Lomas, T., et al. (2013). Men Developing Emotional Intelligence Through Meditation? Integrating Narrative, Cognitive and Electroencephalography (EEG) Evidence. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Online Jun 24. Abstract.
Traditional masculine norms around emotions (e.g., inexpressiveness) can mean men have difficulties managing their emotions, contributing to potential mental health problems. However, it is recognized that men and masculinities are diverse, and that some men can positively self-manage their mental health, although this has received little attention in the literature. Uniquely, we sought to find men who had discovered ways to engage constructively with their emotions, in this case through meditation.
Thirty male meditators, recruited using a maximum variation sampling strategy, participated in a longitudinal mixed-methods study in the United Kingdom. Participants undertook 2 cognitive neuroscience sessions, approximately 1 year apart, composed of cognitive assessments of attention combined with electroencephalograph measurement during task performance and meditation.
In-depth narrative interviews exploring men’s experiences of meditation were also conducted at both time points, analyzed using a modified constant comparison approach. Taken together, the quantitative and qualitative results suggest that men developed attention skills through meditation, although there were variations according to previous meditation experience (e.g., a sharper longitudinal increase in theta amplitude under meditation for novice practitioners). Moreover, development of attention appeared to enhance men’s emotional intelligence, which in turn could be conducive to well-being. The results have implications for psychologists working with men, pointing to the potential for teaching men about better regulating their emotions for improved well-being.