Mindfulness just puts men in a bad mood
IT is extolled as the perfect remedy for stress and is very fashionable with celebrities including Emma Watson and Angelina Jolie.
But while mindfulness can help women find inner calm, scientists have discovered it can actually put men in a worse mood.
The form of meditation – where subjects concentrate on their breathing and suspend judgment and criticism – appeals to women on an emotional level.
However, the periods of quiet reflection make men feel slightly worse than before they started, according to researchers at Brown University in the US.
They followed 36 female and 41 male students on a 12-week course on mindfulness, including three one-hour meditation sessions. In these, they spent 30 minutes practising meditation from Buddhist traditions, followed by a ten-minute reflection period and a question-and-answer session.
By the end of the course, the average student had taken part in more than 41 hours of meditation. Participants were then judged on their mood using a specially calculated point score. While women’s moods were found to improve by an average of 11.6 points, it had the opposite effect on men.
Dr Willoughby Britton, from Brown University, said she was surprised by the results but believed it was associated with how men and women traditionally deal with their emotions. ‘The mechanisms are highly speculative at this point, but stereotypically, women ruminate and men distract,’ she said. ‘So for people that tend to be willing to confront or turn toward the difficult, mindfulness is made for improving that.
‘For people who have been largely turning their attention away from the difficult, to suddenly bring all their attention to their difficulties can be somewhat counter-productive.
‘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.’
In recent years, mindfulness has become the trendy way to improve wellbeing.
Dr Britton said the findings, published in the journal Frontiers In Psychology, could be used to further treat women, who are more vulnerable to certain mental health issues.