In researching the impact of loneliness, for a spa presentation, I came across Andrew Reiner’s article for the New York Times, “The Power of Touch, Especially for Men.” The piece had a profound effect on me. As a massage therapist for almost two decades, I understood the impact of touch first hand.
The history and benefit of massage date back centuries, we see it in the animal kingdom, one of the first things after birth is licking off the young. As the mother of a son, rubbing and kissing hurt spots is second nature and done without thought, knowing it will help almost any situation. The popularity of massage has continued and evolved over the years to Spa and Wellness becoming mainstream – for most. There seems to be a gap in the understanding and acceptance of touch in all aspects of society. Men, now represent 40% of spa-goers hat are utilizing the long healing properties of healthy touch.
Reiner’s poignant exploration of touch, starting with his father, goes on to investigate the effect of lack of touch in American society for men and the detrimental effects. In the era of the #metoo movement, men are even less likely to engage in touch out of fear of prosecution. It feeds the idea that touch for men is for “violence or sex.” Society has taught men to be strong, never showing weakness or fear and in these changing times, that seems a much heavier load to carry.
Brene Brown in her book “Men, Women, and Worthiness” discusses the challenges that men face in showing weakness. Dr. Brown reflects on the issue of weakness and notes that other men, as well as women, hold to the concept that men have to be strong at all times. Dr. Brown’s research into the concept has shown “fear and shame in men manifest into rage and anger.” Interestingly, we are seeing this suppressed anger now more than ever. Sadly, the inability to find a safe place to address the issues has led to a higher number of addiction and suicide especially in men over the age of 50. It is this same population that has led to the boom in the cuddle industry. Cuddlist is an online site with over 10k users, where individuals schedule time with a professional cuddler to do exactly that – cuddle, touch, and interact.
How do we create an environment of healing for men? The answer is the creation of a safe space for men where they can feel supported, honored, and loved.
In honor of Men’s Mental Health Awareness month, shining a light on the options and locations which provide a safe a healing space is vital especially in these challenging times.
The first location is in Washington, DC, and was featured on Shark Tank – recharj® is owned by Daniel Turissini, who has a mission of “shifting tension to attention.” Daniel shared “while recharj® is accessible to everyone, we have found our male client’s particular interest in adopting meditation as a regular practice for elevating performance, increasing attention span, boosting mental focus, as well as building emotional intelligence and confidence.” Specific modalities of contemplative practice that recharj® offers, includes mindfulness, which teach men how to cultivate awareness, relax the nervous system, reduce stress, and train the brain to come back to equilibrium. Daniel notes, just like exercise, meditation is a practice that requires consistency to experience true mastery. recharj® offers online classes that can easily fit within a busy work schedule. For more information visit – www.recharj.com
Next on the list is the Temple of New African Thought (TNAT) Holistic Wellness Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Developed by Dennis “Ausar” Winkler, Jr, TNAT was developed to provide a wellness model as a holistic approach to healing for those often overlooked by traditional wellness locations. With a focus on connecting those of African descent with Eastern and Western modalities, TNAT offers a variety of services which range from Tai Chi and Kickboxing to meditation session and book discussion. There are men focused sessions including Anger Management, Fatherhood, as well as Leadership. In addition, Ausar is a trained Psychotherapist who leads group or individual Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The Sunday Men’s Drum Circle brings together a diverse group of all ages to enjoy an African tradition that also allows for connection. For more information visit –http://www.templeofnat.org
Continuing up the east coast and with the concept of mental wellness for men, the last location featured is HealHaus in Brooklyn, NY. Co-founders Elisa Shankle and Darian Hall, with a mission of creating a space where “healing was a lifestyle” created a welcoming location for those from all walks of life seeking peace and overall wellness. Darian, in his journey, noted the lack of “of accessible healing spaces for men” and decided HealHaus was a wonderful opportunity to start a new conversation around wellness for all. With a café, as well as a space designed to invite non-traditional wellness seekers to workshops, meditation groups, and even yoga. All of which is imagined in a way to be inclusive and inviting as opposed to the unapproachable vibe of many traditional locations. With the move to online offerings, people from all around the city and the world can participate in the experiences and conversations. For more information about HealHaus visit www. healhaus.com
As June comes to a close, the focus on mental health, wellbeing, and wellness for men shouldn’t stop on the 30th. It is our responsibility as leaders in the spa and wellness industry to provide a space for men to heal, share, and build. I leave you with the words of Brene Brown, it is one of my favorite quotes “If we take care of the boys and men, we ultimately take care of the girls and women,” which means we take care of everyone.
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Sherrie Tennessee, MBA Spa Specialist*Hospality Educator*Author*Global Citizen*Inspirational Leadership Speaker