There has been quite a buzz and a lot of research on the numerous benefits that accompany the activities of meditation and mindfulness. It is often dismissed as a feminine practice. However, there is a lot of evidence demonstrating that meditation and mindfulness also significantly benefit men.
Meditation and mindfulness have been prominent issues across the globe. It is no surprise that even major corporations such as Nike and Apple, as well as numerous athletes and businessmen, are highlighting the need for incorporating it into our everyday lives. Unfortunately, what most individuals don’t know is that it goes beyond just typical fitness. Mindfulness and meditation activities can effectively enhance your overall mental well-being, reduce stress, promote better performance, and much more! In this article, we shall discuss meditation and mindfulness tips and benefits for men.
Meditation has grown in recent years, with everyone from Paul McCartney to LeBron James to Oprah Winfrey reporting having a meditation practice, but yet, there are still more women than men who report meditating regularly.
Between 2012 and 2017, the number of people who reported meditating in the National Health Information Survey more than tripled.1 In this large sample size of nearly 100,000 people, more women than men (16% of women versus 11 % of men) also report meditating regularly.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Meditation?
- 2 Benefits of Meditation
- 3 Benefits of Meditation for Men
- 4 Meditation for Men at Work
- 5 Men and Women May Respond to Meditation Differently
- 6 How to Meditate for Men
While there are some similarities in the kinds of health benefits anyone can see from meditation (regardless of gender), there are also some specific ways that men benefit may from meditation, and there are different types of meditation that may appeal more to men than women.
This article explains the benefits, some different styles of meditation, and how to get started.
What Is Meditation?
Ask someone what meditation is, and you will get as many answers as there are many different types of meditation. However, most people would likely agree that meditation is a practice that helps them feel more grounded and centered in themselves.
The term meditation means “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”
Where Did the Practice of Meditation Come From?
The practice of meditation originated in India in ancient Vedic times. The goal of meditation is to connect with the inner Self.
In Buddhist texts, the closest translation of the word “meditation” is the word “Dhyana,” which is meant to be the training of the mind to slow down automatic responses in order to achieve greater awareness and a sense of calmness.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is known to help myriad conditions both mental and physical. It also increases overall feelings of well-being and quality of life. Some conditions that mindfulness may help (in conjunction with other interventions) include:
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Smoking cessation
- Substance use disorders
Benefits of Meditation for Men
While meditation can help anyone with the above health concerns, there are some specific areas where men will benefit from meditation.
May Help With Male Infertility
Meditation may even help with male infertility,
which is a man’s inability to impregnate someone due to a variety of problems in the male reproductive system as well as lifestyle factors.
Stress can lead to damage to sperm DNA. In a study, lifestyle changes such as meditation, led to reversing some of the oxidative stress that may contribute to male infertility.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Another study that specifically looked at Black men (and women) found that transcendental meditation practice was associated with lowering systolic blood pressure among those with high normal blood pressure.
May Regulate Hormones
A different study of men practicing transcendental meditation showed positively altered hormones, including testosterone, cortisol, thyroid stimulating hormone, and growth hormone.
Meditation for Men at Work
Taking time to meditate is also being normalized in the business world, with executives such as former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner talking about meditating regularly. Knowing that meditation may help at work is a reason that some men get into it.
NYC-based therapist Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC, says he likes to think of meditation as “the equivalent of those computer defragmenters, but for your brain. The puzzle pieces come together more clearly, and it’s easier to see what’s supposed to happen next.”
And meditation can improve performance at work, both on personal levels and on organizational levels. A cohort of workers at an Italian company10 practiced meditation together daily for three months. By the end of this period, not only had productivity increased and mistakes decreased, but the workers also reported increased happiness.
Men and Women May Respond to Meditation Differently
Considering the ways that men and women are socialized differently to fulfill certain gender roles, it shouldn’t be surprising that men and women respond to meditation differently.
The Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire measures how people score on five different facets of mindfulness—observing, acting with awareness, describing, non-judging, and non-reactivity. Results from administering this questionnaire before and after a 12-week meditation training showed that meditation is more likely to help women improve their emotional regulation by increasing their acceptance of their experience and gaining attentional clarity.
Men, on the other hand, improved their emotional reactivity, non-judgment, and self-compassion through mindfulness involving increasing their ability to identify, describe, and differentiate their emotions.
Research has also shown that men are more likely to express psychological distress through externalizing behaviors such as substance use or violent behavior, for example. Many men will direct their emotional activity outwards such as through sports or video games, whereas women may be more likely to journal or ruminate.
Meditation May Feel Actionable for Men
Because of this externalizing of dealing with psychological distress, Caraballo says that he sees a fair amount of his male clients trying meditation since it’s an action they feel like they can take. “I think a lot of men think it’s this thing that will fix everything,” he says. “Some see it almost as a status symbol, something they can brag about.”
How to Meditate for Men
Meditation represents a broad range of techniques, so men may want to look at some gender-specific approaches to mindfulness. They may gravitate towards more active forms of meditation, whether this means being more physically active, such as a mindfulness walk, or more psychologically active and less passive, such as learning to label one’s emotions.
Two types of mindfulness-based activities that may be particularly helpful to men are:
- Open monitoring meditation involves tuning into everything—that is, observing all of the five senses as well as looking inside yourself to see what you are feeling both physically through bodily sensations as well as feelings. That may sound overwhelming, but this type of meditation involves observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
- Affect labeling, sometimes described as “name it to tame it” involves noting to yourself—either aloud, in your head, or on paper, what you are feeling. It is thought that this way of externalizing your feelings begins to create some space for it. Doing so may diminish its power, particularly in men. Neurobiologically, this has been found to actually decrease emotional reactivity in your brain.
What If I Don’t Like Just “Sitting There?”
Caraballo says he has had clients that feel like meditation “isn’t enough. Just sitting is a hard sell—it’s hard for them to quantify, and they don’t know what they’ll get out of it.”
For them, he recommends things like a mindfulness walk. His suggestions to make the most of a mindfulness walk are using the five senses to tune into what’s around you by asking yourself questions like these:
- What are you seeing?
- Are there smells you notice?
- What are the sounds around you?
Tip: Caraballo recommends leaving headphones at home to be able to really absorb the experience around you.
Caraballo also notes that some beginners prefer guided meditations. “Sometimes people just like being told what to do,” he says.
What If I’m Not Meditating the Right Way?
Caraballo says he sees many men who think they’re “not doing it right—and that can run really deep for people,” he says. “I try to look at it as even if you don’t do it ‘well,’ whatever that means for you, you are still gaining something. It’s still dedicated time for yourself, and it’s better than having not done it.”
It can be common for people to feel like they haven’t “gotten there” if they don’t magically relax after one meditation session, but it’s a process and a journey, and sometimes it takes a while longer to settle into.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.