How Mindfulness Can Help Men
By Michael Hyder, M.A., LPC
Men come to my office with common complaints. They are frustrated that they:
- Can't make decisions
- Have weak performance at work
- Don't have the motivation they used to
- Have lost the joy, contentment, or purpose they used to have
- Have trouble in intimate relationships or simply socializing
- Have aches and pains and are getting sick often
- Take on too much responsibility and are resentful for it
Anxiety and stress cause these difficulties. Rather than take care of the stress, they internalize and absorb this stress. They are more often than not over-analyzing. Internalizing and over-analyzing leads them to become angrier and more irritable. Even trivial problems lead them to snap.
To solve this lack of being aware and not being able to handle their emotions, men can use mindfulness as a powerful tool.
- Being completely tuned into the moment
- Sensing and feeling instead of thinking
- Being non-judgmental of whatever is happening, and just noticing/observing
- Using your attention vs. checking out / numbing
- Embodying your experience - knowing what your feel in the body in the moment
- Accepting what one is feeling vs. struggling against it
Some of this is so incredibly foreign to guys. Our conditioning as men has led us to believe that getting in touch with our feelings will make us weak, and to tune and sense into what we are feeling in the moment sounds absurd.
Mindfulness actually makes us stronger, more effective, and more productive.
- Mindfulness helps us make better decisions. If we are always in our heads we actually make worse decisions. Thinking about problems only goes so far. We need to compliment our mind with our gut level feelings. Believe it or not wisdom can come from our emotions but we must learn how to tune in and listen to them. If you have ever been working out and suddenly have this insight bubble up in your mind you may get what I'm talking about. You were engaging the body and your mind responded appropriately, in the moment with what you needed to hear. If you've ever tried to chase a thought and the more you try to remember it, the farther it is from you, then you also may know what I'm talking about.
- Mindfulness helps us becomes less easily triggered into anger and irritation. Things don't get to us quite as quickly when we have been practicing mindfulness. If we spend all day fighting / resisting / struggling / avoiding what we are feeling, it becomes a problem. We now have a wound that has not been dealt with, and any stressor will act as an immediate irritant, poking at this wound.
- We get more energy because we are more connected to our emotions, and this brings more clarity and productivity.
- We can't thrive when we are stressed, anxious, and shut down in fight or flight mode. Fight or flight is a defense and it keeps us from engaging the positive energy that is underneath. It is this positive energy that drives motivation.
- We become more creative. Similar to above, when we are stressed, we leave no room to discover new thoughts and possibilities. We become stuck in habituation, unable to step out of our circumstance and create new experiences. When we have calmed the body and tuned into it in the moment, we allow the natural flow of creativity to emerge.
- We become more adept socially. When we don't know what we are feeling, we become the monotone dude with nothing to say. Why? If you are not connected to yourself - if you don't know your inner world of feelings - you will have a really hard time relating to anyone else. Empathy comes from our own understanding of emotions, pain, and experience. We "get" others when we have spent some time with ourselves.
- Our bodies are more healthy - we have improved memory, improved sleep, and better heart health
- We are more happy - we enjoy life, both the good and bad - because we know how to be present with it in a way that gives us energy and not in ways that drain us
Because of all of this, we end up getting more of what we want, we just go about it in a very different way than before. Instead of forcing and controlling others and ourselves into what we want, we start to just be with ourselves and actually come to know what we need. And when we do that, we are much better in asking and receiving from others what we need. Mindfulness takes practice, but can help us be more content, effective, and available to others.