When you think of menopause what does it bring up for you?
Change? Health? Unknown? Beginnings? Endings? Not sure? Help?!
Menopause is generally understood in the west to a phase of life that brings about significant changes in a woman’s body, both physically and emotionally. It’s a subject that has been widely discussed in Western cultures, often in hushed tones and accompanied by a sense of dread or negativity.
But, wait there! How about a totally different way of looking at it?
In Japan, the perception of menopause is totally different. In this blog post, we’ll explore the Japanese word “konenki” and how it is sooooooooo much more empowered than the Western perception of menopause.
Embracing Change with Konenki
In Japan, menopause is referred to as “konenki,” which translates to “the years of transition” or “a sense of new purpose and growth.¨ This term embodies a more positive and empowering perspective on this natural stage of life. Instead of viewing menopause as a decline or an end, the Japanese embrace it as an opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. A time for something new!
What? Who ever heard of that way of looking at it?!
The Cultural Context
To understand the differences between Western and Japanese perceptions of menopause, we must consider the cultural context. In Japan, age is revered and respected. Older individuals are seen as repositories of wisdom and experience. This cultural appreciation for aging allows Japanese women to approach menopause as a natural part of life, rather than something to be feared or hidden. Sounds quite liberating to me!
A Shift in Perspective
In Western societies, menopause is often associated with negative connotations such as hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disruption and loss of fertility. The emphasis tends to be on the physical and emotional challenges that women face during this time. Conversely, in Japan, there is a shift in perspective towards embracing the positive aspects of menopause including a new phase of life, freedom and greater wisdom. How empowering?
Japanese women view konenki as a time of empowerment and liberation. It is an opportunity for self-reflection, self-care, and personal growth. Menopause is seen as a natural transition into a new phase of life, where women can focus on their own well-being and pursue their passions. This change in mindset allows women to celebrate their age and embrace the wisdom that comes with it.
Makes sense if you think about it as during menopause many of us reach a different stage in our careers, with our families (with kids often leaving home or about to leave home), in our relationships, supporting aging parents, reassessing our priorities as we change and we get wiser, don´t you think?
Sisterhood – supportive Networks
Another significant difference between Western and Japanese women’s experiences of menopause lies in the support networks available. In Japan, there is a strong emphasis on community and social support. Women often gather in groups called “kaki-kai” or “menopause societies” to share their experiences, seek advice, and offer each other emotional support. These groups foster a sense of solidarity and provide a safe space for women to navigate the changes of konenki together.
Support throughout menopause, whether through friendship or reaching out to others that we feel safe to talk to is so important during this transition time. Just like friends become super important to adolescents, this is another phase of life where friends or other supportive people can really help us during the transition.
Who do you feel comfortable talking with about your menopause? Friends, family, a health professional? Have you got any niggles, concerns, questions that you could explore with others?
Holistic Approaches to Menopause and Wellness
In Japan, the focus on holistic wellness also extends to menopause. Traditional practices such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, and dietary adjustments are commonly used to alleviate menopausal symptoms. Rather than relying solely on hormone replacement therapy, Japanese women often explore natural remedies and lifestyle changes to promote overall well-being during konenki (which is not to say that HRT is not a solution for many menopause symptoms too).
The key thing here is to reach out for help with what works for you and the symptoms you may be experiencing. Remembering that not everyone experiences the same symptoms and that the potential list can be pretty long for menopause.
Menopause is not something just to endure, it is something that we often needs some help with.
Reaching out to a health professional (remembering that sometimes this can take several attempts to find the ´right´ person or treatment) is so important for your health and wellbeing. If it doesn´t work keep going, ask others what has helped them, reach out for the support you need.
The Japanese word konenki offers us a refreshing and empowering perspective on menopause. Instead of viewing it as a time of decline or loss, the Japanese embrace menopause as a transformative phase of life. By celebrating the wisdom and experiences that come with age, Japanese women find empowerment, support, and a renewed sense of purpose. Perhaps we can all learn from this cultural approach and shift our own perceptions of menopause, focusing on the positive aspects of this natural transition whilst not neglecting ourselves and our needs in the process.
What do you think?
5 tips to help embrace menopause in the Japanese empowered way:
- Spice up your perspective: try and work towards the view that menopause is a flavorful chapter of life, filled with new adventures and personal growth. How about using it as an opportunity to get to know you again and what you want and need at this stage in your life?
- Form a sisterhood or support network: Surround yourself with supportive friends, health professional/s, mentors or coaches who understand the ups and downs of menopause. Share the hopes, fears, shared experiences and triumphs together.
- Get yourself checked out: Having a full medical check up to include blood and
hormone tests, regular breast checks and smear tests are super important at this stage in life particularly if you have spotted any changes, however small.
- View this time of life as a good time to take stock: Review your life for what is working or not; For example, are there any habits that no longer serve you? How about taking a bit of a life inventory and reviewing where you are and what you might want to switch up or switch off?
- Embrace holistic wellness: Explore natural remedies, movement that you enjoy (a variety including strength-based exercises too is most beneficial), meditation, journaling, reiki, acupuncture, whatever you fancy give it a try. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit during this transformative phase.
- Educate yourself – read up, listen, talk about menopause with others so you are not operating in the dark. There is so much information out there and it is being more widely discussed, but there is still so much being learnt about menopause, our bodies and this transition. Use it as an opportunity to listen to yourself, what works for you and move through this next phase in life.
- Whether you are pre/peri/menopausal/post menopausal – reach out for whatever support or help you need. We all need help at different times of our lives and asking for help is a sign of strength and courage. Remembering that so many of us feel good to be asked for help or support.
If you would like to have a chat about how you can approach this phase in life with a different or transformative perspective – do get in touch for a free, zero obligation chat – email@example.com
Would you like to have a new zest for life and make some tweaks without fear and overwhelm? Get in touch today! You are not alone.
I personally found this two episode podcast really informative about the more health-related aspects of menopause which may be of interest:
Or search Ready to be Real by Sile Seoige menopause (there is episode 1 and 2)
Please also feel free to share any thoughts, tips, questions or anything else below, I always LOVE to hear from you.