Love and devotion just shone from my son-in-law’s face as we watched him gently bathe his new daughter for the first time at St Vincent’s Hospital three weeks ago. When so much attention is focussed on mum and bub (and deservedly so), it’s important to celebrate the equally valuable and supportive traits of the male of the species.
During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in Australia and around the world with an aim to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health. According to the statistics listed on this website, it’s expected 1 in 2 Australian men will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85; around 1 in 6 men suffer from depression at any given time; and, the suicide rate for young males has tripled in the past 30 years. Dire statistics indeed!
So many of my male family members and friends share dynamic focus, an uncomplicated life direction, unswerving loyalty and a commitment to and love of science. But could it be a sole focus on physical science that hinders men’s quest to be healthier?
Michio Kaku is a quantum physicist and co-founder of “string field theory”. When he was 16 he built a particle accelerator in his mother’s garage, blowing out the electrical circuitry in the house and causing his mother to ask, “Why couldn’t I have a son who plays baseball?” His book that came out last year, Physics of the Future, spells out some amazing technological wonders many of which are already being demonstrated. How about accessing the internet through your contact lenses? Blink…and you’re online. Fascinating stuff with big implications in many areas, including health care. Kaku predicts that thought will be harnessed and become action with no physical body movement involved. Form a thought … and watch it become an action. He tells about paralysed stroke victims equipped with special computer chips who are already able to manipulate computers and guide wheelchairs simply by thinking. “After a while …[the patients] were able to read email, write email, surf the Internet, play video games, guide wheelchairs — anything you can do on a computer, they can do as well, except they’re trapped inside a paralysed body.”
Wikipedia suggests that the meaning of ‘science’ is moving away from a narrower emphasis on natural and physical science, and back somewhat to its original meaning as ‘the body of reliable knowledge’ or philosophy – an emphasis on thought.
This got me to thinking what implications the power of thought, including spirituality or mindfulness, may have for men’s health care.
In recent years medical studies have found evidence of meditation’s many benefits, including protecting against health problems from high blood pressure and arthritis to infertility, reducing stress, improving attention and physically altering parts of the brain associated with learning and memory. An advocate of two twenty-minute sessions of meditation per day, Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard University Business School suggests that meditation and mindfulness can also have major implications for our career success, while positively affecting health as well.
In Australia too, research statistics affirm that mindfulness meditation and prayer are already positively impacting men’s health (and you can join the Meditation Challenge via ABC’s Life Matters running for the next six weeks to find out more about the practice).
Being in the moment and consciously being loving, compassionate, grateful and forgiving are not gender-specific behaviours, but they open the door to change and healing in men’s lives, as well as in women’s.
In a 2006 study, Spirituality influences health related quality of life in men with prostate cancer, low spirituality was associated with significantly worse physical and mental health in men. However, there was some good news in the report. The study suggested that interventions targeting spirituality would be sure to positively impact the physical and mental health of many men.
A few years ago, a good friend was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He confided that to be diagnosed with cancer was a test of his belief in God. Over the years, he had gained an appreciation of the power of a meditative practice called scientific prayer, or Christian Science, which treats the whole person. This now enabled him to take control of his own treatment plan. He came to understand that health was part of his spiritual heritage; a realisation that transformed him and now continues to keep his life in balance. You could say that his meditation and prayers changed his thinking first … and then his body naturally healed. Thought IS powerful!
Let’s all support the Movember initiative and the Meditation Challenge, a good start to encouraging men to think about healthcare in a different way. The evidence is clear that men don’t lack an innate ability to be mindful or spiritual. More and more men (and women) are beginning to connect the dots away from a belief that healthcare is the sole domain of drug-based medicine.
Kay Stroud speaks from experience in the mind-body field, especially as it relates to health. She has been published in numerous newspapers and online publications, including her weekly column in Toowoomba’s Mail. She also represents Christian Science to the media and government in Northern Australia. For live links to associated research visit her blog at http://www.qldhealthblog.com