The 5 Minimum Daily Requirements for Health and Happiness


I do this thing called InterPlay. It’s changed my life.

Recently I was chatting with co-founder Cynthia Winton Henry, and she rocked my world.  Here’s what she shared with me.

To maximize our health and happiness, there are five things we need to do on a daily basis:

1. Move and Breathe.

Did you know that ten thousand years ago the earliest people walked an average of 12 miles a day? Nuh uh, really? It blows my mind to think about this. Our brains evolved in a context of constant movement!

And yet so many of us spend the better part of our lives (childhood & adulthood) sitting in chairs — to work, eat, think, and even play.

Need I say more?

2. Play with Your Full Voice.

“Raise your hand!” “You’re too loud!” “You can’t sing!”

Early on I learned the importance of  keeping quiet. But the more I kept my voice to myself, the more I held back an important means of self- expression.

Let’s not be silenced any longer, folks! Take a deep breath and let it out with a loud sigh.  Wiggle your voice around and find as many sounds as possible. Sing in public. Stand up and stretch and let yourself groan loudly.

Boldly claim the fullness of your voice, and see how it changes your life!

3. Tell a Story and Have it Witnessed.

Everyone needs to be seen. It’s a basic human requirement about which I blogged recently.  Telling a story about something that happened to you is one of the simplest ways to be seen.

And when that story is received — simply received —  by another person, it feels so gosh darn good.

Luckily, it doesn’t take too long to tell (or hear) a story.  In InterPlay classes, we practice telling stories in 30-second bursts. “Describe how you got here today.” “Give as many details as possible about what you had for breakfast this morning.” It’s pretty amazing what you can learn about another person in 30-seconds.

What details of your life have you shared today? What details have you heard from others?

4. Touch Someone (Physical Contact)

Long ago a friend told me that physical touch in his life stopped when he was twelve years old. His parents stopped hugging him. He didn’t play team sports. Didn’t get in fights. And he didn’t have a girlfriend.

I shared this story with some teenagers at a recent InterPlay workshop.  At the end, I said, “Sometimes I wonder if we place too much importance on the physical touch we get from a lover, simply because we’re not getting enough safe, non-sexual physical contact in our lives.”

Heads nodded somberly; they’re only sixteen, but they got what I was saying.

In InterPlay classes we ask people to place their palm against their partner’s palm and try to push each other across the room. It’s fun and playful, and the touch is reassuring.

In the wise words of AT&T: “Reach out and touch someone!!!”

P.S. If you’ve got a couple extra minutes, check out this playful audio clip about how touch reduces stress.

5. Have Stillness.

The basic laws of inertia tell us that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion.  So when I’m feeling busy, busy, busy, it’s sooooooo hard to stop and find stillness.

Remembering that stillness is a minimum daily requirement is such a gift. I get less annoyed during moments when I have to wait. In line at the grocery store. At the doctor’s office.

Instead, I try to notice that I have an opportunity to be still, and then I try to really have that stillness. Even if it’s just a minute.  It’s hard to do, but totally worth it.

When today can you let yourself have stillness?

So there you have it, folks.  Try these five minimum daily requirements, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be happier than you were before you gave it a go. Guaranteed! (At least, it seems to be working for me…)

Before today ends, see if you can get your minimum daily requirements in. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Plus: if you think I seem fun, come play with me!! Check out the InterPlay classes I teach in Oakland and San Francisco. Let’s meet our minimum daily requirements for health and happiness — together.

Oh, yeah.  So what the heck is InterPlay, anyway?

Officially speaking, it’s a community arts practice that unlocks the wisdom of the body using improvisational storytelling, movement, vocal play, and stillness.

But really, it’s a way to have fun. To de-stress. To connect.

ProFUNdity in action.

16 thoughts to “The 5 Minimum Daily Requirements for Health and Happiness”

  1. couldn’t have said it better! Thanks for this elaboration. Fulfilling the five “requirements” gets even juicier when we use three golden keys that unlock our greatest, most magical, most alive selves— the physicality of Grace key, the I’m a Maker key, and the Fun Lover key. InterPlay gives permission to make the mundane ore glorious and the extraordinary part of everyday life. Check it out.

  2. Oh what joy! I forget why I love Interplay so much and I let way to much time go by without practicing/playing with my Interplay friends. Thanks for reminding me of the joyful connection and pleasure in being a human being!!!

    I lead a babbling exercise with about 21 5-7th graders a few weeks ago as a warm-up for a community art project they were participating in. It was amazing how these kids, most of them only knowing one or two other people in the group, came alive after a few rounds of talking about toothpaste and homework. And the equally amazing thing was to watch all of the “grown-ups” in the room catch the energy of willingness and excitement even though they were just on the sidelines.


  3. Cynthia, this is the first I’ve heard of your “keys”. I’m hoping we’ll be hearing more soon in the interplay community about your latest brilliant construct… In the meantime, I love the phrase “make the mundane more glorious.”

    And Stacy: welcome to the blog! Your comment reminds me of Phil’s guidance — that it takes hearing/sharing 3 personal stories to build a sense of community in any group. It’s that easy! What lucky kids and grown-ups to get to make art with you. What was the project?

  4. Simply brilliant! These are really clear keys AND explanations for how the right mix of activities in any workshop are uplifting, connecting and satisfying. I teach via the lens of dance, yet so much of what I teach could be more enriching if I make sure each of these keys are included in a variety of ways. Plus, its also a recipe for simple self-renewal.

    Thanks, Gretchen!

  5. How wonderful. There are five things, and I can use my five fingers to remember them. It makes me want to do a hand dance in celebration. It is feels like the essence of InterPlay that one can carry around in the palm of one’s hand, always near. Thanks for this post, Gretchen.

  6. Thanks, Cornelia & Arthur, for your reflections. It’s fun to have experienced InterPlayers chime in here. No surprise, Arthur, that the new InterPlay logo is a hand with five fingers, is it!?

  7. Harriet, Seattle InterPlayer, creates a five bead prayer gift for our leadership group. I tie it to my keys. -Cynthia

  8. This is a great distillation of InterPlay teaching! Easy to remember! I’m also interested in learning more about the “keys” — that sounds like more simple, applicable wisdom.

    Also, I’ve recently been reading Angeles Arrien for some background material for the book I’m writing on Spiritual Direction and the Arts (due out in the Spring..) Anyway, Angeles speaks of the four universal salves of indigenous people – storytelling, song, dance and stillness. Now just add touch and you have all five!

    Thanks for the cool blog! -Betsey

  9. I’m lucky enough to have one of Harriet’s five bead prayer gift.
    I keep it out where I can see it daily so I’m constantly reminded of these daily needs. Such wisdom!!

  10. 5 Daily requirements and 3 Keys are so clear and direct – EASE-ful communication. Thank you Gretchen as as always Cynthia for these gifts.
    Judy Shook, wandering Interplayer now in Juneau, AK

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