What really makes men happy—and healthy?
There are plenty of health experts out there telling men what they should be doing to stay healthy. But men do some things just because they make them happy, without really thinking about the health benefits.
Turns out that some of these things actually have healthy side effects.
Here’s what we found—and how women can learn from what men already know!
1. A Morning Workout. A national survey of a diverse group of men found that any type of activity in the morning tended to help men feel happy and energetic for the rest of the day. Of course, that daily exercise is really good for them, helping them to maintain a healthy weight and stave off today’s common diseases.
- What women can learn: Researchers from Oregon State University found that men exercise almost twice as much as women! Actual results showed that women got 18 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise to men’s 30 minutes. If you’re trying to get more active, you may want to change your workout to first thing in the morning. Men who adopt this habit are more likely to stick with an exercise program.
2. A good night’s sleep. We’ve all read about how sleep deprivation puts our health at risk. The National Sleep Foundation reported that 49 percent of men sleep well most nights, compared to just 34 percent of women.
- What women can learn: Some research suggests that women hold onto things longer than men, stewing or brewing over the day’s events. Letting go of the small stuff, along with a relaxing bedtime routine, might help women to sleep better.
3. Alone time. Family and friends contribute to overall happiness, but men need time alone, too. That’s why they cling fiercely to their evening newspaper, television show, hour of video games, wood crafting work, or evening walk. The biggest health benefit? Reducing stress.
- What women can learn: Time alone gives both men and women a chance to shut off stress and engage in something pleasurable, which is very important to both mental and physical health. Women, however, can sometimes struggle finding time alone, believing they need to be available to everyone else in the family. Learning to guard that daily alone-time activity as fiercely as men can help women enjoy fewer mood swings, less stress and tension, and better overall health.
4. Time with friends. A night out with the guys was found to be very important to men. Research has also shown that strong, supportive relationships are key to long-term health and vitality.
- What women can learn: Women may need to make actual appointments to enjoy time away with their girlfriends. A girls’ night out is just as important for a woman’s health as the guys’ night out is for a man’s.
5. Letting it out. It’s not unusual to see men arguing with one another over some contentious issue, then a few hours later, find them laughing over a game a racquetball. Being able to express their emotions leaves most men carrying around few resentments. This is good news, as repressed emotions have been shown in scientific studies to erode our health and lead to pain, a dampened immune system, digestive issues, headaches, and disease.
- What women can learn: Unfortunately, it’s less socially acceptable for women to express their anger than men, which leaves them vulnerable to the dangers of repressed emotions. Women can try being more assertive, and may also incorporate other avenues for dealing with emotions, such as journaling, talking to friends, deep breathing, tapping, exercising, and engaging in creative activities. Learning more constructive approaches to dealing with conflict may also help women become experts at it. Yelling and screaming aren’t necessary, but being assertive and getting your needs met is.
6. Giving back. Men reported feeling better about themselves when they were involved in a charity, volunteering, or giving back in some other way. They loved it even more when someone expressed appreciation for their efforts. How does this make guys healthy? Studies show that gratitude and giving back create positive feelings and good mood—always important to energy, vitality, and a strong immune system.
- What women can learn: Women are typically really good at giving back, so the learning here may be how best to get your guy to do that honey-do list you’ve been waiting on. Appeal to his willingness to help, then be sure to show your appreciation!
7. Enjoying a positive body image. Perhaps because they exercise more, or maybe because of a difference in societal expectations, men are happier with their body image, in general, than women are. In fact, they were overwhelmingly more satisfied with their physical appearance than women. Interestingly enough, a 2008 study found that people who were happy with their body image experienced fewer unhealthy days and fewer mentally unhealthy days than those who were unhappy with their body image.
- What women can learn: Women experience more pressure today than ever before to appear a certain way. Research shows, however, that how you perceive yourself is more important to your overall health than what may show up on the scale or in the mirror. Work on your self-image, and take some tips from guys on feeling great about your body, whether or not it measures up to societal expectations.
8. Eating a healthy, robust breakfast. Men are more likely to enjoy a large, tasty breakfast than women. Rather than restricting themselves, they may enjoy a variety of foods first thing in the morning to get them going. Research links eating breakfast with better health overall, and with maintaining a healthy weight.
- What women can learn: Women who are watching their weight may feel hesitant to eat too much at breakfast, but science tells us that getting the metabolism rolling in the morning is critical to long-term health. Try broadening your choices for your morning meal.
9. Having fun with family. Men reported relaxing with family to be one of the key things that make them happy. Activities included playing a board game, making a meal together, heading outside for some catch, taking a walk, and more. Meanwhile, science has found that strong, supportive relationships go a long way toward helping humans stay healthy and strong—and to live longer.
- What women can learn: Research shows that families who eat together are healthier, so don’t give up on getting everyone together for dinner, or for a picnic in the park. Moms are often the ones who make these things happen—realize that you’re doing something great for your entire family whenever you schedule family activities.
10. Sports. You knew it was coming. Yes, sports played a big part in men’s happy lives, but it also contributed to their health in a number of ways, especially if they were playing as well as watching. Regularly engaging in games of softball, tennis, basketball, or other sports games kept men mentally sharp and physically fit, while contributing to their overall good mood.
- What women can learn: Women are less likely to get involved in community sports, particularly after they have families. Gathering the girlfriends together for a walk, a horseback ride, or a softball game is likely to help you stay active while strengthening the bonds of friendship. Other options include a yoga retreat, day hike, or a bike ride around the neighborhood.
Do you know of other healthy habits of happy men? Please share!
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“14 Habits of Healthy Men,” MSN Healthy Living, http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/men/14-habits-of-happy-men-2.
Carolyn Richardson, “Men’s Healthy Habits: How Women Can Benefit,” Calorie Count Blog, April 28, 2012, http://caloriecount.about.com/mens-healthy-habits-women-can-benefit-b568225.
Holly Pevzner, “8 Healthy Habits to Steal from Guys,” Shape Magazine, July 25, 2013, http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/8-healthy-habits-steal-guys.
Cheri Cheng, “What Makes Us Happy? Survey Finds Men More Satisfied with Their Looks Than Women,” Consel & Heal, April 6, 2013, http://www.counselheal.com/articles/4760/20130406/what-makes-happy-survey-finds-men-more-satisfied-looks-women.htm.
Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (2008, February 13). Body Image Is Stronger Predictor Of Health Than Obesity, Says Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/02/080212155730.htm.