Managing Menopause Symptoms Through Gratitude
You have probably heard the saying, “count your blessings.” But have you actually done it? Research has found that people who are intentional in acknowledging their blessings or “good things” tend to be happier.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is a positive emotion that involves being thankful and appreciative. We experience gratitude when we realize the good that exists in our life, and we choose to give thanks in some way. It’s about recognizing the gifts we’ve been given. We practice gratitude when we stop to reflect on the positive things we have. Our family, good health, a home – these often come to mind. It could also be the universal stuff we might take for granted, such as the sun, rain, food, or our breath. You could also give thanks for the little things like that first sip of coffee in the morning. There’s no right or wrong thing to focus your gratitude on.
How To Practice Gratitude
Keep a gratitude journal
Whether it’s the big stuff like your children or the little stuff like a perfectly ripe peach, write down the things you are grateful for. Keep a journal or notepad next to your bed, and take a few minutes to write three things you’re grateful for. A 2018 study found that people with a gratitude journal were less materialistic and more generous towards others.
Store a mental picture of gratitude
Keep a mental snapshot of your blessings. When you’re feeling bad, go to that image (or images) in your mind of the good things you have. You can carry it with you wherever you go as a positive reminder.
Practice gratitude meditation
Gratitude meditation is a type of meditation where you reflect on what you are grateful for. This practice can be done more traditionally (sitting in a quiet setting while focusing on your breath), or you do it while waiting in line at the store.
Write a letter
Choose someone in your life to write a letter of gratitude to and deliver it to them. Maybe you never properly thanked someone for helping you that one time. It’s never too late to show thanks! Or perhaps you just want to thank someone for being a good friend. A letter of appreciation will not only bring the recipient joy, but it can also boost your happiness for weeks to come. You can still reap the benefits even if you choose not to send the letter.
Go for a mindful walk
Leave your headphones (and maybe your phone) behind and pay close attention to your surroundings. What do you see, hear, and feel? What are you grateful for? Mindfully using your senses can help you gain a greater appreciation for the world around you as well as what it means to be alive.
The Difference Between Gratitude and Mindfulness
Gratitude and mindfulness are related. They serve similarly important roles in society, and research suggests that they have similar effects on individuals, but they are not the same. Mindfulness can help us cultivate gratitude.
Menopause and Gratitude: How Does Gratitude Help?
Most women experience menopause symptoms for seven to nine years, feeling the effects mentally and physically across the perimenopause and postmenopause stages. You’re not sleeping well, you feel on edge, and your anxiety is at an all-time high. When you have all this going on (and more), it’s easy for the symptoms of menopause to take over, making it hard to see any good. But if you can pull out the positive, you can manage symptoms much better. Being grateful works with your body by releasing hormones to help balance the hormones you’ve lost. Gratitude helps us connect to something bigger than ourselves and grow an appreciation for other people or things, such as nature or a spiritual/higher power.
Alleviating Menopause Symptoms With Gratitude
Practicing gratitude may provide relief for symptoms of menopause. Here are a few that regular practice may help with:
- Sleep Disturbance – there is some evidence that gratitude is a positive trait related to good sleep quality and people are more likely to wait up feeling refreshed and energetic.
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats – a small study found that practicing a gratitude meditation program for eight weeks (two and a half hours each week) decreased the frequency and duration of hot flashes and night sweats.
- Mood – research has found that gratitude releases toxic emotions by shifting one’s attention away from negative feelings and may have lasting effects on the brain and contribute to better mental health.
- Anxiety – one study showed that people who write about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives.
- Stress – several studies have shown that practicing gratitude allows us to handle stress better, and we can rewire our brains to deal with things with more awareness and broader perception. Stress hormones like cortisol are twenty-three percent lower in grateful people.
- Weight Management – dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as twenty-five percent when people keep a gratitude journal.
Symptom management and our health are essential, but gratitude also helps us strengthen relationships with others and ourselves. We can become more mindful and gain a new perspective, which helps deal with conflict. Also, if you feel lonely, gratitude helps reduce feelings of isolation. It grounds us and reminds us of the good in the world and that we are never alone.
Cultivating a Habit of Gratitude for Menopause Symptom Relief
You can make gratitude a part of your weekly routine without sacrificing much time or energy. Here are a few quick tips to get started.
- Start your day with a 5-minute (or longer) meditation. Center it around what you’re grateful for. Can’t think of anything? Simply give thanks for another morning or download the Midday app and choose from one of several meditations designed specifically for women in the menopause life stage.
- Find a time each week to literally count your blessings. Choose a number and list the many good things that you experienced. Think about how each one made you feel.
- Before bed, reach for your gratitude journal and reflect. Express thanks in any way you want. Write a poem, draw a picture, or put whatever thoughts come to mind on paper.
Like Menopause, Gratitude Is a Journey
With anything, consistency is key. You can integrate gratitude into your day-to-day with practice. Research has found that maintaining a practice of gratitude (like writing a gratitude letter) can improve your well-being in as little as ten weeks.
Findings also suggest that the effects of practicing gratitude are long-lasting. The feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude in the future. According to a 2018 study, “gratitude appears to rewire our brain, so we’re better able to deal with adversity in the present moment, and it builds up reserves that we can draw on down the road.” Essentially gratitude can allow us to not only manage the symptoms of menopause but to thrive in midlife by creating a more positive life.
Brianna Litchfield is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness. She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology.
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