The practice of meditation is becoming increasingly mainstream. (Once something has a bunch of apps you know it’s reached the masses.)
But, as it turns out, some types of meditation may not be for everyone.
Specifically, we’re talking about the practice of mindfulness meditation, which research shows works much better for women than it does for men.
First, a quick definition. Meditating mindfully, in a nutshell, is a practice in which a person brings their complete (and nonjudgemental) attention to the present moment.
Researchers at Brown University recently conducted a study in which they followed 41 males and 36 females through a 12 week class on mindfulness. In order to make the grade, students had to complete three one-hour labs per week. These were labs in which they, yup, you guessed it, meditated.
(Two second tangent. Where was this class when we were in undergrad?!?!? Meditating counting towards your degree? Sign us up!)
Students came out of the class having meditated over 40 hours over the course of the semester.
And, as it turns out, the practice affected men and women VERY differently.
For women, their moods improved 11.6 points over the semester. But the men studied did not see their moods improve at all. In fact, the average mood of men participating actually got worse.
Whoa, we’ve never heard of meditating making your mood WORSE. Isn’t it supposed to be, like, this magical cure-all? What gives?
Researcher Dr Willoughby Britton, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior and of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, suspects it has to do with how men and women are socialized to process their feelings.
“The mechanisms are highly speculative at this point, but stereotypically, women ruminate and men distract,” he told The Telegraph.
Willoughby goes on to explain that women, who tend to do better with confronting their own difficult feelings, tend to experience gains via mindfulness, a practice that aids these efforts.
Meanwhile for men, who tend to shy away from difficult feelings, putting a focus on the very thing they’ve been socialized to avoid can be, well, in Willoughby’s words, “counterproductive.”
He continued, “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.”
Basically, it’s important to remember that meditation is not a one-size-fits-all practice. Different things work for different people!