help you hack your way to happiness

In this post we delve into the ‘Five Domains’ and explore how they can help you have a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Is everything going OK in your life, but you feel flat or lacking joy in your everyday life?  Are you finding coping with the ups and downs of life difficult? This can often be down to having a lifestyle that neglects your ‘brain health’! We show you five things you can do every day to help you hack into your brain’s feel-good chemicals to lift your mood naturally.

What are the Five Domains?

The Five Domains is an approach to improving your mood and building mental resilience by encouraging our brains to produce feel-good neurochemicals, which are our natural antidepressants. The Five Domains is a set of lifestyles and habits that improve mental health and reduce stress.

The five key areas are:

  1. Healthy eating
  2. Exercise every day
  3. Sleep well
  4. Be mindful of thoughts
  5. Socialise

If you can do these five key things each day, you will be able to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing. Each one is important in maintaining balance in our bodies and if adhered to, each domain is responsible for producing neurochemicals which naturally improve mood and keep us on an even keel.

  1. Healthy eating

We all know healthy eating improves our general physical health. When we eat well, we are healthier which improves our feeling of well being. But why?

Neurochemicals like serotonin, one of our feel-good chemicals, is produced in the gut. If your gut is not healthy, it is strained to produce the brain chemicals we need.

Dopamine is also important for mental health because it is needed for motivation, memory attention and regulating body movements. Our bodies need protein in the diet to produce dopamine, so ensuring you have enough protein is also important in maintaining optimal health of the body and mind.

wellbeing retreat good nutrition

Too much of any one neurochemical can also leave you out of kilter, so balance is the key. Don’t focus on fads or ‘miracle diets, they sound too good to be true for a reason. Instead, focus on ensuring you are eating a balanced, nutritious and varied diet and you will see the positive impacts.

  1. Exercise every day

Regular exercise helps you feel fitter and stronger. It benefits our skeletal muscular systems as well as our internal organs, which in turn improves our wellbeing.

When we exercise, we release endorphins and dopamine, which make us feel good. Exercise is a great way to improve our mood. We also improve our cognitive capacity and reduce the risk of dementia through exercise.

In an evolutionary sense, we were not made to be sedentary, it is proven to be harmful to our health.

wellbeing retreat exercise

But fitting it in every day is easier said than done. Think about ways you can integrate exercise into your busy life. Can you walk or cycle to work, even part of the way? Or can you make exercise a social activity by going to a class or the gym with a friend? Even if all you can fit in is taking 15 minutes at lunchtime to go for a walk, it’s better than not doing anything.

  1. Sleep well

A good night’s sleep helps improve our physical and mental health. Restorative sleep, where your body goes through all stages of the sleep cycle, allows your brain to heal and restore itself and to form and strengthen necessary neural pathways in the brain. Not getting enough restorative sleep can impact your mood and lead to anxiety and depression.

But how do you make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

Ensuring you have enough sleep can be achieved by practicing good sleep hygiene – the habits that can encourage the bodily rhythms that induce sleep. These habits include reducing light and screen time 1-2 hours before bed, increasing exposure to natural light during the day and aiming to sleep at the same time each day.

These sleep practices can help to regulate the body’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps to encourage sleep by lowering the body temperature and inducing drowsiness.

  1. Be mindful of thoughts

The human brain is wired to focus more on negative thoughts that positive ones. This is referred to as the ‘negativity bias’. Negative thoughts are necessary for our survival, to recognise threats to our existence, so over time humans have evolved with this trait in tact. While we don’t face as many daily threats as a cave-dweller, this way of thinking is still hot-wired into our brains, which is why at times you may find yourself in a negative thought spiral, with seemingly no way out.

But the simple act of knowing that we all have these patterns can help us. Recognising negative thought patterns when they occur and avoiding the negative trajectory they can send us down is the goal. At the same time, we need to acknowledge our difficult emotions and not let them stew.  Practice self-compassion and look for constructive solutions to overcome everyday problems and you will be on your way to happier habits.

wellbeing friends socialising

  1. Socialise

Connection to others is a vital part of being human. It’s in our DNA. In the days of the cave man, if we were rejected by the tribe, we would lose shelter, food and the ability to protect ourselves from other tribes. We literally needed the tribe to survive. This is still true today and we fear being rejected by others or being isolated as much as we fear physical pain.

Our wellbeing is improved by positive relationships with others.

Laughter with friends releases feel-good endorphins, increase optimism, improve your mood and improve relationships by increasing connections intimacy and hugs are known to release Oxytocin, another feel-good neurochemical that is involved in bonding.

How can the Five Domains help me?

We’ve taken you through the importance of the five domains and some tips on how you can implement these into your life.

But each area on their own will not lead to happiness and fulfilment. is important to strive for balance in these 5 things.

For instance, if you are doing all the other 4 things but not getting enough sleep, then this can negatively impact your mental health. Or if you have a healthy body but are letting negative thoughts pervade your daily life, then you will not be happy.

There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to find balance and implement these 5 key areas into your life:

  1. Don’t aim for perfection – we are all a work in progress, so try to instill these habits in your daily life and you will see gradual improvement that will benefit you in the long-term
  2. Persistence is key – don’t look for a quick-fix or instant changes. If you do see improvements based on the changes you are making, that’s great! But be mindful that not all changes will occur immediately.
  3. Start with one thing at a time. If you know there are a number of lifestyle changes you need to make, it can be daunting and overwhelming to try to tackle them all simultaneously. So try to make small but meaningful changes gradually and you will build some momentum that will help to encourage other healthy habits.

Have a go implementing the Five Domains with the tips we’ve given you and see the impact they have on your happiness.

In our retreats, we delve deeper into the five domains to help set you up for success. Explore our upcoming retreats here.

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