What makes men happy? If you thought it was all about grilling and beer, well, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. An informal poll by www.health.msn.com of a diverse group — chefs and bottlewashers, stock brokers and musicians, bachelors and grand dads — yielded the following list of 14 fulfilling routines and pastimes that help make men happy and healthy.
- Morning exercise
Fitness experts have long touted the benefits of morning exercise, which is closely associated with positive mood and sustained energy throughout the day. Men who get active in the a.m. hours are more likely to stick with an exercise regimen, too.
- Alone time
Spending time with friends and family is a priority among men who describe themselves as happy, but their contentment also depends on finding a few minutes to hold the world at bay. Early mornings were a favorite time of day, though early birds and night owls alike savor the quiet moments.
- Night out with the guys
Friendships are commonly formed and reinforced on barstools, and the health benefits of male camaraderie are supported by a significant body of research. Behavioral scientists have linked friendship not only to psychological well-being but to longevity.
- Date night
Living in the same home doesn’t guarantee adequate time to interact, and a strongly bonded couple requires a relationship independent of their mutual attachment to children. Couples with a dedicated plan for spending time together tend to argue less and are better equipped to resolve tensions when they arise back at the homestead.
- Games and sports
While men may say that regular ballgames are just a great way to blow off steam, they stand to reap all the benefits of play that children do (social development, honing physical skill sets, promoting mental sharpness) in addition to a long list of physical payoffs. Dr. Stuart Brown, an expert on the subject, has noted that healthy competition in adult play also increases abilities in decision making and problem solving. In his 2009 book Play, Brown writes, “The beneficial effects of getting just a little true play can spread through our lives, actually making us more productive and happier in everything we do.”
- Getting organized
Leadership seminars and self-help books encourage effective time management for prioritizing tasks, improving productivity, and achieving goals. But you don’t need a life coach to tell you that gaining control over chaos provides peace of mind.
- Exercise routine
Having a regular workout routine appears to be a leading source of satisfaction among men. The guys from the poll logged in on a variety of exercise preferences (a good run, biking to work, morning swims, a gym workout). Clearly exercise benefits men inside and out, fortifying the system against chronic diseases, managing weight, improving sexuality, and bolstering mood. Back in 1996, the Surgeon General reported on the many associations between inactivity and diseases including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It’s no surprise that inactivity has also been linked to depression and increased anxiety.
- Generosity and charity
Want to feel good? Try making someone else feel good. Says Alex S., a real-estate consultant, “When I come from a place of giving to others I genuinely feel better about being me…. I try to carry that with me every day, and I’ve developed a way to measure it. I need to get six thank-you’s every single day from different people. If I get a thank-you from someone, then I know I’ve given something or done something someone else appreciates. I know it’s dopey, but it makes me happy.”
- An indulgent meal
Everyone must be cautioned against overeating, especially on a regular basis, but the occasional big meal — a stack of pancakes, a thick steak, a rich pasta — can be a source of satisfaction for a healthy man. Big meals are part of a longstanding tradition for men, and today’s warriors sometimes deserve a feast after returning home from battle at the office.
- Down time with family
Relaxed family time opens the lines of communication, reinforces the strength of a marriage, and provides an opportunity to decompress. The satisfaction of good parenting can be added to the equation, too, since family time helps kids build self confidence and stave off peer pressure.
- Meal with family or friends
A good meal in good company is something of a feast for the senses. With positive, pleasure-inducing signals sent from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, a man’s brain receives the message that the experience is nourishing to both the body and the mind. That, in physiological terms, defines happiness.
- Playing an instrument
Accomplished musicians and amateurs alike enjoy the rewards of time spent on an instrument, a mental task that is uniquely well suited to blocking distractions and diminishing intrusive thoughts. Like other creative pursuits such as painting or woodworking, playing an instrument calls on different mental faculties than those tapped during the rest of the day. Several men polled cited personal creative time as a great diversion and deeply fulfilling.
- Time with the kids
Maybe it’s because men really are just overgrown kids, as often characterized, that this category was the leading source of happiness among the dads polled. Anywhere they could catch one-on-time with their children — driving to practice, at the bus stop, during a bedside chat — the experience was genuinely prized and rewarding.
Lethargy, stress, anxiety and depression all stand to be lessened by getting out into the fresh air and making your body move according to its natural design. “A 30-45 minute walk can be peaceful, and it gets my blood pumping,” says Mike Q. “If I miss a day or two, I feel off.” Health authorities recommend adding as many steps to your day as your age and condition comfortably allow. Even the experts on arthritis, reversing an earlier understanding, frequently suggest walking for relieving pain in arthritic hips and knees.
All content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.