Can you cultivate happiness in menopause? You bet you can.
Menopause is much more than a physical change. Unlike the negative societal stereotypes that surround this time, I believe it is a period of grace and power in a woman’s life. With so much going on with your body, the energy you direct to mental activities to cultivate happiness will help to provide balance.
I encourage you to try a series of strategies to cultivate happiness. Consider these:
My # 1,2 & 3 for Happiness
(Ok, so I had to add the physical part in too… 😉
- Attend to your health needs. Know your numbers. Are your hormones, blood and vitamin levels are correct and balanced? Make sure you take the multivitamins and supplements your #’s indicate.
- Eat for your health, not entertainment or comfort.
- Get you daily appropriate exercise
Happiness Strategy # 1: Don’t Worry, Choose Happy
The first step, however, is to make a conscious choice to boost your happiness. In his book, The Conquest of Happiness, published in 1930, the philosopher Bertrand Russell had this to say: “Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit. … Happiness must be, for most men and women, an achievement rather than a gift of the gods, and in this achievement, effort, both inward and outward, must play a great part.”
Mr. Russell was right and modern day psychologists who study happiness heartily agree. The intention to be happy is the first of The 9 Choices of Happy People listed by authors Rick Foster and Greg Hicks in their book of the same name. “Intention is the active desire and commitment to be happy,” they write. “It’s the decision to consciously choose attitudes and behaviors that lead to happiness over unhappiness.” Of course, let’s be clear. During menopause our physical challenges make this mindset a little hard.
Happiness Strategy #2: Cultivate Gratitude
In his book, Authentic Happiness, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman encourages readers to perform a daily “gratitude exercise.” It involves listing a few things that make them grateful. This shifts people away from bitterness and despair, he says, and promotes happiness. When you are able to find the gratitude in the smallest things big shifts start to happen.
Don’t believe me? Try coming up with a few “gratefuls” every day. Even if you’re having a wicked hot flash right now, I bet you can come up with some great things for your gratitude list.
Happiness Strategy #3: Foster Forgiveness
Holding a grudge and nursing grievances can affect physical as well as mental health, according to a rapidly growing body of research. One way to curtail these kinds of feelings is to foster forgiveness.
In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, clinical psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. offers a 5-step process he calls REACH.
- Recall the hurt.
- Empathize and try to understand the act from the perpetrator’s point of view.
- Be altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven.
- Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you’re forgiving or in your journal.
- Finally, try to hold on to the forgiveness. Don’t dwell on your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance.
Your menopause mind works overtime right now trying to remember details. Go ahead and forget to hold that grudge. 😉
Happiness Strategy #4: Counteract Negative Thoughts and Feelings
In The Happiness Hypothesis, John Haidt compares the mind to a man riding an elephant. The elephant represents the powerful thoughts and feelings — mostly unconscious — that drive your behavior. The man, although much weaker, can exert control over the elephant, just as you can exert control over negative thoughts and feelings. “The key is a commitment to doing the things necessary to retrain the elephant,” Haidt says. “And the evidence suggests there’s a lot you can do. It just takes work.”
For example, you can practice meditation, rhythmic breathing, yoga, or relaxation techniques to quell anxiety and promote serenity. You can learn to recognize and challenge thoughts you have about being inadequate and helpless. “If you learn techniques for identifying negative thoughts, then it’s easier to challenge them,” Haidt said.
So, instead, picture the “man” in John Haidt’s book as a menopausal woman. I bet she can control that damn elephant.
Happiness Strategy #5: Remember, Money Can’t Buy Happiness
Research shows that once income climbs above the poverty level, more money brings very little extra happiness. Yet, “we keep assuming that because things aren’t bringing us happiness, they’re the wrong things, rather than recognizing that the pursuit itself is futile,” writes Daniel Gilbert in his book, Stumbling on Happiness. “Regardless of what we achieve in the pursuit of stuff, it’s never going to bring about an enduring state of happiness.” Things might provide a temporary blip of short-term euphoria but it’s not one that will last for the long haul.
Happiness Strategy #6: Foster Friendship
There are few better antidotes to unhappiness than close friendships with people who care about you, says David G. Myers, author of The Pursuit of Happiness. One Australian study found that people over 70 who had the strongest network of friends lived much longer. Take note girlfriend!
“Sadly, our increasingly individualistic society suffers from impoverished social connections, which some psychologists believe is a cause of today’s epidemic levels of depression,” Myers writes. “The social ties that bind also provide support in difficult times.”
Happiness Strategy #7: Engage in Meaningful Activities
People are seldom happier, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, than when they’re in the “flow.” This is a state in which your mind becomes thoroughly absorbed in a meaningful task that challenges your abilities. Yet, he has found that the most common leisure time activity — watching TV — produces some of the lowest levels of happiness.
To get more out of life, we need to put more into it, says Csikszentmihalyi. “Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easily,” he writes in Finding Flow. “Each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable.” So, you may think endless hours on pinning on Pinterest is fun but actually making some of those projects or recipes creates meaning.
So it turns out that happiness can be a matter of choice — not just luck.
- Understand that happiness is a choice. Focus to cultivate happiness in turn will boost your physical body.
- Pick 2-3 of these strategies that resonate with you. (I tend to like #2 “daily gratitude listing”.) I’ve included a FREE resource below to help you get started on the Daily Gratitude stuff.
- Share with me and other below what is YOUR best strategy to cultivate happiness.