Pursuing Emotional Wellbeing with MAST

Pursuing Emotional Wellbeing with MAST

Owayne Ovenstone
by Owayne Ovenstone
Published on Jul 10, 2024
0 min read

Reflections on how exercise, socialising and nature might make us happier

The pursuit of happiness is a core aim across the human experience (Folk & Dunn, 2023) and one that I seek not only in my personal life, but also advocated by PLP. A range of factors have been identified as contributors to such as pursuit, which are not all possible to cover within a short blog. However, three in particular: exercise, socialising, and nature are often highlighted as paramount amongst these and therefore I have opted to reflect on them.

Physical Activity

Typically recognised for its physical health benefits, exercise also has a profound impact upon psychological wellbeing. Not only does the process release endorphins (i.e., ‘feel good’ hormones), but also improve sleep, energy levels, and self-esteem (e.g., via accomplishment and body positivity; American Psychological Association, 2020).

The degree to which people can engage in varying durations and intensities of exercise can be highly individual and I have long held the view that “trying is succeeding” when aiming for behaviour change. To begin with, people can aim to make small changes, such as walking to the shop or parking slightly further away. Personally, I find it easier to exercise when it is fun, so adopt social (further beneficial) hobbies such as racket sports and going to the gym with a partner.


Humans have evolved as inherently social creatures and meaningful connections are essential for our emotional wellbeing. Social interactions expose us to emotional support, reduce loneliness, and contribute to our sense of belonging. These points are particularly relevant for me, given that I have been further away from family and lifelong friendships since moving to Plymouth in 2022. Despite this, through my work and hobbies I have still been able to share experiences, both positive and negative, with others. According to Diener and Seligman (2002), this might have helped to maintain my emotional resilience and overall life satisfaction.


Accessing nature is proposed to have a noteworthy impact upon emotional wellbeing. Whether it is by enjoying a green space, walking in the park or even a hike on Dartmoor, exposure to nature has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress (University of East Anglia, 2018). This might be an interaction with other areas, such as by increasing physical activity and social opportunities, but it also might be partially due to an inherent connection that we have with the social world (Capaldi et al., 2015). On a personal level, I feel since moving to Plymouth I have not made enough effort to explore the surrounding areas as much as I might like, which will probably now become a bit more of a plan moving forward…


Our positive emotional wellbeing is a state that is promoted by a range of accessible life opportunities. Physical activity, socialising, and accessing nature all offer unique, but also overlapping benefits for us and can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling experience. Therefore, by recognising and prioritising these factors (where we can and based on our individual differences) it can be that we are taking steps to develop a more profound and sustained sense of overall happiness.


  • American Psychological Association. (2020). The Exercise Effect.
  • Capaldi, C. A., Passmore, H. A., Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M., & Dopko, R. L. (2015). Flourishing in nature: A review of the benefits of connecting with nature and its application as a wellbeing intervention.
  • Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13(1), 81-84.
  • Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). Exercising to relax.
  • Harvard Study of Adult Development. (2017). Good genes are nice, but joy is better.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Depression Basics.
  • University of East Anglia. (2018). Living close to nature and spending time outdoors is linked with better mental health.