Habits of happy expat men

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An informal survey of men found some “traditional” sources of happiness, as well as a few unexpected additions.

What makes men happy? If you thought it was all about grilling and beer, well… you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. MSN Health recently conducted an informal poll of men, a diverse group including everything from bottlewashers to stock brokers, bachelors to granddads.

It produced 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 level of 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.

  • Nights 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 children. Couples with a dedicated plan for spending time together tend to argue less and are better equipped to resolve tensions when they do arise.

  • 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), as well as 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 wrote, “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

Happy men of all ages love to work out–though workouts of choice vary wildly.

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, gym workouts). Clearly exercise benefits men inside and out, fortifying the system against chronic diseases, managing weight, improving sexuality, and bolstering mood.

Back in 1996, the US Surgeon General reported on the many associations between inactivity and diseases, including: obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Inactivity has also been linked to depression and increased anxiety.

  • Generosity and charity

Want to feel good? Try making someone else feel good. Real estate consultant Alex S. puts it like this: “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

While overeating on a regular basis is a definite no-no, 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 a longstanding tradition for men, and today’s workday 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 delicious meal in good company truly is 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 that is 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.

  • Walking

Lethargy, stress, anxiety and depression can all be mitigated by getting out into fresh air and moving your body. Health authorities recommend adding as many steps to your day as your age and condition comfortably allow. Even experts on arthritis now frequently suggest walking to relieve pain in arthritic hips and knees.

Karen Madgwick blogs for Mediterranean Quality Care Services, a nursing agency based in Mallorca. Its team of qualified experts includes nurses, doctors, care assistants, pysiotherapists, holistic therapists and midwives, all of whom offer well-researched information on health-related issues. http://mediterranean-quality-care.com