I wish I could share Tim Crampton's article about men and happiness, but it's behind The Times' paywall. So I'll just have to share some thoughts.
It's not news to you (hopefully) that there's something going on with men and masculinity. The unfairer sense is still adjusting to welcome rise of economically, and (with still a long way to go) culturally independent women. This stuff (which resolves so much tension between being and independent woman and enjoying your looks, you'd be amazed at how many blokes think women dress for them):
It's in this too:
You can see it being addressed here:
Here (less well shall we say):
There's lots of thread in popular culture too, with a general direction towards being proud of your masculinity, rather than ashamed. There's something going on about enjoying and embracing (quite bloody right too) equality and jettisoning ugly misogyny, but not losing sight of what makes a man, well a man.
I think the renaissance of Take That into a man band captures lots of that:
Just because you respect women, you don't have to and shouldn't become one. You can see a lot of that in here:
But even when done with tongue firmly in cheek, it's all going to get a little conventional. That's why I think Old Spice stands out so much, the broader narrative about the need to be experienced (while gently laughing at old school masculinity to boot). Men who know what to do.
In search for a new narrative, where do we look? I think that article has some clues worth considering. He talks of the (wrongly) accepted view of Epicurus' guide to happiness - seeking pleasure, compared with Aristotle's view that happiness comes from cultivating virtue. He points out that we live in an age where Epicurus rules.
Everything's about instant gratification, we drink more, eat more, have unlimited access to porn, and despite recent austerity, by and large, living for today.
This doesn't make anyone happier above a certain level, economist are now telling us that wealth doesn't make any difference to wellbeing over a certain level. Psychologists know that we get a much happier glow from doing stuff others than for ourselves.
I like the point of how this matters to men. For most of history, men have been used to devoting themselves to the needs of others. Not really fighting wars and stuff, more taking responsibility for their struggling family's welfare. Marries men are statistically happier that bachelors because their's more happiness in acting on someones behalf more than your own.
My Dad, and probably yours took pride in mending stuf that was broken, for us, rather than just buying a new one. I only became a Dad at 36, I wish it was sooner because,while I enjoyed my single years, and carefree married life, despite it being hard, there's nothing like caring for someone who depends upon you.
In other words, we're mostly happier taking the difficult option. But we've got out of practise - and lost the institutions that helped us, the Church, Army, early marriage, trade union, a life working with your hands and doing the same kind of thing at home.
Now this is the bit I really like - losing these institutions has another effect. A generation ago, men worked and played mostly with men. Too much, no doubt about that. My generation is lucky it's okay to spend time with women, and with your children. In the case of kids, and to the point above, I'm happier (and data shows most men are) when I'm doing proper things for my child, not just the playing. I love cooking for him, giving him a bath, changing his nappy etc. It's not 'fun' but it's fulfilling. But now we don't spend enough time with other men.
Women socialising is common - it's the narrative of Sex and the City. But many men have become a little more isolated. Now, on the other hand, too much interaction is purgatory, most men I know need time alone, but we need time together.
Not in the way women do - always on. We need something, to quote, "Narrow and deeper'. I love that. We don't do face to face, we do side by side. We something to do together that fuels conversation, common interest. That's why we love sport, both playing and watching.
We had all that, now it's largely gone. We lack the opportunties for comradeship, a cause that knits us together. I don't mean fighting The Hun or the like, I mean the local 5 a side team, building a shed together, or going to watch your team, or, as far as I'm concerned, taking all our kids to the park or cooking for our families. We need projects.
So what's do be done? Comradeship? Self sacrifice? We can't all suddenly join the Army or turn the clock back. You can't create a new moral cause out of thin air.
You don't need to be a soldier or pro footballer to enjoy sport and keeping fit, and maybe try and do it with mates. You don't need to be an intellectual to read a decent book. You can make the world a better place in all sorts of ways, many small, all important. You don't need to be a pro builder to try putting up a shelf (I can't wait for Will and I to have projects together).
What does this all mean? I'm not sure, it just feels persuasive and maybe questions stuff like VB Beer, or The Hangover. Real men don't revel in idiocy and a perpetual state of juvenility. They don't reject complications and thinking about things. They take responsibility and find that it makes them a lot happier than the diminishing returns of always pleasing yourself.
That's why this campaign is so spot on in my view:
I've always rejected the data that claims that people with faith are happier with those that are not, as a pretty devout atheist. However, in conclusion (the article finished like this too), the moderating influence of worrying you'll go to hell probably curbs too much self gratification and more selflessness - which perversely benefits the individual the most. You don't need God, we all have a conscience. When we live in rough accordance with it, we're mostly happy. When we don't we're not.
Like I said, not sure what all this means, but hopefully useful fodder if you need to engage culturally with a male audience.