Decrease the Negative Effects of Gender Nonconformity with Mindfulness

Decrease the Negative Effects of Gender Nonconformity with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Humanity’s most valuable assets have been the non-conformists. Were it not for the non-conformists, he who refuses to be satisfied to go along with the continuance of things as they are, and insists upon attempting to find new ways of bettering things, the world would have known little progress, indeed.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

 

Gender is defined by our genes. If we have two X Chromosomes we’re female. If we have an XY pair, we’re male. But, the role we play, how we act, based upon gender is learned and very much dependent upon societal norms and mores. “Gender nonconformity (also known as gender atypicality) refers to the incongruence between the biological sex assigned at birth and the socially prescribed gender role.” (American Psychological Association (APA) 2012). This nonconformity occurs associated with all forms of gender identity and sexual orientations.

 

There is always a price that individuals must pay anytime that they violate societal norms. The stigma, stress, and emotionality produced by violating the norms can impact the mental and physical health of the individual. On the other hand, mindfulness has been shown to reduce the physiological and psychological effects of stress, improve the ability to cope with emotions, and improve self-compassion. Thus, there is a need to better understand the effects of mindfulness and self-compassion on the well-being of individuals who are gender nonconformists.

 

In today’s Research News article “Trait Mindfulness and Self-Compassion as Moderators of the Association Between Gender Nonconformity and Psychological Health.” (See summary below). Keng and colleagues recruited a varied adult sample of over 200 individuals with all forms of gender identity and sexual orientations. They were asked to complete measures of sexual orientation, gender nonconformity, anxiety, depression, subjective well-being, mindfulness, and self-compassion. About 2/3rds of the participants were heterosexual while 21% were gay or lesbian, 5% bisexual, and 6% other orientations.

 

They found that the higher the levels of gender nonconformity the higher the levels of depression and the lower the levels of subjective well-being. Mindfulness was also an important factor with the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and the higher the levels of self-compassion and subjective well-being.

 

Although mindfulness was only slightly negatively related to gender nonconformity it had significant moderating influences on the effects of gender nonconformity. People high in mindfulness did not have an association between gender nonconformity and either depression, anxiety, or subjective well-being whereas when the people were low in mindfulness high gender nonconformity was associated with high depression and anxiety and low subjective well-being. They also found that when people were high in self-compassion there was not an association between gender nonconformity and subjective well-being, whereas when the people were low in mindfulness high gender nonconformity was associated with low subjective well-being.

 

The results are the product of correlations and thus cannot be used to determine causal connections. But, the results clearly demonstrate that gender nonconformity is associated with psychological and well-being problems. On the other hand, mindfulness is an antidote, being associated with lower psychological and well-being problems. In addition, mindfulness appears to buffer the individual from the negative psychological influences of gender nonconformity. Hence mindfulness appears to be a promoter of well-being and a protector against gender nonconformity degrading well-being.

 

It will be important in future research to investigate if mindfulness training in people high in gender nonconformity can reduce its negative effects. This may be important in helping people whose gender identity and sexual orientation are contrary to the existing societal mores, improving their psychological health and well-being.

 

So, decrease the negative effects of gender nonconformity with mindfulness.

 

“Improved affect in women was related to improved mindfulness and self-compassion skills, which involved specific subscales for approaching experience and emotions with non-reactivity, being less self-critical and more kind with themselves, and over-identifying less with emotions,” – Willoughby Britton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Keng, SL. & Liew, K.W.L. Trait Mindfulness and Self-Compassion as Moderators of the Association Between Gender Nonconformity and Psychological Health. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 615. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0639-0

 

Abstract

Much research has established a negative association between gender nonconformity and psychological health. Less is known however regarding factors that may attenuate the link between gender nonconformity and psychological health. The present study aimed to investigate the association between gender nonconformity and psychological health in a Singaporean sample, and to examine trait mindfulness and self-compassion as potential moderators of the association. A community sample of 206 adults was recruited and completed an online survey anonymously. The survey included measures of gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, trait mindfulness, self-compassion, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being. Results showed that gender nonconformity positively and significantly predicted depressive symptoms, and negatively predicted subjective well-being. Trait mindfulness moderated the association between gender nonconformity and depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being respectively, with the direction of the moderation effects indicating the role of trait mindfulness as a protective factor against psychological distress. Self-compassion moderated the relationship between gender nonconformity and subjective well-being. Specifically, the association between gender nonconformity and subjective well-being was positive at high levels of self-compassion, and negative at low levels of self-compassion. While cross-sectional in nature, the findings provide preliminary support for the role of trait mindfulness and self-compassion as potential buffers against negative psychological effects of gender nonconformity.

Women Benefit More than Men from Mindfulness

Women Benefit More than Men from Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

For people that tend to be willing to confront or expose themselves or turn toward the difficult, mindfulness is made for helping that process. For people who have been largely turning their attention away from the difficult, to suddenly bring all their attention to their difficulties can be somewhat counterproductive. While facing one’s difficulties and feeling one’s emotions may seem to be universally beneficial, it does not take into account that there may be different cultural expectations for men and women around emotionality.” – Willoughby Britton

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be beneficial for a variety of mental health problems, including anxietydepressionAntisocial Personality DisorderBorderline personality disorderimpulsivityobsessive compulsive disorderphobiaspost-traumatic stress disorder, sexual dysfunction, suicidality and even with psychosis. It also improves the psychological well-being of healthy people. Interestingly, there appears to be differences between men and women in the occurrence of various mental illnesses. Women have a much higher incidence of emotional issues than men such as anxiety and depression. On the other hand, men are more likely to have conduct disorders and substance abuse.

 

One of the ways that mindfulness appears to work to improve mental health is by improving emotion regulation. This increases the individual’s ability to fully experience emotions but react to and cope with them adaptively, in other words, not to be carried away by them. Since women are more likely to have emotional issues than men, and mindfulness is particularly effective in improving emotion regulation, it would seem reasonable to hypothesize that mindfulness would have greater psychological benefits for women than for men.

 

In today’s Research News article “Women Benefit More Than Men in Response to College-based Meditation Training.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397480/, Rojiana and colleagues recruited male and female university students and trained them for 12 weeks, 3 times per week for 1 hour, in focused and open monitoring meditation. They completed measurements before and after training of mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, and self-compassion. They then compared the effectiveness of the meditation training for men and women.

 

They found that after training both men and women improved in mindfulness and self -compassion, but women had greater improvements than men in mindfulness and the mindfulness facets of observing, describing, non-judging, and non-reacting. Women also showed greater decreases in negative emotions. For women, it was found that the greater the increase in mindfulness, the greater the decrease in negative emotions. Hence, they found that women tended to benefit more from the meditation training that the men.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that women respond to meditation training with greater improvements in emotions and mindfulness than men. This may well have occurred due to the facts that mindfulness is known to improve emotion regulation and women have greater problems with emotion regulation and thereby benefit more. The greater improvements in mindfulness in women are interesting and may be due to the fact that the women were lower in mindfulness, particularly non-reactivity, to begin with. The meditation simply increased their levels of mindfulness to those of the men. This suggests that women have a greater tendency to react emotionally and that mindfulness training by decreasing this reactivity has greater benefits for women.

 

The results might have been different had the study measured behavioral conduct and externalizing behaviors rather than emotions. In a sense, the study played right to the issues than most trouble women and didn’t measure those that are more characteristic of males. Had they measured these factors perhaps they would have seen greater improvement in men rather than women. Regardless, women appear to benefit more emotionally from mindfulness training than men.

 

“When thrown by their feelings, men tend to “externalize” their emotions by doing things like working out, playing video games or otherwise interacting with their outer worlds. Women tend to “internalize” by analyzing and ruminating over their emotional states, psychologists say. While many men go outward — and one might argue, distract themselves from their internal world — women go inward.” – Drake Baer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Rojiani, R., Santoyo, J. F., Rahrig, H., Roth, H. D., & Britton, W. B. (2017). Women Benefit More Than Men in Response to College-based Meditation Training. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 551. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00551

 

Abstract

Objectives: While recent literature has shown that mindfulness training has positive effects on treating anxiety and depression, there has been virtually no research investigating whether effects differ across genders—despite the fact that men and women differ in clinically significant ways. The current study investigated whether college-based meditation training had different effects on negative affect for men and women.

Methods: Seventy-seven university students (36 women, age = 20.7 ± 3.0 years) participated in 12-week courses with meditation training components. They completed self-report questionnaires of affect, mindfulness, and self-compassion before and after the course.

Results: Compared to men, women showed greater decreases in negative affect and greater increases on scales measuring mindfulness and self-compassion. Women’s improvements in negative affect were correlated to improvements in measures of both mindfulness skills and self-compassion. In contrast, men showed non-significant increases in negative affect, and changes in affect were only correlated with ability to describe emotions, not any measures of experiential or self-acceptance.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that women may have more favorable responses than men to school-based mindfulness training, and that the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions may be maximized by gender-specific modifications.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397480/