My female friends who are around my age have been wondering how to stop hot flashes. I’ve shared Amy Hendel’s column with them, but thought I’d delve a bit deeper into one area she recommends – meditation.
First, let’s describe the science. A very small study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School that was published in 2006 found menopausal women who meditated as part of a stress reduction program experienced significant relief from hot flashes. The study’s participants’ average age was 53.6 and they experienced an average of at least seven moderate to severe hot flashes each day. The stress reduction program involved classes in body scan meditation, sitting meditation, and mindful stretching. The women also participated in guided meditation at home six days a week for 45 minutes. At the end of the study, the frequency of the women’s hot flashes decreased an average of 39% and the average severity of hot flashes dropped 40%. Additionally, most participants reported being better able to deal with their hot flashes.
The Mayo Clinic reports that multiple types of meditation exist. These are:
- Guided meditation, which uses guided imagery or visualization and incorporates as many senses as possible.
- Mantra meditation, which uses a calming word, thought or phrase to stop distracting thoughts.
- Mindfulness meditation, which involves having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the moment.
- Qi gong, which involves meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises in order to restore and maintain balance.
- Tai chi, which is a type of Chinese martial arts.
So, how do you begin a meditation practice? A recent Houston Chronicle article featured an interview with Jeanne Higgs of the Houston Shambhala Meditation Center about how to get started. Her five tips were:
- Have an intention. Know why you’re participating in meditation, whether through the goal of limiting hot flashes or a concept of managing the stress in your life.
- Don’t worry if your brain is actively thinking. Meditation is not designed to stop you from thinking; instead, you increasingly become aware of your thinking. Furthermore, each thought shouldn’t be judged as good or bad.
- Use your breath to focus your meditation. You can visualize your breath, or breathe rhythmically.
- Meditating with others can be helpful. You can get advice and work with others to form a commitment to the meditation practice.
- Don't think of it as a religious practice
The Mayo Clinic also suggests some important elements of meditation. These suggestions include:
- Use relaxed breathing.
- Find a quiet location.
- Find a comfortable position, whether sitting, lying down, walking.
I also found a good YouTube video by Dr. Andrew Weil, who leads listeners through a three-minute guided meditation. This video can give you an introduction to what meditation feels like and how it quiets the brain.