2018 has been something of a moment for mindfulness. The mindfulness market generated huge $1.2 billion in 2017 alone and 4 in 10 of our American buddies over the pond say they meditate at least weekly. A recent study from the University of South Carolina has shown that mindfulness is more than just a hipster trend to be practised by Instagram #fitspos – in fact, we could all use some mindfulness in our lives. The study has revealed that practising mindful movement can play a role in reducing stress, anxiety and depression. “When people were both more mindful and more active than usual, they seem to have this extra decrease in negative affect,” said Chih-Hsiang “Jason” Yang, who conducted the study. With around 2/3 more women practising mindfulness than men, where are all the mindful men and why are fewer men than women jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon to better mental health?
Is it time to hold off on the weight training?
Maybe mindfulness simply does not work for men?
A study conducted by Brown University back in 2017 revealed that men might not get the same benefits from mindfulness as women. The study showed women experienced increases on scales measuring mindfulness and self-compassion whereas men did not experience any measures of experiential or self-acceptance. However, how much of this came down to the different emotional expectations placed upon the genders? Dr. Willoughby Britton, reflected upon the disparity stating how, “while facing one’s difficulties and feeling one’s emotions may seem to be universally beneficial, it does not take into account that there may be different cultural expectations for men and women around emotionality.”
It seems, therefore, the problem is not with biology but with culture. Whilst women are expected to be honest and open about their emotions, men have been condition to well, ‘take it like a man’ making it no surprise that man are less likely to be diagnosed with a mental health issue, despite the fact 3 our of 4 suicides are men. With women being encouraged to weight train as much as they’re encouraged to roll out their yoga mats and downward dog, men have a much more prescriptive work out routine deemed as acceptable. A man heading to the gym to practise mindfulness and yoga begs the question do you even lift, bro? Yet, in their research, the University of South Carolina noted no discrepancies between the genders – both reaped the benefits of mindful movement.
Perhaps, it is time men joined the mindful movement?
Fear not, being ‘mindful’ does not have to mean sitting under a tree with your legs crossed in search of the elusive meaning of life. Who has time for that? In fact, previous studies have highlighted how we need to rethink our approach to mindfulness so that men can enjoy the same results as seen by women, Dr. Britton noted. Simply opting to take a walk can provide a good opportunity to be more mindful of your breathing and surroundings, which has been shown to boost the wellbeing of both men as well as women. According to researchers, participants reported being less stressed while they were on their feet and moving than those who remained sedentary and those who took the time to practise mindful thinking saw an even greater benefit in their mental wellness.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated in order for you to reap the benefits. Even just one introductory session has been shown to encourage not only psychological but also physiological benefits in men, including helping to monitor heart rate, blood pressure and aortic blood pressure. Mindfulness has also been shown reduce seizures and to help men suffering from prostate cancer, with a study conducted by the Northwestern University how intervention from mindfulness medication led to significantly greater resilience and less anxiety when going through treatment.
Culture has dictated that men should avoid emotions, however, perhaps it is time to look beyond gender stereotypes and begin embracing the benefits of mindfulness. The real question now is; do you even Bandha, bro?