14 Habits of Happy Men

Fulfilling routines and pastimes that deliver happiness and health. 
© MSN Healthy Living // © MSN Health
What makes men happy? If you thought it was all about grilling and beer, well, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Our informal poll 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
“I relish an hour or more of exercise at the start of the day,” says Mitch M., a seasoned consultant. “That could be walking, working outdoors, or playing tennis — but certainly an active period.  It sets up the day for both my body and mind.” 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.
1 of 16 Man doing yoga (© Reggie Casagrande/Getty Images)

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. “I always enjoy Sunday morning coffee and a newspaper — on real paper — on the front porch before the rest of the family wakes up,” says Mike Q., a salesman in the New York area. Some guys in our survey seize solitary time to learn or be creative while others want to be alone to “shut off my brain for a while.” Early mornings were a favorite time of day, though early birds and night owls alike savor the quiet moments.
2 of 16 Man reading the paper (© Image Source/Getty Images)

Night out with the guys

“One thing that makes me happy is sitting down with a buddy over some drinks and food, talking about nothing,” says Josh M., a California-based M.D. Admittedly, it’s tough to argue the health benefits of chicken wings, fries and beer. But 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.
3 of 16 Men with beer at a bar (©Photolibrary)

Date night

It may not be the first  topic of conversation on pub night, but men can be downright protective of their time with a significant other. Fathers with busy lives at work and home are especially covetous of evenings out with a spouse and report that weekly or bi-weekly date nights help keep the pair connected. 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.
4 of 16 Man and woman drinking wine at a restaurant (© Mark Edward Atkinson/Blend Images RM/Getty Images)

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.”
5 of 16 15 Habits of Happy Men / Man playing basketball (© Michael Mohr/PhotoAlto/Getty Images)

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. Says Doug E., a professor and author, “I especially like writing down what I need to do on a monthly calendar and then crossing things off when they're done.” Doug’s routine does double duty, providing a template for time management and a built-in reward system for looking back over a month of accomplishments.
6 of 16 15 Habits of Happy Men / Man with calendar and pen (© Barry Yee/Getty Images)

Exercise routine

Having a regular workout routine appears to be a leading source of satisfaction among men. The guys from our 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.
7 of 16 15 Habits of Happy Men / Man jogging by the water (© Rob Lang/Workbook Stock/Getty Images)

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.”
8 of 16 15 Habits of Happy Men / Man serving meal (© Image Source/Getty Images)

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. Mitch P., a chef who routinely serves healthy, locally grown vegetables at his own restaurant, says, “On a quiet Sunday, I’ll flop on the couch and watch football or hockey with a huge, cheesy sandwich. Not the healthiest day off, but I need it.”
9 of 16 15 Habits of Happy Men / Man cooking breakfast (© Adam Gault/Getty Images)

Down time with family

"It could be just TV time or a family board game — doesn’t matter. Downtime with the family helps keep me happy,” says Erik W., a business owner and father of pre-teen twins. 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.
10 of 16 15 Habits of Happy Men / Man and woman relaxing on couch (© Cultura RF/Getty Images)