Study: Mindfulness reduces irritability, anxiety, depression in menopausal women

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Women suffering from the psychological effects of menopause may find significant relief through mindfulness, according to a study by Mayo Clinic researchers.

The authors say women who experienced feelings of irritability, anxiety, and depression associated with menopause reported fewer symptoms the more they practiced mindfulness techniques. Prior research has shown that mindfulness is just as powerful as psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety and depression. One study even found the practice is more beneficial for women than men.

This latest work seems to confirm those findings. Nearly 1,800 women ages 40 to 65 who received treatment at the Mayo Clinic in 2015 and 2016 participated in the study. The women were surveyed on their menopausal symptoms, along with stress levels, and mindfulness routines. Such routines require individuals to recognize their present surroundings and sensations while ignoring thoughts of the past or future.

The authors found that those who had higher mindfulness scores reported fewer menopausal symptoms. In fact, the more stressed a woman reported feeling, the greater the effect mindfulness had in relieving such symptoms.

“These findings suggest that mindfulness may be a promising tool to help women reduce menopausal symptoms and overall stress,” says lead author Dr. Richa Sood, Mayo Clinic general internist and women’s health specialist, in a statement.

But not all common symptoms of menopause were relieved. The study found being more mindful didn’t result in fewer hot flashes or night sweats.

“While more studies need to be done, doctors can consider discussing mindfulness as a potential treatment option for menopausal women,” says Dr. Sood.

For those who want to give mindfulness a try on their own, Dr. Sood offers some suggestions for newcomers.

“Essentially, the first step in being mindful is to become aware that our minds are on autopilot most of the time,” Dr. Sood says. “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 nonjudgmentally. The resulting calm helps lower stress.”

The study was published in Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society.