It may not seem like mindfulness and menopause have much to do with each other (why would you want to focus on being present when you're in the middle of a hot flash episode?). But according to new research, mindfulness may effectively relieve menopause symptoms. In fact, highly stressed women may benefit the most from a quiet moment of reflection.
"In this study, we found that midlife women with higher mindfulness scores experienced fewer menopausal symptoms," says Richa Sood, MD, a women's health specialist at the Mayo Clinic whose January 2019 study was published in Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society. "These findings suggest that mindfulness may be a promising tool to help women reduce menopausal symptoms and overall stress."
Chances are you've heard of mindfulness, as it's become a trendy buzzword in the health and lifestyle sphere. Being mindful means living in the moment without judgments or expectations, simply letting things unfold naturally. "The goal during mindful moments is not to empty the mind, but to become an observer of the mind's activity while being kind to oneself," Dr. Sood explained. "The second step is to create a pause. Take a deep breath, and observe one's own space, thoughts, and emotions non-judgmentally. The resulting calm helps lower stress." Mindfulness has many applications, including as a weight-loss tool, a sleep aid, and a mood booster.
As for mindfulness and menopause, this relationship still needs more study. But for now, the results are encouraging. Sood and her colleagues surveyed 1,744 women between the ages of 40 and 65 who were cared for at the Women's Health Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. The researchers asked the women to rate their menopause symptoms as well as their perceived stress levels and mindfulness. One exciting finding was that women who were considered more mindful had fewer menopause symptoms. The link between mindfulness reducing menopause symptoms was especially strong with women who had high levels of perceived stress.
Mindfulness may be a healthy and effective way of coping with stressors for some women, so these results make sense. And given that mindfulness is free, can be done just about anywhere, and has few if any side effects, it's not surprising that Sood and her fellow researchers are pushing for mindfulness as a treatment option for menopausal women.
So, the next time you're bemoaning all the ways you're changing during menopause, take a minute to appreciate how wonderful your body is. There's no point in wishing for your life before menopause. After all, reaching mid-life means you have a whole other half to experience.