Mindfulness and Menopause
If you are looking for a technique to enhance your life and happiness, to reduce stress and menopause symptoms and to help you cope with daily tensions and stresses … then mindfulness meditation may be for you! In this article physiotherapist and mindfulness teacher at Trinity College Dublin, Karita Saar Cullen, MISCP, explains the concept of mindfulness and shows us how it can help with challenging menopause symptoms.
What is mindfulness?
More than 30 years ago Dr.Jon Kabbat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre started promoting Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This meditation based practice had its origins in Buddhism but is entirely secular. What MBSR does is to help us quieten our mind during meditation by managing our thoughts. In our everyday lives we tend to flit from idea to idea, from worry to worry, from memory to memory. During meditation MBSR helps to manage these thoughts, to simply observe them, name them and let them go.
So how does it work? During mindfulness meditation, we take time to sit or walk and simply tune into our breathing. As we attempt to focus on our breathing, we are likely to be distracted by all kinds of thoughts....what will we have for dinner this evening? Maybe I shouldn't have said such and such to so and so etc. How MBSR works is to teach us to simply notice such thoughts without engaging with them and then allow ourselves to refocus on our breathing. The key idea is to allow ourselves simply to note our thoughts as they arise, in a non-judgemental way.
As we become more proficient in Mindfulness, the part of our brain governing learning and memory becomes more active and the part that deals with worry becomes less active. The proven consequence is a lowering of stress, falling cortisol levels, better sleep patterns, lower stress/anxiety levels and an overall sense of well-being.
The benefits of Mindfulness have been well documented and include:
- The reduction of stress and anxiety
- Lower cortisol levels
- Better sleep patterns
- A greater sense of relaxation and well-being
- The ability to “step out of” negative downward spirals and feelings
- Greater self-compassion and improved relationships with others
- More enjoyment and appreciation in life
Being mindful means being totally aware of the present moment. Developing a mindfulness meditation practice is about training the mind to be more aware and to pay more attention to our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations right here, right now.
How to learn mindfulness?
Mindfulness is taught in 8 week group sessions lasting approximately 2 hours, and daily practices may include meditation, awareness of breathing, body scans and mindful yoga,as well as ‘informal’ mindfulness practises integrated into daily activities.
All the qualified mindfulness teachers are trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
Mindfulness and menopause
There have been numerous studies into the benefits of mindfulness on the menopause. One study from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center reported a reduction amongst the participants of up to 40% in the number of hot flushes they experienced.
In some studies, women report that they are less bothered by their symptoms, thus enhancing their sense of well-being.
Mindfulness cannot entirely remove the symptoms of menopause, but it can help you deal with them in a calmer and more compassionate way – and self compassion boosts mental health. Learning these simple techniques to focus our awareness, relax the body, and ride out the storm, (whether the storm is physical or emotional) can pay great dividends’