Manly Mindfulness (Part One)
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You are told by a friend that they practice mindfulness and you wonder to yourself “what does that mean?”. Then you talk to that friend again and they explain that they go to Yoga three times a week and it is really helping them to stay mindful. So now you think “If mindfulness means doing Yoga, I’m not going to do it.” This I feel has been the response by so many men when they think of Mindfulness; because it has historically been linked with Yoga and Meditation. Today only 28% of people doing Yoga are male (1). So where does this leave men? Are men doomed to stay not mindful? Or is putting aside our pride and doing Yoga the only option?
What is Mindfulness?
Before we can answer these questions I think we need to first spend some time to understand Mindfulness and what it involves. So what is Mindfulness? According to the American Psychology Association (APA) Mindfulness is the “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings,”(2) which would be best summed up as someone intentionally finding a way to become aware of what is happening in their body, mind, and the place that they are currently.
This definition of Mindfulness seems less intimidating to me because it does not assume that I need to do Yoga or spend an hour a day meditating in my basement (both of which are great ways to be mindful) but rather makes Mindfulness about a state of being present where I am and aware of what my mind and body are telling me. If Mindfulness is such a simple process then why is such an important thing to do? With Mindfulness being such a popular topic how does it help me?
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Before we can talk about the benefits of Mindfulness we must first understand that the practice of being mindful has been around for years. Recently mindful practices have become very popular again in America with a major focus on Meditation; with even Time Magazine getting in on the mindfulness wave. But what are the benefits of Mindful behaviors?
One of the benefits of Mindfulness is that it helps to reduce stress. It had been shown in studies that Mindfulness is hugely beneficial in reducing stress by giving us a space to sit and regulate our body’s and emotions. Having a regulated body results in a greater ability to handle stress and manage strong emotions. Second, Mindfulness has been shown to help decrease depression, once again, by increasing our ability to regulate our emotions. Finally, Mindfulness can increases your ability to fight illness by making the feelings and emotions surrounding the illness more manageable. (3) So with all these benefits what’s the next step?
Finding Mindfulness for You
With all this focus on Mindfulness I think the most important thing to figure out is what works for you. Mindfulness is not a only done in Yoga or meditation but Mindfulness is done in knowing how to breathe and relax in the moment. Mindfulness is the process of learning how to let future and past anxieties and worries float by while living fully in the present. The process of doing this is very much a personal process however it is important to find a way that works for you to become mindful and focused on the present in order to gain the benefits of Mindfulness. There are many ways that a someone can become mindful. In Part Two we will explore some great ways to become mindful that do not involve Yoga or Meditation.