Ever expect an experience to be downright lousy–say, visiting family for the holidays or helping a friend move–and then, to no surprise of yours, it was in fact super-lousy? The people were annoying. The food was subpar. And the gratitude for you showing up was barely there.
Some folks would say that this kind of disappointment could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: You went in with negative expectations that the situation was going to seriously suck, so you focused only on the stuff that did, indeed, suck. This, in turn, made the experience seem like it was all suck.
However, it’s possible that in-between your sibling’s constant needling and your friend’s annoying orders to “Carry more boxes!” you actually had a moment (or three or six) of actually enjoyment. And, in hindsight you may not have remembered them or you may have dismissed them because you were focused so hard on the suck, suck, suck.
Well, a growing body of research suggests that your premenstrual phase could be suffering a similar fate.
Long dreaded as the suckiest of all cycle phases, the premenstrual week has suffered from a terrible reputation–one where your mood goes south, your brain turns off and you start breathing fire when the barista says she’s all out of whipped cream.
But a 2018 study reported in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics builds on other research (this, this, this and this) that shows in women with typical menstrual cycles the attitude you adopt about your premenstrual days can affect just how good or bad they are:
When you focus on negative premenstrual changes, it makes you view your premenstrual experience as negative.
When you focus on positive premenstrual changes–such as an increase in energy (yep, pep is higher in your premenstrual Week 4 compared to your Week 3 thanks to a lower level of sedating progesterone), a rise in libido, being more in touch with your emotions, having less guilt when treating yourself to an indulgence or simply allowing yourself to lounge in your favorite worn-out pjs all day–you actually notice and appreciate these positive changes more, which makes your premenstrual experience more positive.
Now, I’m not saying that by focusing more on what goes right that your premenstrual week is going to suddenly be your favorite phase of your cycle. And, this naturally won’t outweigh the problems that come with severe premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
But, if you can avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy that makes you go into your premenstrual week convinced that it’s going to totally suck–which then makes you experience it as all suck–and you can instead make a point to appreciate the benefits, that would go a long way toward making these days not simply more tolerable, but more enjoyable.
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