Agonising over how to be happy? Don’t do it for you. Do it for Don.

How to be happy. Don.

If you’ve been struggling with how to be happy, especially while you’re locked down, here’s something you can do to improve your mental health. Don’t try and make changes for you, do it for someone else. Let’s introduce you to Don, your special friend. He needs you. Don’t ignore him.

So you’re stressed. Work is getting you down. You’ve no time to talk to your friends and on top of that you’re locked indoors trying to escape Coronavirus. You might be having a midlife crisis. Are you happy? Probably not if you’re reading this. However we can help improve your mental health.

Close your eyes (maybe not literally at this point).

Right, imagine inside your head there’s a small figure beavering away. Let’s call him Don.

How to be happy. Focus on Don inside your head.
Don is in your head

Don is a bit like you, except he lives inside your skull and is responsible for guiding the machine that is you through its daily, often boring, life. He pulls the levers, presses the buttons, and turns the knobs that keep you blinking and breathing. It’s a tough job. First up and last to bed, Don opens your eyes in the morning and closes them at night. Plus everything in between. He’s seen the sights you don’t want others to see, unless you’re some sort of dodgy social media exhibitionist.

Unfortunately Don can get a bit sad and lonely. He doesn’t feel appreciated for the effort he puts in. He feels let down as you override his controls to stuff cake after cake into your mouth during the day, and then swap to alcohol as it begins to get dark.

How to be happy. Talk to the awe-inspiring Don.

So if you could speak to Don, what would you say to make him happier?

You’d probably tell him his job is vital. Without him you’d be nothing. You’d be a slob, lying unwashed and generally unwell in bed. If he wasn’t doing his job people wouldn’t get to experience your witty jokes. Those people would be sadder, lonelier and more miserable as a result.

With some serious consideration you might tell him you were taking on board his criticisms of your lifestyle. You are making his job harder after all. It’s not easy to steer a drunk, overweight, unfit body around.

It's the characters inside your head who keep you going

To help Don feel more motivated you could also offer to go out an introduce him to others like him.

You see inside every head there’s a Don or Debbie driving a lumbering machine that is just like you. They are the heroes of this story. Trapped in the dark, unable to feel the sunshine on their faces, these little characters can easily feel sorry for themselves. However, sharing some of the pain with others like them makes their lives more bearable. Your lumbering gait, bad habits and general misdemeanours can become a shared joke that only they can appreciate.

Get out and dance with Don

Not feeling alone is a powerful drug when it comes to happiness. Even making a cup of tea with someone could have a big impact on Don’s health.

If Don could look forward to these checks and balances it would help him keep his issues in perspective, it would give him some motivation for pushing and pulling those levers in your head with a bit more gusto.

He may even dust down the laughter button that’s lain unused at the back of your brain and press it occasionally. As Don starts to smile, you will too. Before you know it you’ll feel more positive, and you may make that breakthrough in how to be happy.

Do it for Don

So next time you’re feeling a little down, wondering how to be happy, just think of Don inside your head. Think of the things that would make him happy. Do those things not for you, as that would be selfish and require effort. Do them for him before it gets too late and he ends up miserable. And you don’t want him to be sat there in your head, looking glum and listlessly driving the machine that is you.

How to be happy. Give Don an adventure. Do it for Don.
Keep Don happy. Take him on an adventure

Keeping Don happy can make you happy too. You and Don. The perfect partnership. Treasure it and make it special.

So if you’re still wondering how to happy, don’t ignore Don. Do it for Don.

Have other issues you need resolving, then feel free to Ask Marvin anything.

The dangerous minefield that is male grooming

After my experience in the Turkish barbers, it got me thinking about midlife male grooming. How much should I bother about my appearance? Isn’t midlife the time to sink into comfortable apathy rather than struggle to be trimmed, toned and trendy?

A friend of mine grew a beard. Nothing wrong with that particularly. I just thought he’d moved to shaving apathy, especially as it didn’t stop growing. At one point Santa would have been pleased to have had his bushy face hair. People in the street complimented him on it. He could have been out with a cute puppy instead of a beard, the behaviour and comments were the same.

“Oooh, that’s a gorgeous,” said one man . “Does it take much looking after?”

It may look a mess but takes a lot of work

“Can I stroke it?” asked a woman at the bar.

My friend fields all these questions with the good grace of a bloke not used to being spoken to in public. Occasionally he puts bells or lights in it, especially during the festive season, when he could be placed in the corner as some sort of novelty Christmas toy.

What did surprise me when we went away together was that what I had thought was comfortable apathy, was actually a tough regimen of care. Beard wax, beard oil, beard brush. Before emerging to face the public, that beard had had more loving attention than I had over the last twenty years at home. I was wrong. This was a man a beard grooming masterclass.

So what about me? As I’ve mentioned before, my Turkish barber has branched out into sorting my eyebrows, nasal and ear hair. My dentist is insisting on replacing old silver fillings with white ones (in case someone stares in my open mouth at some point). Bit by bit I’m being pulled into male grooming without even noticing.

I still ask for a haircut that is zero maintenance, and decline all hair products as a matter of course. That used to be because I was always about to play sport and have a shower, now it’s just an aversion reflex before I hit Costa for a cake.

Exclusive male grooming research reveals shocking truths…

I decided to do some research. Admittedly this was using my limited selection of friends, but it threw up some interesting results.

Most were supportive of their men taking more care of themselves, but straying too far from the core areas (nails, hair) suggested a wandering eye and lustful mind. Moisturiser was ranked as a key red flag, due to its connections with a desire to look younger (and hence attractive to younger models). Hair dyeing was for divorcees or soon to be divorcees only. Gym work was fine, as long as it still left a suitably tubby outline and you did it when the pensioners were in.

Not the grooming look you're after
Not the look you want

Anything suggested by a man’s other half was fine. Anything suggested by anyone not their other half – big red flag. One friend described how he bought himself a new floral shirt on the recommendation of a female friend. Each time he wore it he was virtually accused of sleeping with the woman. Suffice to say it doesn’t get many outings.

Midlife male grooming is a minefield. Too little and you end up like Campo from Last of the Summer Wine with people offering you their seat on the train. Too much and you terrify young girls with your bizarre teen-dad look, whilst making your wife think you’re playing away with the woman next door.

Seems like the Turkish barbers might have it right after all. Excess hair trimmed all round. Job done.