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Dilemma 101: How to Keep a Black Man Happy

by Amity Paye

How to keep a Black man happy may depend on the people or community surrounding him (Photo Credit: Blend Images via AP Photos).

How to Keep a Black Man Happy

Jan. 1 has come and gone, and you have no doubt started to make your resolutions and goals for the New Year.

While goals about money, love or fitness are probably at the top of your list, researchers around the country have been studying what actually makes us happy.

The first few questions asked in studies like the General Social Survey are: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days?  Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?”

As you might have guessed, in the United States the answers to these questions vary by race, and for the Black man, happiness is harder to come by than for his White counterparts. This begs the question: How do you keep a Black man happy?

In 2011, one set of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that while Black people are steadily becoming happier as they improve their quality of life in America, rich Blacks are still statistically only as happy as Poor whites.

The researchers concluded, “Even if current rates of progress persist, it will take several more decades to fully close the Black-White happiness gap.”

Additionally, the study “Happiness Trends by Race,” found that “Incarceration rates may explain up to a fifth of the closing of the happiness gap.”

So as incarceration rates have raised in Black communities, and particularly amongst Black men, across the country in the past 10 years their potential for happiness has dropped.

How do you keep a Black man happy in the face of this adversity? Don’t give up just yet!

According to the directors of the “Happy Movie,” which traveled around the world investigating what makes people universally happy, “The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but research shows that almost everyone can become happier.”

With that said, here are the top five lessons in how to keep a Black man happy:
1. Money isn’t everything: Most of us focus New Year’s resolutions on making more money, but researchers have found that it is only effective to a point. Researchers at Princeton University found that while happiness rose with increased income, beyond a salary of $75,000 per year, happiness was not associated with income.
2. Build community: “Lonely people have never been happy people,” said Dr. Vandana Shiva, author of “Monocultures of the Mind.” Community is one of the easiest ways to combat becoming isolated or depressed. According to “Happy Movie,” we need to balance the allure of money, fame and social status with our needs for strong relationships, health and personal fulfillment. For the Black man, these strong relationships have been found to be particularly important in combating unhappiness due to racism or disenfranchisement. This community can be in your church, school, community, among friends or any way you see fit.
3. Stay in the present: “A lot of times we get so wrapped up in thinking about the future and the past that we are blind to the goodness we are steeped in already, whether it's the beauty outside the window or the kind things that people are doing for you,” said Barbara Fredrickson, a lead University of North Carolina researcher.
4. Appreciate the little things: The days are long, but the years are short. For Black men in particular, focusing on small accomplishments has been found to increase happiness twofold. This has been linked to the fast increases of happiness within the Black community as a whole since the civil rights era.
5. Help others: One of the best ways to make you happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. This cycle of happiness is linked to high rates of empathy. It starts with creating a community (see above) and extends into philanthropy and community service projects where you are directly helping others to be happy as well.
Extra: Various studies have found that women’s happiness tends to decrease as men’s happiness increases. So while you are worrying about how to keep a Black man happy, be sure to stay attentive to your lady’s happiness as well.

This article was published on Friday 24 January, 2014.
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