Last night I was watching CBS's "60 Minutes" and was intrigued by a story by Anderson Cooper on the concept of mindfulness. The correspondent took part in a mindfulness retreat. As part of the experience, all participants had to give up all of their technology (yep, iPads and cell phones included).
The attention grabber was when Cooper was tested after participating in the program. Researchers were able to see his brain’s responses change when he was asked to think of something stressful and then to practice mindfulness. Seeing the instrument move from red (stress) to blue (relaxation) was really amazing – and got me wondering if mindfulness could help women as they go through menopause.
According to the University of California Berkley's Greater Good Science Center, "Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment." Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. However, in 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn developed a secular version of of mindfulness, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, while at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
So, how is all this related to Menopause?
Mindfulness may help you in relation to those pesky hot flashes. One small study involved 110 women who were between the ages of 47 and 69 who reported having at least five moderate or severe hot flashes (including night sweats) each day.
The researchers randomly assigned a portion of the study’s participants to participate in eight weekly Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Classes. Each class lasted 2.5 hours. This program was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn for the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979 and is widely used in hospital settings. (Kabat-Zinn led the mindfulness program that Anderson Cooper participated during the "60 Minutes" segment.) In addition, these study participants participated in a full-day class during the sixth week and received 2 CDs of guided instruction to use on days that they did not attend class. The other participants were assigned to a wait-listed control group.
At the end of the study, participants in the mindfulness classes reported lower intensity of hot flashes as well as a lower degree of being bothered by the hot flashes. They also reported clinical improvements in their quality of life, sleep quality, anxiety and perceived stress. These results were sustained for at least three months following the end of the study. In fact, participants who took part in the mindfulness program reported that the level of “bother” they experienced with hot flashes was almost 25 percent lower than when they first enrolled in the study.
Any women describe having brain fog while going through menopause and also begin to worry about developing dementia. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to exercise our brain.
Interestingly, researchers have found numerous benefits that accrue from mindfulness meditation. For instance, one study found that a group who meditated had significantly better performance in relation to attention as compared to a control group. This group also was able to suppress distracting information.
Mindfulness also boosts working memory, especially during stressful times, and was linked to positive feelings. Furthermore, another study found that mindfulness meditation helped people disengage from emotionally upsetting pictures and to focus on a specific task. Studies also suggest that this style of meditation may offer greater cognitive flexibility, intuition, self-insight, as well as relationship satisfaction.
A Healthy Weight
Menopause also marks a point where our metabolism slows down and it becomes easy to gain weight. Therefore, identifying tactics to help maintain a healthy weight (and a healthy diet) is important. One way is through mindful eating, which is also part of Cooper’s “60 Minutes” report.
Some researchers are finding that mindfulness while eating may help people maintain a healthy weight as well as avoid unhealthy food choices. Mindfulness focuses on the smells, flavors and textures of food as well as taking small bites and chewing slowly. Furthermore, you’re encouraged to avoid television, reading or other distractions while eating. The belief is that mindful eating helps the brain register the stomach’s signs of fullness, thus improving digestion.
Interested in trying mindfulness meditation? The University of California Los Angeles’s Mindful Awareness Researcher Center has developed eight free guided meditations that you can access. Enjoy!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Davis, D. M. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness. American Psychological Association.
Harvard Health Publications. (2011). Mindful eating may help with weight loss.
Suhaila, L. (2011). Mindfulness and menopause: Can women learn to cope with hot flashes? Natural Medicine Journal.
University of California Los Angeles. (ND). Free guided meditations.
Greater Good Science Center. (ND). What is mindfulness? University of California Berkley.
Published On: December 15, 2014