Meditation: a proven way for men to reduce stress

Meditation: a proven way to reduce stress

Find out all the ways it can get you centred and improve your life.

Let’s start this conversation by first looking at how we  men, at large, deal with unique stresses that are particular to us as we move through life. As we know, there are things that we have had to deal with that “come with the territory” of being a man in the world.

We believe it’s necessary to talk about these things openly, because they are real, and affect us in profound ways. 


What are the root issues?

Oh... you know....  dealing with teasing and put-downs from friends... dealing with family and religious issues... being closeted in some places and not in others... coping with body issues... the list is long, honey.

We will get into these issues in articles to come, but for now, let’s go ahead and shift to talking about what we men can do to respond.

Meditation is hands-down one of the most effective ways of regulating our stress. 

Yep - meditation! And we're talking about it as a regular practice. 

Although it’s true that even if you just do it every now and then, something is better than nothing, spending even a few minutes a day meditating can help you find your calm center and achieve inner peace. 


Most people who haven’t practiced meditation don’t understand what it’s about and its benefits. Let’s start with the basics.

Meditation induces deep relaxation, can quiet your mind, it’s great for your body, and for some of us, it helps us find a deeper meaning in life. Actually, while we are here, we need to mention:  the list of benefits is long. very. very. long.  

But you may have some doubts about the idea of wanting to get into meditation. But hear ye!

  1. It's simple and doesn’t cost anything. 
  2. You don’t need extensive training. 
  3. You can do it almost anywhere, even if you travel a lot. 
  4. Come to think of it, you can meditate almost anywhere—when you're out for a walk, on public transportation, sitting in a waiting room—or even during a challenging moment.
  5. And if you’ve never done it, or learned it, it’s really not as hard or intimidating as you might think. It actually becomes pleasurable the more you learn how to do it in a way that’s right for you. 


What meditation is and what it does

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and is a core part of the human experience in many parts of the world. Its original purpose was to delve into and cultivate mental concentration, to see past the mind's limitations to experience profound states of awareness.

In our modern society, meditation is primarily used for relaxation and stress reduction. And, for most of us, that’s a very GOOD thing.

It is the simple-yet-somewhat-tricky practice of focusing your attention on something to slow down the mind’s fast-paced thinking. Disentangle from those nasty thoughts! Let’s get our minds healthy.

Let’s zoom in on this important aspect because the lives of many of us men are on a constant emotional rollercoaster. Meditation smooths things out by helping you to…

  1. Reduce negative emotions. Taking time for yourself can help you find the positive in life, and not in a “fake” way. Meditation helps us tap into our joy, and what really matters.
  2. Improve self-awareness. The better you understand yourself, the better you’ll be able to deal with others. It will make your thinking broader and more expansive.
  3. See things for what they are. Sometimes we trip on what others think of us, or on our own expectations. Meditation helps us see things as they are—not on head trips.
  4. Stay focused on the present. Stress happens when you worry too much about what you can’t control. Meditation keeps you centered on what you can: the present.
  5. Get a bird's eye view of stressful situations. It can help you rise above that argument with your boyfriend, husband, or employer. You’ll figure out how to avoid lashing out or saying something you regret. 
  6. Meditation has been shown, through studies, to reduce anxiety and depression overall.
  7. Increase your creativity and productivity. Meditation has repeatedly demonstrated that it enhances both productivity and satisfaction in one’s professional life.


Meditation and "dis-ease"

Meditation for sure will be of benefit to men who have certain stress-related illnesses. 

The ancients in many cultures all over the world had an understanding that the mind is directly linked with the body. In our culture, the term “psychosomatic” points to this notion of how our mental and emotional wellbeing directly impacts and manifests in the physical body. 

The conditions it could help with sound just like a list of side effects on a medicine bottle:  anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, tension headaches… to name a few. As for the extent to which meditation can help alleviate these symptoms... well, the research on this is highly indicative, but not fully definitive.

That being said, your meditation practice is unlikely to cure you of these ailments (and it’s not recommended as a replacement for medical treatment), but it can reduce their symptoms. Think of meditation as an essential “tool in your toolkit” for us gay men to achieve a sense of calm and balance.


Types of meditation

The term "meditation" is a broad one that includes many ways to achieve a relaxed, centered state of being and inner peace. Let's browse through some of the most popular ones:

  1. Guided meditation:  With this type of meditation you create mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You are typically led through this process by a guide, whether in person, a video, or a recording.
  2. Mantra meditation:  You silently repeat a calming word or phrase to eliminate negative and stressful thoughts. Transcendental meditation (TM) is a prime example of this type.
  3. Mindfulness meditation:  This form of meditation is all about our relationship with the present moment. You pay complete attention to something in your experience (the flow of your breath is a common one) while you meditate. You learn how to be in relationship with your thoughts and emotions without judgment or expectation.
  4. Tai Chi & Qigong:  Ever seen people doing slow, graceful body motions in the park? They’re likely doing Tai Chi or Qigong! These forms combine meditation, relaxation, physical movement, and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance.
  5. Yoga:  Yoga is often considered a form of exercise, but it’s also a type of meditation. Pro tip:  the more you find that the breathing techniques are incorporated into your practice, and the longer you hold your poses, and the slower you go, the more “meditative” you’ll become.


Some good guidelines...

Even though meditation practice is ultimately about your own personal experience, doing it with others can be significantly potent. Nothing beats a good meditation group, and there are many that are exclusive to gay men. 

When you meditate...

  1. Find a quiet place. Practicing meditation is typically easier if you do it in a quiet location with few distractions. Once someone becomes experienced at meditation, they can do it almost anywhere, including busy and noisy places.
  2. Get comfortable. It’s not just a sitting practice! You can practice many forms of meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions or doing other activities. When it comes to quieting the mind, it’s all about being comfortable.
  3. Commit to an amount of time. This is important, especially in the beginning. Our tendency to let boredom and distraction win out is strong. It helps to set a timer and increase your times little by little.
  4. Gently and kindly reset your focus. It’s common for the mind to wander during meditation. If this happens to you, slowly return to the object, sensation, body part, or movement you're focused on.
  5. Make it a regular thing! The key to meditation is consistency. You will find deeper ease with the practice, and reap those benefits if you can get to a place where you do it every day. 


Looking for some online help? Here is an excellent list of the top meditation apps in 2021.


Final tips on meditation

“It's not the destination, it's the journey.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Meditation is a learned skill, just like any other. It takes time, so please be kind to yourself as you go along. Not every meditation session will be perfect, so don’t label yourself for being a “bad meditator.” It takes practice and patience.

Start small! Even just a few minutes is great.

If one type of meditation doesn’t work for you try another one. It’s likely that on the spectrum of meditation types, having a low commitment to high, meditating solo or in a group, you’ll find your own groove.

In the end, the only thing that matters is that meditation helps you reduce your stress and feel better about yourself.

See you on the cushion!