Mindfulness may be linked to fewer menopausal symptoms, particularly in women struggling with irritability, anxiety and depression, according to a new study published in Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society.

Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts without judgment. Previous research has shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and improve quality of life.

“Essentially, the first step in being mindful is to become aware that our minds are on autopilot most of the time,” said Mayo Clinic general internist and women’s health specialist Richa Sood, M.D., the study’s lead author.

“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 non-judgmentally. The resulting calm helps lower stress.”

The study involved 1,744 women ages 40 to 65 who received care at Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Health Clinic in Rochester between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2016. Participants completed questionnaires that rated their menopausal symptoms, perceived level of stress and mindfulness.

A woman is considered to be in menopause if she has gone a full year without a period. Commonly experienced symptoms of menopause can include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood changes.

The results reveal that 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 finding was that higher mindfulness scores were not linked to lower hot flash and night sweat symptom scores, Sood said. 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.

An exciting finding in the study, according to Sood, was the association of higher mindfulness scores and lower symptom scores for irritability, depression and anxiety in middle-aged menopausal women.

“In this study, we found that midlife women with higher mindfulness scores experienced fewer menopausal symptoms,” said Sood. “These findings suggest that mindfulness may be a promising tool to help women reduce menopausal symptoms and overall stress.”

Every day, an estimated 6,000 women in the U.S. reach menopause. By 2020, the number of women age 55 and older is expected to top 46 million.

Source: Mayo Clinic