Rewriting The Definition of Strength For Men


By Kevin Kunkel

Awareness is key to making a change, especially with our health.  For optimal  health, we must be able to listen and learn from our body’s signals  in order to adapt and make the needed changes before these signals become debilitating symptoms or wreak havoc in our relationships.  Unfortunately many men are encouraged to learn skills of denial and toughening up rather then awareness and acceptance of how they feel and what they sense on the inside.

Men have an interesting challenge in developing the capacity to know the information he needs  to keep his body, mind, and life in balance.  For many men, tuning into our body is a forgotten capacity that society has systematically encouraged us to bury.   We have been trained and regularly rewarded to appear and be strong on the outside and to deny or withdraw from our bodily signals of our real needs and vulnerabilities.  While women have the necessity of feeling and facing their internal body on a regular monthly cycle, men, without a significant symptom, can often go astray living in our heads and disconnected from our body for decades until bigger symptoms or life events scream for us to “Listen UP!  Something needs to change now.”

Fortunately more men are waking up to the fact that real stability comes from learning to pay attention, make changes, and manage one’s stress level.  The path to increasing the skill of attuning oneself to the body is not rocket science and does not have to take up huge amounts of time.  The truth is that repeatedly adding short, simple moments tuning in throughout the day is the best way to rewire your brain and learn the skill of listening to your body’s signal.  Below, I will share 3 tips on learning this skill, including  a simple 1-2 minute exercise to come back to throughout your day.

  1. Rewiring the brain for a new skill best happens with frequent, consistent practice.  Create several pauses throughout your day where you check in for just 1-2 minutes: before getting out of bed or checking your phone in the morning, before getting out of your car, immediately before or after you lunch, etc.   It helps to begin by taking 3 open mouth, lips pursed exhales to move pent-up agitated energy within so that it is less cloudy, more clear inside.  Just as it takes a moment for our eyes to adjust to the night sky before we can take in the true number of stars, we have to allow a few moments of stillness to attune to our inner landscape.  After a few seconds, it helps to connect with the rhythm of your breath so that you have something to which to anchor your attention inward.  Notice if there are any specific parts of your body that are calling your attention and take a few moments to hear those specific signals.  Is there any feelings there, perhaps agitations, anxieties, or pressure from events in the day?  Can you focus your attention on that sensation for 2 breaths?  After 2 minutes, notice any effects from the practice before moving on, such as a being more centered and focused.
  1. Know the effects of stress and the importance of paying attention rather then denying.  Most of us live consistently well beyond the threshold of our stress level being good for us.   Constant stress systematically debilitates your mind and body:  weakening your immune system, disrupting the repair and functioning of all of your bodily systems, decreases your focus, effectiveness, and your ability to handle emotions.   Realize, before your system breaks down, that only having the skill of being strong by toughening leads to a brittle rubber band that can snap in one of any number of places when it encounters the next stressor.  Learning to listen and adapt to what truly works for your body and mind is the key to building stability and health.
  1. Study someone who is where you want to be and surround yourself with people who are hungry to learn this new path.  These are suggestions we hear all the time when we are trying to master the business world:  Study those who are already successful and surround yourself with people who are motivated and  yearning for success.  Why are you not doing the same in your pursuit for true stability and health.  Learn how to identify leaders who walk with a sense of balance and attunement  to their body and mind.  Study them.  Surround yourself with people who are motivated and understand the wisdom of true stability and strength that comes through being attuned and in balance.

What’s happening here is an evolution.   An evolution backed by science and backed by repeated clinical evidence of what brings health, stability, and a deep rich fulfillment in one’s life and in all of one’s relationships.

Kevin Kunkel is a Somatic Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist and Marriage and Family Therapist. You can make an appointment with him by emailing us at or calling 310-451-8880