Cultivating equanimity through mindfulness meditation: A mixed methods enquiry into the development of decentring capabilities in men
Keywords:mindfulness, decentring, cognition, emotional Stroop, wellbeing, masculinity
Mindfulness meditation is thought to help practitioners become more tolerant of dysphoric emotions by enabling them to cultivate decentring skills. Such skills may be especially useful for male meditators, as men are thought to have particular difficulties regulating their emotions, partly due to masculinity norms related to emotional toughness. However, few studies of mindfulness have focussed specifically on men to explore the intersection between wellbeing and masculinity. Uniquely, we sought to examine the development of decentring capabilities in a non-clinical sample of male meditators using a longitudinal mixed-methods design. Thirty meditators were recruited in London, UK. Participants completed an emotional Stroop task – at two points, a year apart – to assess changes in emotional reactivity linked to meditation. Participants also undertook qualitative interviews at both time points, analysed using a modified constant comparison approach. Together, the two datasets converged to suggest that men did develop decentring skills through meditation, leading to greater equanimity in the presence of negative qualia. In addition to offering insights into the mechanisms underpinning the impact of mindfulness on wellbeing, the study provides a gendered dimension to the analysis of wellbeing strategies like meditation, a dimension which has hitherto been conspicuously absent from recent literature in fields such as positive psychology.
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