Mindfulness and The Menopause
Miss Tania Adib, Head of Gynaecology at Twenty-five Harley Street is a menopause expert. As well as treating the menopause with both with hormone replacement and with non-hormonal methods, she uses mindfulness to help patients manage symptoms. But what exactly is mindfulness? It’s a buzzword of the moment, but you may be wondering what it means in reality. Here are your questions about mindfulness and the menopause answered.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about being present. Some people define mindfulness meaning mindful meditation; this is when you sit quietly, paying attention to your breathing and the sensation of how your body is feeling, from the heaviness of your hands, to the way your feet are planted on the floor, even the feeling of your hair brushing on the neck. When a thought comes into your head, you simply observe it, anchoring your body back into the here and now by paying attentions to the sensations all around you. Mindfulness can also refer to using these techniques in everyday life, observing your surroundings or situation in an observant but non-judgemental way. It’s about approaching thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them and react differently to them.
How can mindfulness help the menopause?
Most women will tell you that menopausal symptoms like night sweats, hot flushes and irritability feel far worse when they’re feeling stressed. Relaxation techniques and a mindful attitude can reduce symptoms of the menopause, such as anxiety. Simply focusing on your breathing for five minutes can have a positive effect on how you feel. Just slow down and be present in yourself. You could try yoga or a meditation class, or try some of these tips. They will all help give a sense of objectivity reducing unpleasant symptoms.
How can I do a mindful meditation?
A lot of mindfulness experts use ‘The Three Minute Breathing Space’. It’s quite simple, just follow these steps:
Minute one Sit quietly somewhere and for one minute just notice what’s happening around you. What can you hear, smell, feel? Don’t think about the thoughts that come up, just experience them.
Minute two For the second minute, focus only on your breathing. How does it sound? What parts of your body move? How do your clothes feel as they shift against your skin as you inhale or exhale.
Minute three Spend the final minute going back to your thoughts – the sounds, smell and feel of what’s around you. Now just come back to your day rested and revived.
I find it hard to stay still. Is mindfulness impossible for me?
Not at all. Going for a walk can be a very mindful practice. Just concentrate on each foot landing on the floor, taking in your surroundings. In fact, walking it’s self has a plethora of health benefits, both physical and mentally. It counts as weight-bearing exercise – good for bone health – but is gentler on the joints than running. It mentally revitalises us too. If you can do it in a woodland setting, so much the better. The Japanese call this Forest Air Bathing – or Shinirn-Yoku. It can lower blood pressure and pulse rates, reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body and reduce negative moods like anger, or sadness. Scientists have discovered that as people walked in an environment full of trees the blood flow in their brain changed. Flow to an area called the pre-frontal cortex decreased in a way that indicated that as we walk among trees our brain takes a time out from thinking and processing. This didn’t happen when people walked for the same amount of time in an urban setting.
Anything else I can do to become more mindful?
You could ditch the smartphone – if not forever, at least for a day –longer if you can. Every time you hear the ping of an email your brain releases a surge of energising dopamine. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and makes you chase after goals. Dopamine used to keep us alive when we had to hunt food. But being in a constant state of alertness with our always plugged in technology, is anything but restful. As we read text messages our shoulders tense, and we hold our breath creating fatigue and tension in the body.
Tips for a digital detox
- Go without your phone for a whole day and see how it feels. How much of your life is wasted texting, tweeting or scrolling on your smartphone? It will be an eyeopener!
- Never have your phone in your hand when you are with people. It prevents you from being present.
- If you are about to make a call or a text when you’re on the move, ask yourself how urgent is it really? Although we’ve been brainwashed into thinking everything needs to be done immediately, it probably isn’t as urgent as you think.
- Stop charging your phone in the bedroom. Research has shown the phones emit a light that makes it hard for us to relax and sleep.
- Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. By a separate clock for that – one that doesn’t ping with messages when you’re trying to sleep.
- Switch off your phone a few hours before bed.
- Don’t let your phone be the first thing you reach for in the morning. Give yourself time to wake up and breathe.