Question: How receptive are men to learning stress reduction or relaxation techniques? Which ones might be better ones to start with?
Answer: It's increasingly difficult to live in our modern world in terms of the level of stress we face. Certainly of guys I see at my practice trying to balance being a parent, being a life partner, professional life, and trying to come to terms with that requires a certain amount of control over stress. As guys come in, I find that they're increasingly receptive to that. And my goal is to try to encourage folks to be receptive to that before the stress actually leads to health related issues.
Now as far as which particular techniques are most helpful, I really find it varies from guy to guy. As far as that goes, some of my favorite approaches are ones that involve mindfulness. And part of the reason for that is there's a lot of great research out there indicating that doing meditation or other mindfulness practices can lead to permanent changes in brain function. The left prefrontal cortex of the brain which is correlated with happiness in people, tends to light up more on those functional MRIs when people have been meditating.
As far as that goes, there are any number of meditations you can do, any number of traditions a person can follow. Some of my favorites include simply breath work because it's easy to take a little time and do some breathing exercises. One of my favorites is the four, seven, eight breaths, where you take a few breaths in for the count of four, hold it for the count of seven, and release for the count of eight. Certainly any kind of meditation training -- some guys really gravitate toward yoga or Tai Chi or other more movement based exercises. The bottom line is doing something when you're in the present moment where you do something to focus on yourself and where you're able to truly become aware of your patterns of thinking.