Mindfulness may be associated with fewer menopausal symptoms for women and may be especially helpful for menopausal women struggling with irritability, anxiety and depression.
The Mayo Clinic study was recently published in Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society. Mindfulness involves focusing attention on the present moment and observing thoughts and sensations without judgment. Prior research has shown practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and improve quality of life.
The study involved 1,744 women ages 40 to 65 who received care at Mayo Clinic's Women's Health Clinic in Rochester between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2016. Participants completed questionnaires that rated their menopausal symptoms, perceived level of stress and mindfulness. Researchers found women with higher mindfulness scores had fewer menopausal symptoms. The higher a woman's perceived level of stress, the greater the link between higher mindfulness and reduced menopausal symptoms.
One surprising outcome of the study is that higher mindfulness scores were not associated with lower hot flash and night sweat symptom scores.
One theory as to why is that the amount of distress experienced from night sweats and hot flashes may have more to do with individual personality traits rather than the symptoms themselves.
Richa Sood, lead author of the study and Mayo Clinic general internist and women's health specialist, said: "These findings suggest that mindfulness may be a promising tool to help women reduce menopausal symptoms and overall stress. While more studies need to be done, doctors can consider discussing mindfulness as a potential treatment option for menopausal women.
"Essentially, the first step in being mindful is to become aware that our minds are on autopilot most of the time. 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. The second step is to create a pause. Take a deep breath, and observe one's own space, thoughts and emotions nonjudgmentally. The resulting calm helps lower stress."