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Portrait of an Emotionally Healthy Man

Characteristics of Emotionally Healthy Men continued...

"The conscience is soluble in ethanol," Vaillant says. "You can behave very badly and that makes other people unhappy. If other people get no joy in you, you're unlikely to get joy from them."

3. Mentally healthy men create loving relationships. 

Strong connections to others formed a foundation for mental health, the study found. While Paine was in college, he often reported being in love. But researchers noted that to the young man, "being in love" meant having someone to care for him, according to Vaillant. Paine's third wife was loving and protective, but he was disrespectful and uncaring in response. Each of his wives described an unhappy marriage, largely because of his alcoholism and fear of intimacy. When Paine died, Vaillant concluded that he was one of the study's saddest cases.

Love was so elusive during Camille's childhood that researchers held out little hope for the lonely college kid. But after his fateful hospitalization, he spent decades building a large social network. "Dad had the innate ability to just give," his daughter said.

When he died at age 82, Camille was deemed one of the big success stories among the Harvard men. According to Vaillant, "Camille left no stone unturned until he found the love he needed, and then he absorbed it greedily."

Men and Positive Psychology

Seeking relief from emotional misery is important, but you shouldn't stop there, says Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, a University of Pennsylvania professor who began the positive psychology movement. People thrive by discovering what makes life worth living.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Seligman discusses his concept of PERMA, five crucial elements of well-being. "People who have the most positive emotion, the most engagement, and the most meaning in life are the happiest, and they have the most life satisfaction," he says.

Positive emotion: These feelings contribute to the "pleasant life." They include pleasure, warmth, comfort, rapture, and ecstasy.

Engagement: During an engaging activity, people lose self-consciousness and go into a state of flow. "Time stops for you and you're one with the music," Seligman says.

Relationships: In short, other people matter. We're social "hive creatures," he says. When individuals reach their highest emotional states, they're almost always in the company of others, whether they're laughing uproariously or gathering to mark a milestone moment.

Meaning: Everyone yearns for a "meaningful life" that involves "belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than you are," Seligman says.

Accomplishment: Reaching one's goals contributes strongly to a sense of well-being.

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Reviewed on May 15, 2013

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