Your 5 Things

Last Sunday, I was the beneficiary of some friend-wisdom – that variety of wisdom that you can only hear from friends because otherwise it just doesn’t sink in.

What 5 things do you love doing? 5 things that invariably fill you with joy every time you do them. Feed yourself with them.

I’ve probably read this advice in countless self-help, be-happy, life manuals, but only conversation ripens the brain to act. As someone wise twice wrote: Self-help is an oxymoron. (I can’t remember where I read this; it wasn’t a friend.)

In response to my friend’s question (that she herself was asked by a friend), I dug around in my cortex and came up with my five. Not the first five, and there are probably more lurking in the foreground, but these five raise me up (in the persistent words of Westlife).

I notice that there are two common threads running through the five:

  • companionship: self-help being an oxymoron
  • the search for peak experience, or flow: I long for transcendence, that loss of self that digs up buckets of contentment

1. Seeing good friends and loved ones (like you)
Making new friends too. That doesn’t happen too often, but there’s exhilaration in finding someone new.

2. Probably something about generosity
Giving gifts, or – better – helping friends or serving strangers. It’s not all altruism: empathy is a buzz.

3. Learning shit
I really like learning shit, ideally with other people in a semi-structured setting. One thing that I’d like to extend this to is learning skills: practical worldly skills away from the computer and the internet, and even away from words and books.

4. Physical exercise
Or any treat for my body, including but not limited to: stretching and saunas and cold showers and cycling and hiking and jumping in the sea and breathing and dancing and sex and table tennis. Again, these are also enjoyable with other people – and some would be a challenge without!

5. Holidays
I’m not sure what I mean by this, aside from getting out and switching off – literally and figuratively. My trips late last year to Scotland, the Lake District and Bristol were exemplars for my idea of a holiday. Displacing myself in time and place. Seeing the world anew, with the credulous eyes of a tourist. Space for forgetting. Café breakfasts, long bus rides and photographs.

The second stage of finding your five is to schedule. After the ecstasy, the laundry (Jack Kornfield). I’ve already plugged these into my 2018 calendar (it’s a spreadsheet).

We’re here now, so what’s yours?

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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