Mindfulness for Men: It May Save Your Life
This article is probably never going to be read…
And that’s because, in a time where gender diversity is taking center stage, mindfulness for men is still one of the least talked about and publicized topics in mental health forums.
In fact, while researching this article, the latest study I could find on meditation or mindfulness for men, was a paper from 2019 (that used data from 2012) which showed that of US adults surveyed, twice as many women practiced mindful meditation compared to men.
Why Mindfulness is Crucial for Men
Now, let’s talk about why mindfulness is especially important for men. Our society often places certain expectations on men, like always being strong, never showing vulnerability, and constantly being in control.
These expectations can create immense pressure, leading to stress, burnout, and even mental health issues.
Mindfulness can serve as a counterbalance to these pressures. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to manage stress better, tune in to your emotions without judgment, and cultivate a more balanced outlook on life.
It’s not about disregarding or suppressing your ‘manliness’. Instead, it’s about understanding yourself better, taking care of your mental well-being, and ultimately, leading a more fulfilling life.
With better health awareness, nutrition, and medical care, people are now generally living longer than they did a hundred years ago, but what’s shocking is that the gap in mortality between men and women has grown from 2 years to 5 years.
Mindfulness improves physical health, lowers stress-related illnesses, and slows down brain aging.
|Life Expectancy in America|
|Source: National Center for Health Statistics|
What is Mindfulness
So, what exactly is mindfulness? In its simplest terms, mindfulness is about being present.
It’s about tuning in to the current moment, instead of being caught up in thoughts of the past or future. It’s about being aware of the here and now, and fully immersing yourself in whatever you’re doing.
For example, you’re sitting in a car driving somewhere and you get stuck in traffic. You start to get frustrated, and you start thinking about being late, or how stupid all the other drivers are, and why the government does fix the roads. You become stressed, and your heart rate rises.
Now imagine being able to notice those thoughts and stop letting them get to you. You acknowledge that you’re in traffic, and no amount of anger is going to move you faster, in fact, because you have a calmer mind you can make better decisions, see more opportunities to get through the traffic quicker, and are less likely to have an accident.
Not convinced, World Champion Formula One Driver Lewis Hamilton uses mindfulness and meditation as part of his daily self-care routine.
Where mindfulness comes from
Mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist philosophy, but don’t let that deter you if you’re not the spiritual type.
You don’t need to be a monk or have any spiritual inclinations to practice mindfulness. In fact, the beauty of mindfulness is its universal applicability.
Science, too, has stepped into the ring to back up mindfulness, with an abundance of research showing its positive impacts on mental and physical health. So, while mindfulness might sound mystical, it’s grounded in practicality and research.
Mindfulness and Men: Debunking the Myths
Let’s clear up some misconceptions right off the bat.
There’s an unfortunate stereotype that mindfulness and meditation are more suited to women. That it’s all about sitting cross-legged, chanting, and burning incense. But let’s shatter that myth right here, right now.
Mindfulness is not gender-specific. It’s a tool, a practice that anyone can benefit from.
Moreover, practicing mindfulness doesn’t make you any less of a ‘man’. If anything, it equips you with a greater understanding of yourself, your emotions, and your reactions, thereby making you stronger and more resilient.
7 Effective Steps: An Introduction to Mindfulness for Men
The beauty of mindfulness is that you don’t need any fancy equipment or a special location to practice. All you need is a bit of time, a willingness to explore, and an open mind. Here are seven practical steps to get you started.
1. Choosing the Right Mindset
Mindfulness begins with the right mindset. It’s about approaching the practice with curiosity, not judgment. It’s about being patient with yourself and understanding that mindfulness is a journey, not a destination. So, take a deep breath, let go of any preconceived notions, and prepare to embark on an enlightening adventure.
2. Finding a Quiet Space
While you can practice mindfulness anywhere, it’s helpful to start in a quiet space where you won’t be easily distracted. It could be a corner of your room, your garden, or even your car. The key is to find a place where you feel comfortable and can focus on the present moment.
3. Mastering Breathing Techniques
Breathing plays a pivotal role in mindfulness. It acts as an anchor, helping you stay present and focused. Start by taking a few deep breaths, paying attention to the air entering and leaving your body. Notice how your chest rises and falls, and how your body feels with each breath. This simple act of observing your breath can be incredibly calming and grounding.
5. Staying Present
Mindfulness is all about staying present. But let’s be real, our minds love to wander. One minute you’re focusing on your breath, the next you’re thinking about what to have for dinner. That’s perfectly normal. When you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present moment. Remember, the goal is not to empty your mind, but to become aware of where your mind is.
6. Practicing Non-Judgment
In mindfulness, you’re encouraged to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment. If you notice feelings of stress, anxiety, or even boredom, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up or try to push these feelings away. Instead, acknowledge them without judgment, and then gently guide your focus back to your breath or the present moment.
7. Building Consistency
Consistency is key in mindfulness. It’s not about meditating for hours one day and then not practicing at all for the next week. It’s better to start with just a few minutes each day and gradually increase your practice as you become more comfortable. Regular practice is what helps embed mindfulness into your daily routine and makes it a habit.
Applying Mindfulness to Everyday Life
Finally, remember that mindfulness isn’t confined to your meditation sessions. You can practice it anywhere, anytime. Whether you’re eating, walking, working, or even washing dishes, you can bring mindfulness into the activity. Simply focus on the task at hand, engage your senses, and immerse yourself fully in the experience.
And there you have it, seven steps to kickstart your journey into mindfulness. Remember, it’s not about being perfect, but about being present. So, embrace the journey and enjoy the ride. Your mind and body will thank you.
A Real-Life Story
I thought everything was okay. I didn’t need to think about how I felt. I didn’t need to ask for help, hell, I didn’t think I needed help.
So much was going wrong around me but I thought I was Chuck Norris, walking through explosions with a cool calm demeanor – totally bulletproof.
That was until I found myself in the stationary cupboard at work having a breakdown.
Unless you stop and deal with how you’re feeling, then anything causing you stress or anxiety is going to catch up with you. Guaranteed.
Mindfulness Resources for Men
Now that you’re ready to delve into the world of mindfulness, here are some resources to guide you on your journey:
“10% Happier” by Dan Harris offers a humorous and relatable insight into one man’s journey with mindfulness.
“For the Love of Men” by Liz Plank, another humorous perspective on how masculinity is rewarded and penalized.
Headspace and Calm offer guided meditations and mindfulness exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere.
Insight Timer also offers a vast library of free meditations.
Websites like Coursera and Udemy offer online mindfulness courses that you can take at your own pace.
an account dedicated to improving and maintaining men’s mental health through a series of open conversations and initiatives.
Raising sometimes controversial topics about what it’s like to be a man in modern society
The brave account of the creator of humankindmh, Phil, shares his struggle with anxiety
Remember, these resources are just tools to aid you. The real magic happens when you sit down (or walk, stand, or lie down) and practice.
So, there you have it. An introduction to mindfulness for men, from understanding what mindfulness is, debunking common myths, to discovering how it can benefit you, and finally, steps to begin your own mindfulness journey.
Remember, this journey is personal, and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Just take the first step, stay consistent, and be open to the experiences that unfold. The world of mindfulness is waiting for you if you are willing to explore it.
If you liked this article and want to read more about meditation and mindfulness for men, let me know in the comments.