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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Reed

Men's wellbeing on the rise

I recently penned this article on behalf of my client Synergy - The Retreat Show

'Men, we have to stop living in isolation. We have to stop hiding and pretending that everything is OK,' - Men Without Masks.

Imagine your typical retreat goer and it’s likely a female comes to mind. The wellness and retreats industry has long catered to predominantly women. Safe spaces in beautiful settings where groups of women come together to connect, move their bodies, eat nourishing food and soak up therapeutic treatments.

Why the retreats industry has traditionally been a female domain has largely been fuelled by a highly damaging culture of toxic masculinity, where it’s seen as ‘weak’ for men to open up and seek self-care in this way.

Unsurprisingly this has been harmful for men’s mental health. An American Perspectives Survey from May 2021 found that less than a fourth of men (22%) say they would turn to a friend in a time of need, and a survey from the Priory Group found that 40% of men never talk to anyone about their mental health, primarily owing to embarrassment and stigma.

Thankfully change is happening. We’re now seeing the emergence of much-needed organisations such as Evryman which offers workshops, coaching and retreats ‘where men can thrive, where the walls of stoicism crumble, and where the power of genuine connection becomes the guiding force’ and Men Without Masks, which offers personal development and growth activities specifically designed for men.

Male-dominated corporate businesses are also waking up to the need to focus on personal development to be a successful leader.

Leadership and Wellbeing Coach (and Synergy – The Retreat Show facilitator!), Scotty Johnson, runs Explore What Matters; experiential leadership programs in the outdoors for senior executive teams, which are frequently mostly male attended.

Scotty’s approach is to focus on the whole person; helping senior execs to develop in every facet of their lives, including family life and personal well-being. He explains: “All of that impacts business and leadership success. If you have a stressful personal life, you’re going to bring that stress to work. You are never just the leader at work, you are the leader of your life.”

Scotty thinks that the COVID pandemic helped more men to awaken to wellness. He says: “Lockdown gave men time out to consider: ‘what am I doing, why I am doing it and how healthy am I? Did the realisation of mortality have an impact on men in terms of questioning their role in business and life?”

He works with a lot of men from their mid 40s onwards; using the transformative power of nature and specific approaches to help men to develop connection, insight and share their true realities, which isn’t always something that comes naturally.

Scotty explains:

“Guys often find it hard to be openly vulnerable. I take my clients for a forest walk where they can walk side by side without the fear of judgement that comes with direct eye contact, or we may have those conversations in a canoe, and that way it’s easier for men to relax and talk about what they need help with.”

Scotty says that to tap into the male corporate market, he’s had to think carefully about the way he markets his offering and the language that he uses.

“Business or male culture typically turns its nose up at the idea of attending a ‘wellness retreat’. So, I pitch the experience as a leadership/personal development program or ‘off sites.’ It’s important to know your audience! I’d rarely use the words ‘wellness’ or ‘retreat’. I replace ‘mindfulness’ with ‘noticing’ and replace ‘meditating’ with ‘slowing down’.”

“It is a great irony that many men project as being strong and secure, but given the right environment, will talk incessantly about diet, exercise regimes, self-care and their dreams. There is a huge need and desire for male self-improvement and greater wellbeing; they need to feel the permission to go there,” says Scotty.

Do you know of any retreats businesses successfully tapping into the male market?

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