Why mindfulness helps some of us more than others
Mindfulness has proven to be beneficial in so many ways already. It is practised widely by both men and women – but what is not known is, which gender does it benefit more?
More women practise mindfulness meditation than men but there has been no study so far which shows if mindfulness will affect men and women differently.
In a new study, researchers found that mindfulness practice significantly helped women overcome the “negative affect”, or low mood, but did not help men.
Women approach experiences differently – by not reacting, being less critical and kinder with themselves and over-identifying less with emotions after mindfulness meditation.
The study measured the effect of mindfulness on 77 university students – 41 men and 36 women – over a period of 12 weeks that included academic classes on mindfulness traditions, test and preparations. It also included a three-hour experiential component every week which involved meditation. Each session, 30 minutes were dedicated to a specific contemplative practice from Buddhist or Daoist traditions.
For this study, the students filled out questionnaires before the class and at the end of the class. During the course of the study, the students had participated in more than 41 hours of meditation in class and outside. Both men and women had entered the class with no difference in their degree of negative affect.
Compared to men, woman showed a greater decrease in negative affect which was 11.6 per cent decline on the survey’s standardised score, while men showed a 3.7 per cent increase in their scores.
Both genders showed progress in the meditation skills taught to them. While both genders did well in several specific mindfulness and self-compassion scores, which increased significantly, women did much better than men in four of the five areas – which were related to improvements in negative affect.
The improved affect in women was related to improved mindfulness and self-compassions skills. This meant that women approach experiences differently – by not reacting, being less critical and kinder with themselves and over-identifying less with emotions.
In contrast, in men, the changes in affect correlated with the ability to describe emotions.
The researchers believe that women react more favourably than men to school-based mindfulness training. But this study does not take into account how reacting to emotions may have different cultural expectations for men and women. By studying that aspect further, perhaps mindfulness training can be more strategically designed for both men and women.
It seems that, for women, mindfulness training doesn’t have to change as there is a clear benefit for women who are more susceptible to negative affect and depression. But, for men, the training can be modified to be more specific to help them gain maximum benefit from mindfulness training.
Overall both genders have clear benefits from practising mindfulness, whichever way the training is designed.
Source: Frontiers in Psychology