What is meditation and how can it help you in the menopause?

Meditation has long lost its hippy-dippy image and is becoming commonplace in all forms of society. But did you know it could help menopause symptoms?

What is meditation?

It couldn’t be simpler. Meditation is training your brain to either focus on one thing, such as your breathing, or an object, or your bodily sensations, or to notice what is happening around you without reacting; simply noticing.

It’s basically redirecting your thoughts, which can take a bit of getting used to. It’s okay if they drift away at times; just notice that they have and then re-focus.

Meditation can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity and promote happiness – all of which we need if our hormones start to play up.

Here’s how meditation can help you cope with your menopause symptoms:

Meditation helps hot flushes

Using meditation to control your stress levels could also impact the number of hot flushes and night sweats you suffer.

Researchers at Massachusetts Medical School tested the effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on 15 menopausal women, whose average age was around 53. The women were suffering around seven moderate to severe hot flushes a day.

Over the 11 weeks of the trial, they found that the frequency of the hot flushes fell by an average of 39 per cent, while the severity dropped 40 per cent.

Best of all, the women reported a 28 per cent improvement in their quality of life and said they felt more able to cope with hot flushes after the programme.

It helps you sleep better

Lack of sleep is one of the most common menopause complaints I see on my Twitter feed (@50Sense, since you’re asking) and one I can completely agree with. Lying awake night after night makes everything else feel worse and I know only too well the impact it can have on your quality of life.

Modern life may be exhausting, but it’s the wrong type of exhaustion because we’re mentally stimulated throughout the day and our brains won’t switch off. By training your mind to focus on the here and now, rather than the what-ifs and coulda-beens, your brain will relax, helping you sleep better.

Meditation and controlled breathing are also good for when you wake up at 3am, ranting at the lack of crisp flavours.

Reduces stress and anxiety

Mental health is showing itself to be a bigger problem for me than the physical symptoms of menopause. Many women have told me menopause left them feeling suicidal, so anything that can help with this has to be embraced.

Meditation can help turn off your brain for a while, allowing you to control stress and anxiety a bit better. It’s been shown to increase your parasympathetic activity – yes, I know; give me a minute!! Your parasympathetic system is your “rest and digest” system as it slows your heart rate and increases intestinal and gland activity. (The sympathetic system is what gives us “fight or flight”, increasing your heart rate, which makes you feel jittery and anxious.)

By increasing the activity of your parasympathetic system through meditation, you’ll feel calmer and more in control.

Meditation helps joint pain

According to a study from Seattle, doing mindfulness-based therapies (combining meditation and yoga) for two hours a week can help with aches and pains.

It’s thought that meditation moves your focus from the pain, helping calm you. When you meditate, your muscle tension drops, your heart rate slows and breathing becomes deeper, which has an impact on your pain level.

Improves your decision-making skills

Working in newspapers with deadlines to hit means I’m used to making decisions. At its worse, menopause hit that for six, leaving me doubting and second-guessing myself.

My making you focus on the moment and ridding the mind of all secondary thoughts, meditation can help you become more rational and focus on what is the best course of action.

In one study, a simple 15-minute meditation left the participants in a much calmer state of mind and able to make a smarter decision, free of fears about the past or future.

Increases your energy levels

Oh boy! Do I need this one. Fatigue is a killer for me, especially now I’m on anti-depressants to help with my progesterone sensitivity until I can get my preferred choice of HRT. I used to be such a busy bee, but now everything is an effort.

Combining meditation with haitha yoga (the most common type we do in the West) has been shown to have a significant impact on improving your energy levels. I used to do yoga regularly but the last few months have been such a struggle I’ve fallen out of the habit. Back to Chas I go…

If you’re interested in starting meditation, I recommend the Clarity app. It has been created especially for menopausal women and features a host of mindfulness packs to help with specific problems, such as InstaCalm for when you can feel the panic hit. Their guided sessions really helped me sleep.

For those counting the pennies, I also recommend the free Let’s Meditate, which has a variety of different meditations depending on what you want. The tracks vary in time from five minutes to more than 40, depending on how time-pushed you are. I find five minutes before bed is enough to get me dreaming about Chris Hemsworth.

Do you meditate? How has it helped you? Please leave me a comment below to help others

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