By Elisa Cotarelli | Team MM
You’re probably thinking: “Oh great, not another article on positive thinking.”
Be positive can feel like the absolute worst advice when you’re feeling sad and anxious. It’s almost as bad as a friend telling you, “Don’t worry! It’ll be fine!” when you’re mid-panic attack. While the ‘be positive’ mantras may seem cliché and sometimes downright absurd, some of them actually have a sound basis.
Studies have shown that positive thinking is linked to better health, and that doesn’t exclude the menopause. According to the North American Menopause Society the reverse is also true. Studies have shown that the more you believe your menopausal experience will be bad, the worse it’ll actually be. Your expectations affect your eventual reality. While it may be tempting to expect the worst so that you can be prepared, expecting the worst will often lead to the worst. Positive thinking on the other hand includes actively managing stress and negative expectations and that can help you to cope with your symptoms.
There’s no switch in the brain that turns on positive thoughts, and that’s why this advice can often be frustrating.
While that may be all well and good, what the ‘be positive’ advice often leaves out is the key question: how? How can we be positive? Let’s be clear: it’s not easy, and that’s important to remember. There’s no switch in the brain that turns on positive thoughts, and that’s why this advice can often be frustrating. That said, if you actively work at being positive, it’ll become easier and easier.
Firstly, surround yourself with positive people. You have the right to choose who you spend time with, and since your life and your mental health are important, you should try to surround yourself with people who will bring out your positive emotions. Of course, that doesn’t mean being an unsupportive friend. Positive energy attracts positive energy! The more positive you are, the more positive the people around you will be and vice versa. You don’t have to try and be positive alone!
Secondly, get an appreciation journal. It might sound childish, but it’s been shown to have a great effect on your positivity. Once a day, write down something that you appreciate about your day. It doesn’t matter what! Don’t get discouraged if you end up finding that the best things about your day are the dessert you had with dinner or the episode of your favourite show you watched! It’s not about the content: it’s about the action. Physically writing down something you appreciate will force you to take time to reflect on the good and help visualise the positive aspect of your life. Also ask yourself: if tomorrow you could only have what you were thankful for today, what would you be left with?
Thirdly, laugh. Whether that means making room for funny friends or spending some time in the evening watching comedy shows, laughter is super important! Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, which stimulates organs like the heart, lungs, and muscles, increasing endorphins (the happy hormone) in the brain. As a result, your stress hormones will naturally decline, making you more relaxed and at ease. As we said before, stress is a major contributor to menopausal symptoms, so laughing a little be more every day can actually help relieve your symptoms.
Finally, if you need to, fake it ‘til you make it. Like we said, it is not easy. And even if you don’t believe in it at first, don’t let that discourage you from trying at all. If that means faking positivity at the start, then so be it. Negative thoughts can easily be automatic and cyclical, and it’s hard to break that habit. Start by simply listening to yourself and understanding the kind of thoughts that come in your mind. Are you filling yourself with self-doubt? Stress? Fear? Then, start to change it! Replace the ‘I can’t do it’ with ‘I’m doing my best’ – practice positive thinking and it’ll become more natural.
Remember: you know yourself best and you know what makes you happy, but sometimes, you can be your own worst enemy. Positivity can really make the whole journey of the menopause much more bearable and while it might seem like a bigger challenge than just living through the symptoms, it’ll be worth it in the end!