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Men’s Happiness: Part III – Wellbeing and Masculinity

Men’s Happiness Part III

Men’s Happiness Part III - (Image Credit: Shutterstock); Author picture - (Image Credit: Author)

On a subject near and dear to my own heart, there is much evidence that practicing mindfulness and meditation can enhance triadic health, particularly immune function.

Record – Reflect – Review

In many sessions, I simply ask my partner to “think about things that make you feel good,” and then reflect/meditate on those thoughts.

On a regular basis, I ask him to take a moment each day to enjoy positive thoughts, and to think about “happy moments” in his personal life, and then journal them.

We all accept that reflection and meditation induce positive affect and lead to health and well-being.

In fact, neuroscientist Richard Davidson demonstrated that mindfulness meditation actually produces positive changes in brain immune function.[1]

In the meditation group, brain activity in the left anterior hemisphere, a region associated with positive affect, was significantly increased.

He also found significant increases in antibody concentrations to flu vaccine in the meditation group.

Positive Ψspiritual intentions reduce the biological and behavioral processes that adversely affect health.

The bottom line: There is compelling evidence that positive Ψspirituality is linked to health and longevity.

Freedom from disease and longevity are only two goals of life. Quality of life matters in addition to quantity of life.

It clear from research that experiencing frequent positive emotions, having a sense of life purpose, focusing what is positive in life, and living a more active and social life is linked to one’s quality of life across the lifespan.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence or literacy (the terms often used interchangeably), involves the capacity to understand, process, express and manage emotions in order to empathize with others and to enhance and promote personal growth.

Lower EI in men, mainly the inability to perceive emotions and to use emotion to facilitate thought, has been linked with negative outcomes.[2]

There is a large body of research that confirms a toxic cultural stigma associated with men seeking help for health-related issues.

One such study looks at the influence of gender on mental health literacy in young Australians. However, others, such as Rickwood et al.,[3] suggest that men’s help-seeking for mental or physical health problems boils down to a tendency to “place a high reliance on the self” when faced with personal problems. Other research supports this observation.[4]

Moving on from the personal sphere to the more worldly…

Since many men in the Homoerotic Tantra ℠ programs are entrepreneurs, professionals, or students, it seems appropriate to address the question: Does Happiness Launch More Businesses?[5] which happens to be the title of a scientific article by G. Sweida and C.L. Sherman.[6]

Their study looked at how entrepreneurial creativity grows out of emotional support and happiness. They found that emotional support helped to create positive emotions that led entrepreneurs to engage more positively with their environment, modifying their perceptions of environment, ideas, and persons more favourably.

Affect , Emotion, and Mood

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

Emotions

Human behavior is guided by emotion, mood[7], and more broadly by affect. Affect and emotion, are often conflated; however, affect refers to a more general state of consciously accessible feelings.

In contrast, emotions are defined as a response to a stimulus, unfolding over a relatively short time.

Moods are defined as somewhat stable background sensations that are not associated a particular stimulus.

Affect, more generally, is the accumulation of the experience of positive or negative moods and emotions.

Emotions and moods reflect a man’s dispositional affect, e.g., a personality trait describing a man’s predictable response to a situation.[8]

Affect is a form of information that influences mental processes such as perception, judgment, decision, memory, creativity, and managing stress, and forms categories for organizing experiences and making similar perceptions easier to retrieve.

Research has shown that affect primes memories and associations and serves as a heuristic for classifying and responding to perceptions, ideas, and experiences.

Positive affect

Positive affect includes emotions such as joy, hope, and inspiration; it facilitates your approach to behavior and prompts you to engage with your environment.

Engaging with your environment facilitates the acquisition of resources in the outside world.

Positive emotions can enhance the desire to explore the environment, absorb new information, and expand experience.

Creative ideation[9] and playful investigation[10] are important aspects of positive emotion.

As components of positive emotion, they increase available resources which positively influence a man’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being.

Positive affect also builds social capital and Ψspiritual well-being, which supports personal growth , worthwhile motivation and goals, and self -acceptance.

Men with more positive affect experience more positive outcomes in social life, general health, and intimate relationships because positive affect acts as a conduit for the integration of new ideas in current knowledge.

New knowledge inspires innovative and creative thinking and playful investigation, which results in more new knowledge.

Positive affect opens up thinking and enhances resilience and the coping skills required for challenging situations.

More positive affect can help entrepreneurs, creators, influencers, etc. build resilience, positively adapt to stressful situations, and tolerate ambiguity.

Negative affect is not all negative. Negative affect does include emotions such as anger, fear, shame , and anxiety.

Negative emotions manifest independently of positive emotions, and both can be experienced at the same time, if things are not going well.

In fact, negative emotions respond to information that represents a potential threat to survival and are attended to and processed more thoroughly than positive emotions.

In an article entitled, Gender and Psychological Well-Being,[11] the authors describe common-sense results that adherence to traditional gender roles is relevant to the psychological well-being of both women and men. Both women and men, whose self-concept includes both masculine-instrumental and feminine-intuitive characteristics, have greater opportunities for health and well-being.

Psychological Well-Being

This is the well-known concept of androgyny at work or, as we teach in homoerotic yogic Tantra (तन्त्र) , Ardhanārīśvara (अर्धनारीश्वर), the avatāra (अवतार) of the divine masculine and feminine principle s.[12]

Men’s happiness depends on awareness of and integration of the so-called masculine and feminine principles inherent in every man.

Acknowledging both principles in healthy equilibrium is a requirement for healthy and positive psychospirituality and, hence, for good physical health.

Dimensions of Happiness

The so-called Ryff model includes six dimensions contributing to happiness :[13] (1) self -acceptance , which refers to the positive attitude toward oneself and one’s past experiences; self-awareness and self-acceptance ; (2) positive relations with others , having true, warm, and authentic relations with other people and compassion; (3) autonomy, self-determination, self-regulation, self-control ; (4) environmental mastery, a man’s relationship with his environment; discerning opportunities in his environment for realizing values; (5) purpose in life , having realistic motivation and goals, and feeling that life has meaning; and 6) personal growth , continuous growth, evolution, and transformation, and the sense that he is freely and authentically realizing his innate and intrinsic potential.

Psychological well-being is not only a matter of social skills and self -realization but is also important in physical health.

Poor psychological well-being is significantly associated with physical morbidity and mortality.

Although research has reported that women and men are similar in most psychological traits, the majority of societies consider they are essentially different and should occupy different roles. It seems that rigorous compliance with scripted gender roles narrows the range of potential behaviors and choices available to men, which would in itself limit the development of those personal characteristics that do not conform to social expectations about enforced gender propriety.

We are talking about stereotypes and labels here as well as rigid gender and identity ideologies.

Masculinity has been found to be more associated with the well-being of both men and women than femininity.

Positively

The hypothesis that masculinity is be more associated with the psychological well-being of men and women than femininity is supported by the research as well.

In both genders, masculinity was positively associated with all the well-being dimensions.

The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) a popular gender traits scale that contains ‘socially desirable’ characteristics that have been stereotypically associated with men , such as independence , assertiveness , strength , individualism or ambition, and also contains a femininity scale that includes characteristics stereotypically associated with women, such as empathy, tenderness, warmth or the need for affiliation . Unfortunately, the BSRI is widely used as an assessment tool.[14]

The internalization of attributes and behaviors traditionally considered “masculine” is associated with greater psychological well–being in both women and men
The study, Subjective Health and Happiness in the United States: Gender Differences in the Effects of Socioeconomic Status Indicators, found that education, employment, and relationship status are among the main socioeconomic status (SES) indicators,[15] and are associated with subjective health and happiness.

The effects of SES indicators are culturally determined and, moreover, are different for various demographic groups. Overall, high education, being employed, and being in a stable relationship were associated with better self -rated health (SRH) and happiness.

The results suggest that the effect of higher education and relationship status were stronger for women; the effect of employment was stronger for men.

But again, these studies are unquestionably culturally and socially, if not also politically biased.

The culture effect is conspicuous in all of these studies but — for better or for worse — it’s what current sociology and psychology are working with.

On the topic of well-being, which includes subjective health and happiness , the robust relationship between well-being and subjective health is essential to considering the components of well-being.

High levels of subjective health and happiness predict high levels of productivity; healthy and happy individuals are more productive and positive, and happy individuals also report better interpersonal relationships , which is closely linked to positive physical and mental health.

Happiness is closely associated with pleasure , optimism , engagement , and meaning and purpose, and is a potent driving force providing energy and enthusiasm for individuals and communities. Happy people are better at avoiding disease and tend to live longer.

Happiness boosts the immune system and increases resilience in the face of adverse stressors in daily life.

Social and cultural factors influencing health are among the root and fundamental obstacles to and causes of subjective health and happiness.

A major factor that alters the effects of sociocultural determinants on subjective health and happiness is gender. Health and happiness may have different effects on men and women, depending on education, employment , and relationship status.

The “sponge hypothesis ”

The sponge effect is the everyday tendency for a man to absorb his environment and become what he thinks about. A man is happy because he thinks the way happy people think. It is that simple. Our environment is a crucial determining factor for the outcome of our lives.

Model of Inquiry

In terms of Subjective Health self -assessment , the question I propose is: “Would you say your health, in general, is excellent, good, fair, or poor?” We then explore How? it can be improved.

In terms of happiness , a question that measures general happiness may read: “In general, would you say that you are very happy, quite happy, or not happy.”

We find that gender ideology alters the importance of social determinants of subjective health and happiness, two key indicators of wellbeing of Americans.

Again, I then explore the question of How? he can be happier.[16]

Relationship status is associated with higher subjective health. Stable relationship is associated with better support, which improves subjective health.

A high sense of trust is another factor underlying why men in stable relationship s experience better subjective health. A trusting attitude towards others represents high social capital and healthy and happy feelings.

Social networks are crucial in feeling happy, and a stable relationship has a potent effect on the composition of one’s social network and social relations, particularly for men, and relationship satisfaction is a critical factor that determines how relationship status influences subjective health and happiness.

When discussing social network s we cannot but consider employment.[17] The positive association between stable employment and happiness in men is consistent regardless of sociocultural environment or locale.

Having full-time employment brings economic security, which is essential for happiness.

Employment also extends the social network, which is another critical factor associated with happiness.

We can argue not only that having full-time employment is a major determinant of subjective health and happiness among American men, but also that it is not merely having a job but having a secure and engaging job , which is a key factor.

Part IV will bring us closer to a working understanding of men’s happiness, health, and spiritual wellbeing.

1] Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, et al. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosom Med. 2003;65:564-570
2] Brackett A., M., Mayer D., J., & Warner M., R. (2004). Emotional intelligence and its relation to everyday behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(6), 1387-1402. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(03)00236-8)
3] Rickwood D., Deane FP, Coralie J. Wilson CJ, Ciarrochi J. (2005) Young people’s help-seeking for mental health problems, Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 4:3, 218-251, DOI: 10.5172/jamh.4.3.218
4] Mojtabai, R. (2009). Unmet need for treatment of major depression in the United States.Psychiatric Services,60(3), 297-305.)
5] Sweida G, Sherman CL. Does Happiness Launch More Businesses? Affect , Gender, and Entrepreneurial Intention. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 21;17(18):6908. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186908. PMID: 32967308; PMCID: PMC7559904.
6] Sweida and Sherman is confirmed by Stenholm, P.; Nielsen, M.S. Understanding the emergence of entrepreneurial passion. The influence of perceived emotional support and competences. Int. J. Entrep. Behav. Res. 2019, 25, 1368–1388.
7] For an excellent discussion of affect , emotion, mood , see: Gendron, Maria, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. “Reconstructing the Past: A Century of Ideas About Emotion in Psychology.” Emotion Review : Journal of the International Society for Research on Emotion vol. 1,4 (2009): 316-339. doi:10.1177/1754073909338877
8] A number of studies relate dispositional affect to employment and performance. As I discuss below, employment as a component of his social network is a key factor in a man’s perception of subjective health and happiness.
9] Creative Ideation (CI) refers to the process of generating original ideas in response to open-ended experiences.
10] Playful investigation invites the seeker to learn and make sense of the things he encounters with curiosity and joy. Playful investigation is an attitude of freedom, joy, possibility, and imagination. In play, the seeker has the opportunity to reinvent the world and to reframe perceptions. In playful investigation, the idea isn’t to avoid or distract one's self from the outside world but to find a way to interpret and make meaning of it. In play the mind has a unique opportunity to make meaning and connections because it is free from the concern for mistakes and the anxiety of being wrong. Along with the pleasurable emotions associated with play, perceptual and sensory pathways and freed for multi-dimensional growth.
11] Matud MP, López-Curbelo M, Fortes D. Gender and Psychological Well-Being. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Sep 20;16(19):3531. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16193531. PMID: 31547223; PMCID: PMC6801582.)
12] Homoerotic Tantra:Mascul-IN-Touch℠ and Mascul-IN-Timacy℠ bring a man’s masculine and feminine principle s into optimum alignment, in harmony with the man’s personeity.
13] Ryff, C.D. Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 1989, 57, 1069–1081.)
14] I mention this ‘gender test ’ only for information and illustration purposes. In my training I found that such gender tests are symptomatic of Western psychology’s pathological obsession with defining and measuring. Gender tests are one of modern psychology’s best examples of fake science.
15] Maharlouei N, Cobb S, Bazargan M, Assari S. Subjective Health and Happiness in the United States: Gender Differences in the Effects of Socioeconomic Status Indicators. J Ment Health Clin Psychol. 2020;4(2):8-17. doi: 10.29245/2578-2959/2020/2.1196. Epub 2020 May 14. PMID: 32568256; PMCID: PMC7304555.
16] Note that I use the How? style of inquiry rather than the Why? style; asking How? focuses on possible positive approaches, whereas the Why? style tends to direct attention to the obstacles or problems, the negativity of the situation.
17] I am speaking of ‘employment’ in a broader sense than that of merely providing a service for compensation; employment is the meaningful, purposeful, enriching application of one’s resources, whether for compensation, recognition, advancement, or any other purpose.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. The content on our website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or therapy. You should NEVER disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment due to something you have read on our website and we will not be held responsible for any adverse health condition or injury that occurs as a result of doing so.
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Daka Karuna T.

Psychospiritual Care Provider

Dāka Karuṇā T. (दाक करुणा तान्त्रिक) is a psychospiritual care provider...

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