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Meditation has been around for thousands of years and is practiced in many different cultures around the world. More recently, it has become the focus of scientific study, which has proven that there are multiple benefits to those who practice meditation regularly. Meditation benefits for midlife women are particularly powerful.
This is not to say that meditation will cure all ills! However, a consistent practice can improve many health-related concerns, especially when it’s a part of an all-around healthy lifestyle.
Meditation and the Midlife Woman
Women in their midlife, ranging approximately from 40 to 65 years, are particularly fortunate beneficiaries. Many of the unique combinations of stressors that we see on a daily basis can be lessened with a consistent meditation practice.
Yes, midlife can bring on major transitions in a woman’s life. Our stressors can be extremely disruptive and challenging, and women at this age are currently showing record amounts of stress.
Some of our stress comes from transitioning family roles, as children leave home and we become caregivers for our elderly parents. Many of us are changing careers, retiring, or going back to work after many years away. Financial worries, fears of getting older without achieving our goals, deaths of loved ones and friends, and trying to maintain good health as our bodies age all take their toll. And then, of course, there are the dramatic physical, emotional, and mental upheavals brought on by the hormonal changes that come along with menopause.
It’s no wonder we sometimes feel so overwhelmed!
I Just Wanted to Get Some Sleep
I’ve played around with meditation at various points in my life, but I never really developed a consistent practice. I’d do some deep breathing exercises for a few days in a row, the next month follow a guided program, and then maybe take a class or two.
I wasn’t consistent, and I didn’t see much benefit. That’s because consistency is the key to reaping the benefits of meditation!
And then, I stopped sleeping.
I just stopped. I would go to bed when I was tired in the evening…and toss and turn, sometimes for hours. Eventually, I would doze off, only to wake up in an hour or two, and the tossing and turning would begin again.
Sometimes several times a night. Sound familiar?
Now, I am one of those people who really needs a good night’s sleep to function well. I can honestly use eight to nine hours of solid sleep a night.
I did a lot of research on insomnia and potential cures, worked with my doctor, took pills (which I dislike doing), and things improved from time to time. My best results came when I played meditation music specifically designed as a sleep aid every time I crawled into bed.
Could there be something there?
Out of all the many, many good reasons to start meditating, sleep was my reason. Now I meditate daily – and I still listen to music every night as I fall asleep! But there are many other ways in which a meditation practice can benefit us at midlife and beyond.
Midlife Health Concerns That Can Be Improved with Meditation
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased blood circulation
- Decreased heart rate
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that our risk of heart disease increases as we age. In fact, one-half of all women who experience high blood pressure in their 40s will develop heart disease later in life. That’s really scary!
Menopause makes it worse. Once we reach menopause we stop producing estrogen, the hormone that helps regulate cholesterol and keeps blood vessels healthy, and then our risk of heart disease skyrockets.
- Decreased cortisol levels
- Greater impulse control
Stress and anxiety can increase levels of cortisol in the body. This hormone is designed to stimulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism to increase energy levels. It also stimulates insulin, which helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
When cortisol increases too much, it can stimulate your appetite and lead to cravings for sweet, high-fat, and salty foods. This is what we call stress eating, and not only can you end up eating more, elevated cortisol can also cause your body to increase fat storage.
That’s a double whammy leading to unhealthy weight gain.
Sleeplessness and Insomnia
- Increased relaxation
- Increased contentment
- Improved feelings of well-being
- Increased feelings of peace
I am far from alone in my sleep issues – more than one in four middle-aged women experiences difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep four or more times during the week.
More than one in three women reported getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, on average.
Inadequate sleep can increase risk for chronic conditions, lead to mood disturbance and weight gain, and impair cognitive function.
Anxiety, Stress, and Frustration
- Reduced anxiety
- Decreased stress
Anxiety, stress, and frustration all seem to skyrocket as we move into middle age. Many women report feeling trapped, disoriented, angry, and dissatisfied with things that used to make them happy.
These feelings may be a result of life changes, hormonal fluctuations, or realization that they are aging – or all of the above. Regardless of the cause, the floodgates open and spill out. Panic attacks for women are more prevalent at this time in life than any other.
Midlife anxiety doesn’t have specific symptoms.
Instead, it’s a mixture of emotions, feelings, and body changes that lead to the strong sense that something needs to change.
Reduced Mental Accuity
- Sharpened focus
- Increased ability to concentrate and remember details
The inability to remember details, such as the location of objects, begins in early midlife and a study from the University of California found that, on average, the female mind loses up to five percent of its sharpness between the ages of 50 and 60.
Who hasn’t, at some point, forgotten where they put their glasses, only to realize they are wearing them on top of their head?
“This change in memory strategy with age may have detrimental effects on day-to-day functions that place emphasis on memory for details such as where you parked your car or when you took your prescriptions.”
Feelings of Pain and Discomfort
- Lessened feelings of pain and discomfort
Our bodies experience more aches and pains as we age – low back pain, knee pain, neck pain, joint pain…everything’s a pain!
Whether it’s caused by overuse, conditions such as arthritis, or a chronic condition, the simple fact is that everyday discomfort can significantly impact our quality of life.
After reading this list, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed and just give up, feeling betrayed by your aging body.
The important takeaway is that we can control and manage our risk factors for many of these concerns. As part of a healthy lifestyle, there can be many benefits to meditation for midlife women.
Bonus: There are absolutely NO adverse reactions to meditation. None!
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Final Thoughts on Meditation Benefits for Midlife Women
If you would like to learn how to begin a meditation practice, I encourage you to read my post Meditation Tips for Beginners. It will provide you with sound, supportive guidance to start your journey.
Give yourself grace as a beginner, as building a meditation practice. You may not experience benefits right away. Still, it’s such a worthwhile endeavor that can benefit you in so many ways. I hope you will give meditation a try.