Tag: happiness

Monogamy

I’ve just been reading some books on infidelity including Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel and How Can I Ever Trust You Again? by Andrew G Marshall. Perel takes the view that monogamy is an outdated concept and that while affairs are rightly the end of some relationships they may even improve others.

A question that’s often asked about all this is: Are humans naturally monogamous? A lot of people seem to think this crucial. But it’s completely the wrong question. The human species, as I’m often pointing out, is the only species that can be unnatural. Being unnatural is what separates us from all other animals.

It may be natural to eat meat but we can decide not to. It may be natural to let hair grow where and how it will but nobody does. It is unnatural to fly but millions of us do. Asking what’s natural is totally irrelevant. The right question is: Which is more conducive to happiness in a relationship, monogamy or unfaithfulness?

The answer won’t be the same for everybody but I think that for the majority of people the answer is pretty clear.

An often quoted statistic cited to prove that humans aren’t monogamous in practice is this: Over the lifetime of a relationship between 30 and 40 per cent of people will be unfaithful at some point. But that certainly doesn’t prove it to me. Let’s take a married couple together for forty years who had sex an average of twice a week. That’s 4,160 bonks. Now let’s suppose the man had a one year affair also averaging sex twice a week. That’s 104 bonks. That means 98 per cent of the man’s bonk were with his wife while, for her, all of her sex was with her husband. That doesn’t sound to me like the death of monogamy.

A long time ago when I was recently divorced I was also meeting a lot of recently divorced women and something struck me very forcibly. It was taking two years for those women to get over the whole thing just on a superficial level. Deep down I’m sure it was taking longer. How much pain was due to the husband’s unfaithfulness and how much to the divorce I can’t say, nor can I say how those women would have felt if the marriage had survived. But what I saw made me introduce my own rule: Never mess around in someone else’s life. In other words, if you’ve promised to be faithful to another person you’d better think very carefully before breaking that promise. And there’s also the ‘other woman’ and the ‘other man’ to consider – if that other person is looking for a serious relationship and you’re not then you have no right to wreck that other person’s happiness by pretending.

Marriage counsellor Andrew G Marshall disagrees with Perel on many counts but accepts that affairs can have a happy outcome.’ The most miserable couples I ever see are the couples who are trying to recover from an affair,’ he says. ‘But equally, the happiest couples I end up with are the couples who have recovered from an affair. Affairs make you scrutinise every element of your relationship, more so than any other issue. And so if you do survive them, you will be stronger and happier as a result than you ever were before.’

What’s significant here is the assumption that you can only ‘scrutinise’ your relationship when one of you has had an affair. The fact is, time, energy and money that’s expended on an affair is time, energy and money that’s not going into the regular relationship. I’d suggest seeing what happens when you do focus on your long-term relationship. The result might be incredible.

Leveson and happiness

In the same week that we had the Leveson report on the British ‘press’ we also had the Rory Peck Awards for freelance journalists. They are the men and women who risk their lives, without even a salary, to expose the terrible things that are going on all over the world. So it’s unfortunate that everyone in ‘the press’ is being tarred with the same brush. Award winners like Alberto Arce and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova from Spain, who took the features prize for a self-funded film about rebel fighters in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, are not the same kind of ‘press’ as the men and women who sit in their cosy tabloid offices and make up stories about celebrities.  Mani, the French freelance photographer and film maker, who won the news award for his report on the shelling of Homs in Syria, is not that kind of ‘press’ either. Nor is Daniel Bogado of Britain who won the Sony Impact Award for his film on the fighting between government troops and civilians in the Sudan. Nor was Rory Peck himself, a freelance cameraman who was killed in Moscow in 1993.

There are journalists, men and women, who risk their lives to make the world a happier place. They should not be damned for the mistakes of people who are not real journalists at all.

But why is it that there are so many people, not just in the ‘press’ but in the media generally, who don’t want to make the world a happier place? Why, in fact, do so many wealthy producers, directors, actors and writers do things to make the world a worse place?

The US Academy of Pediatrics has said this: ‘More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behaviour in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a “meaner and scarier” place than it is.’

Why put time, effort and money into violent films and video games that have no actual benefit to anyone – other than those who take the paycheques?

If you’re already a very rich, successful producer, director or actor, why not use that position for doing something good in the world? Why not makes films and video games that are uplifting? Why not make films and video games that make people more compassionate and more sensitive? Why not do things to make the world a happier place?

Nobel Happiness Prize

Congratulations to the European Union for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s well-deserved. To explain why I quote the following:

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

No religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

 

Those, of course, were the words of the late John Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980.

All of the whingeing about the EU is symptomatic of why so many people aren’t happy. The reason is this. They focus on the negative and close their minds to the positive. And the thing they focus on the most is money. But even on that they’re wrong. In the years I’ve been living in Spain I’ve seen with my own eyes the tremendous rise in living standards due to EU membership. Spain joined in 1986 when per capita GDP (a good measure of living standards) was less than 8,000 euros at 2005 prices. By 2005 it was over 23,000 euros. In other words, there was almost a threefold increase. Incomes may have fallen back recently but most people are still far better off than they would have been without the EU.

Personally, I love the EU. I don’t regard it as being ‘ruled by Brussels’ because every EU country is a member of ‘Brussels’. But, to me, the EU isn’t so much to do with either politics or economics. To me, the EU means the freedom to set up home and work almost anywhere in Europe that I choose, to be myself in the environment that suits me. And what a wonderful ‘country’ the EU is, stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, and from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Who wouldn’t want to live in a country that includes the Alps and the Pyrenees and some of the world’s greatest cities? To me, the EU is freedom. And freedom is happiness.

How To Be Happier

I’ve just heard from my publisher that my book How To Be Happier has now sold over 50,000 copies. Okay, it’s not quite in the Dale Carnegie league, but it’s a significant number of books. And the fact that it’s the most successful of my self-help titles suggests there are a lot of people who feel they’re not as happy as they’d like to be.

I’m reminded of the board game Monopoly where you get given a certain amount of money right at the start. From then on you can sit on your money or you can make an effort to increase it. In real life, happiness is much the same. You start out with a genetic inheritance that gives you a certain level. That comes for free, as it were. If you want more you have to make an effort.

Where happiness is concerned, the first step is to make the commitment that you’re going to make happiness rather than, say, money, or power, your goal. You have to make the decision that you’re actively going to do things to make yourself happier (and avoid, as far as you possibly can, the things that will make you unhappy).

As to what those things are, well, the book is full of ideas. I don’t believe anybody could work their way through it, following all the practical suggestions, without being happier. If you’re one of the 50,000 I’d love to hear from you how you got on. Just click on ‘comments’ at the top of the blog.

Olympic Gold For Happiness

The Olympics have provided us with a fascinating lesson in happiness. We’ve seen athletes thrilled to win bronze medals and we’ve seen athletes devastated at winning ‘only’ silver.

The contrast between swimmer Rebecca Adlington and rowers Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase could not have been greater. Rebecca came third in the 800 metre freestyle and was clearly delighted.

By contrast Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase in the Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls were distraught at coming second. Spectators watched in amazement as the two men apologized for, as they saw it, letting everyone down. Even the BBC interviewer, confronted by the misery of the two men, was fighting to hold back tears.

Here’s what Zac Purchase had to say: ‘When you put everything in and you lose, there is no hiding place. We’ll spend days, weeks, months, the rest of our lives, trying to work out if we could have done more.’

This is a recipe for depression. There are nearly seven billion people on the planet and only one can take individual gold in any given event. Don’t bet your happiness against odds like that.

Stress

According to a Sex in America survey I’ve been reading, a lot of American men find it difficult or impossible to ejaculate during sex with a partner. Apparently 16 per cent of those aged 50 to 64 are in that category, rising to 23 per cent from 65 to 74. A curious thing is that the figure for men under 50 is actually higher at 28 per cent. So does that mean the situation is getting ‘worse’?

The first thing I’d say is that while being completely unable to ejaculate is obviously a problem, it certainly isn’t a problem that you need a lot of stimulation. Quite the contrary. The man who doesn’t ejaculate readily can facilitate his partner having numerous orgasms. As for himself, he can confidently approach the point of no return (after which ejaculation is inevitable) again and again, revelling in the exquisite sensations. When men ask me for tips to improve their sex lives, one of the first things I suggest is learning to withhold ejaculation. Thirty minutes of non-ejaculatory intercourse is vastly more enjoyable than a headlong rush towards climax.

Some experts say it’s a modern problem caused by men concentrating too much on their partners’ pleasure. That’s an interesting one given that, not so long ago, men were usually blamed for being ‘selfish’. I doubt that’s the real explanation. One possibility could be too much masturbation while watching porn. Another might be stress.

In fact, I’m just back from France where a new survey highlights that very problem. According to the survey, almost a quarter of French people have at some time suffered sexual dysfunction caused by stress at work.

Some employees have even been driven to suicide, like the young woman who emailed her father: ‘I can’t accept the reorganization in my department – I’m getting a new boss and I’d rather die.’ She then jumped from her fourth-floor office window.

It’s only stating the obvious to say she had got things completely out of proportion. But she was far from alone. Sixty-one per cent of those interviewed actually said work was the most important thing in their lives. Ahead of family, children, health…or romance.

Well, it certainly shouldn’t be. The thing that should be number one is happiness. Make that your priority and other things will start to fall into place…including sex.

 

Demi Moore, Happiness And Exercise

I see that Sunday Times columnist India Knight is advising Demi Moore (and anyone else of a like mind, presumably) to cut back on the exercise and use the time ‘pottering about in tracksuit bottoms’. The reason for the advice is that Demi (48) has, apparently, broken up with her somewhat younger partner Ashton Kutcher (33). As India sees it, Demi can now breathe a sigh of relief and let herself go.

I’m constantly baffled that so many people view exercise as a kind of torture. There are quite a lot of people (and I’m one) who actually enjoy exercise. Nor do I comprehend this idea that letting yourself go is somehow the path to happiness. In fact, the precise opposite is the case. Exercise boosts the body’s ‘happiness chemicals‘. It also boosts sex drive and helps maintain capability. According to a survey released this week, almost half of men in England are dissatisfied with their sex lives. If they and their partners (those that have them) were to exercise a little more, they’d find it did wonders for their sex lives and their relationships. Not many men realise that a paunch is actually a kind of anti-sex factory, converting the ‘male’ hormone testosterone into the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen. I give full details of all this in my book Have Great Sex, but the main things to keep in mind are that you need to exercise vigorously for at least 20 minutes three times a week, and that you need to keep your Body Mass Index (BMI) under 24.

Oh, and in my opinion tracksuit bottoms are about the most sexless garment ever invented. What garment is the biggest turn-off for you? Share your thoughts by clicking on Comments.

 

Holotropic Breathwork

My friend Guy James the singer/songwriter has been writing about his experience of holotropic breathwork. I haven’t tried it myself but given Guy’s very genuine enthusiasm I’m giving the link to his online article. Click on http://www.grof-holotropic-breathwork.net/group/gbd2011english and you’ll find it about half way down the online page. It’s very interesting in all sorts of ways and if you’re in pursuit of happiness it’s something you might like to consider. As I say, I haven’t tried it myself and I certainly don’t accept some of the claims made about it but it helps some people and it might help you. And if you’d like to hear Guy’s music it’s on: www.guyjames.com

Happiness Is The European Union

Living here in Spain I’m part of the European dream which, sadly, seems in danger of falling apart. Almost everyone sees the European Union in economic terms. They only ask: Does it make me richer or does it make me poorer? Personally, I don’t give a damn for the economics. I care about being happy and the European Union makes me happy.

I was brought up in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. If I had to stay there I’d be very unhappy. But because of the European Union I can live just about anywhere I choose from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. I can snowboard in the Alps and I can swim in the Aegean. Right now I’m living in Spain, with the Med half an hour away and the winter resorts of the Pyrenees two hours away. Maybe next year I’ll live in France. Who knows? I have the right. It’s the most fantastic thing.

As far as I’m concerned, the right to choose where you live is fundamental. If you don’t have that then you don’t have the right to choose your own lifestyle. And if you can’t choose your lifestyle you can’t be yourself and you can’t be happy.

Don’t let the dream die.

Happiness In The Face Of Criticism

How to be Happier

This morning I was checking my books on Amazon and noticed that How To Be Happier was by far the most reviewed, with 28 entries. So that has to tell me something. Most of the reviews were favourable, some of them extremely so, but I also seem to have reduced a couple of people to a state of near apoplexy. Far from being happier they were utterly enraged. And it’s quite instructive to look at why.

One criticism was that my book contained much the same advice as other books on happiness. Now, few people could be buying more ‘how to’ books than me. I have books on how to ski, snowboard, climb, ride, surf, dive, sail, have sex (two shelves) and all kinds of other things. And you know what? All the books on, say, snowboarding, give me the same advice. So far, not one of the books has suggested I should strap the board to my head rather than my feet. I find it reassuring that all the experts are agreed on that point.

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