I have a cousin that suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and when I first suggested that he should meditate, specifically use mindfulness meditation, it was as if I had asked him to drink the entire ocean.
To someone who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or ADD, it can feel like a rollercoaster of thoughts, forgetfulness, and difficulty staying focused.
The idea that you have to sit still and empty your mind of thoughts sounds impossible. The good news is, you don’t have to.
Succeeding at mindfulness meditation is easy, and that’s because there’s no such thing as failing at meditation. The only failure is not attempting it.
If you’re not familiar with the condition, or trying to help understand someone who has the condition, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects both children and adults.
It is characterized by a combination of persistent patterns of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, which can interfere with daily functioning and development. Here’s a brief overview of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and its main features:
Types of ADHD
There are three primary types of ADHD, each presenting a different set of symptoms:
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: Difficulty paying attention and staying focused, often leading to disorganization, forgetfulness, and problems following instructions.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Restlessness, impulsivity, and excessive talking or fidgeting, causing issues with social interactions and self-control.
Combined Presentation: A combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.
ADHD symptoms can vary among individuals, but common signs include:
Trouble focusing on tasks and organizing activities
Frequently losing or misplacing items
Being easily distracted by external stimuli
Difficulty sitting still or engaging in quiet activities
Interrupting others or blurting out answers before questions are completed
Struggling to follow through on instructions or complete tasks
The Misconceptions About ADHD Mindfulness Meditation
When I first suggested that they practice mindfulness meditation to my cousin they shared their meditation frustrations (actually they told me there was “no f’ing chance“), believing that if their mind was buzzing with activity, and they were unable to quiet and empty their mind, they weren’t doing it right.
But here’s the thing: everyone has a whirlwind of thoughts in their brains most of the time, not just those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Buddhists even have a term for it – “monkey chatter.” So, my cousin didn’t have to worry about silencing every thought; just to keep practicing mindfulness meditation and embracing the journey.
The Importance of Mindfulness Meditation Training for People with ADHD
Can mindfulness help with ADHD? Mindfulness meditation holds a special significance for those with ADHD, as it offers a host of benefits tailored to address the unique challenges they face.
The benefits are the same for people without the condition, but they can be even more beneficial if ADHD is creating challenges in day-to-day life. There are numerous medical centers across that are using mindfulness-based stress reduction as a way to help with stress, anxiety, addiction, and ADHD symptoms.
Here’s why people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder should include mindfulness meditation training in their daily routine:
Enhanced Focus and Concentration
One of the primary struggles for people with ADHD is maintaining focus and concentration.
Mindfulness meditation helps train the brain to sustain attention for more extended periods, making it easier to stay on task and complete daily responsibilities.
Improved Emotional Regulation
Individuals with ADHD often grapple with emotional dysregulation, experiencing mood swings and difficulty dealing with their feelings.
Meditation provides a space for self-reflection, enabling them to better understand their emotions and respond more calmly and rationally in various situations.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
The constant barrage of thoughts and distractions that come with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be overwhelming, leading to heightened stress and anxiety levels.
By practicing mindfulness and learning to slow down the mind, people with ADHD can experience a greater sense of relaxation and inner peace.
Developing self-awareness is crucial for those with ADHD, as it helps them recognize their thought patterns and identify triggers for impulsive behavior.
Meditation encourages introspection and self-exploration, fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and paving the way for personal growth.
Cultivating Patience and Acceptance
Meditation teaches patience and acceptance, two qualities that are particularly valuable for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
By embracing the present moment and accepting their thoughts and feelings without judgment, they can develop a more compassionate and forgiving relationship with themselves.
How to Meditate When You Have ADHD
1. Remind yourself that just by starting you’re succeeding:
It doesn’t have to feel like a “good” meditation. Remind yourself that even starting the practice is enough to make a positive change. Congratulate yourself on doing that, and congratulate yourself again when you come back to the meditation.
2. Get completely comfortable:
Most people worry about falling asleep when they meditate, the good news for you, is that you don’t have to. If you’re tired enough to fall asleep, then you probably just need to sleep. Sit, lie down, hang off the edge of your bed, whatever allows you to breathe comfortably.
3. Try to wind down before you meditate:
If you’re in high gear, do some things to help you relax and slow down. Some suggestions are:
Deep breathing: Take slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, to help your body and mind relax.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Tense and release various muscle groups in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up, to release tension.
Light stretching: Gently stretch your limbs and neck to relax your muscles and improve circulation.
Aromatherapy: Use calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile in a diffuser or as a room spray, or use scented candles to create a soothing atmosphere.
Listening to calming music: Play soft, relaxing music or nature sounds to help set a peaceful tone for your meditation.
Visualize a peaceful scene: Close your eyes and visualize a serene setting, like a beach or a forest, to help your mind settle and relax.
Drink a warm, caffeine-free beverage: Sip on a cup of herbal tea or warm water with lemon to help soothe and relax your body.
Take a warm bath: Use the hydrotherapy of a hot bath to calm your nerves.
4. Use sensory cues:
Utilize sensory cues to shift between mental states. You could light a calming scented candle, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket, change the color of light to fit the mood, or listen to the sound of a soothing waterfall to ease your transition into meditation.
5. Find your anchor:
An anchor is something that keeps us in the present. It can be anything, your breath, music, words that you repeat.
Some people prefer to observe their breath, while others silently recite a mantra or phrase. Feel free to create your own, like “I am here.” Or, you can use a visual focus, such as gazing at a serene image.
With ADHD, each person has unique distractions. Some may be more sensitive to visual distractions, while others find sounds more disruptive.
If you prefer, you can also try walking. meditation doesn’t have to be done sitting down.
Discover what suits you best and tailor your meditation experience.
6. Now start to meditate:
I said at the start that mindfulness meditation training isn’t about emptying your mind. What you do is play a game of notice when your mind had wandered, and bring your attention back to the anchor.
Your thoughts might still be fighting for your attention. So what should you do? When you realize your mind is wandering towards that jumble of thoughts, kindly let go and guide your focus back.
In the beginning, when you start, and especially on those tough brain days, you’ll find yourself doing this quite often. But don’t worry, it gets a little easier with time. Everyone goes through good and bad days of meditation, but the more you practice, the more good days you have.
7. You might need a little medicated help:
The right amount of stimulant medication may help to turn the noise down when you meditate, but make sure to speak to your physician first.
8. Now practice making this a routine:
If you’re anything like my cousin, you’re rolling your eyes at me right now. Keep a routine can be a challenge, especially when you have ADHD, to help you here are some tips:
Create a prominent visual: print out a calendar and put it somewhere where you’ll regularly see it, then tick off the days you’ve meditated. Crossing days off is very satisfying.
Schedule a time: Set a time at the same time every day, or before or after an activity like waking up. Use an alert on your phone to remind you (but don’t then. open up Instagram).
Create a dedicated space: My biggest reminder is my meditation cushion which sits silently and patiently reminding me to meditate each day. If you like, make your space special adding plants, cushions, and scented candles.
The Best Types of Meditation For People With ADHD
A common question is does meditation help ADHD? Meditation can help rewire the ADHD brain, improving focus and attention.
Mindful awareness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This practice can help train your brain to stay focused and enhance your overall mental health.
So, what are the best types of meditation for ADHD? Here are a few options:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
This meditation involves focusing on your breath, sensations in your body, or a specific word or phrase.
It’s great for helping adults with ADHD learn to control their thoughts and stay in the present moment.
Many research studies have looked into how brief mindfulness meditation training helps with ADHD-like symptoms in everyday people, and they’ve found good results. The findings show that meditation can help improve focus, keep attention on tasks for longer, reduce daydreaming, and help control emotions.
2. Guided Meditation
Guided meditation involves listening to a recorded guide (like an ADHD coach) who leads you through a visualization or relaxation exercise.
It’s particularly useful for those who struggle with maintaining focus during meditation.
3. Body Scan Meditation
This technique requires you to mentally scan your body from head to toe, paying attention to any sensations or tensions. It can help improve your body awareness and foster relaxation.
4. Loving-Kindness Meditation (Metta)
Loving-kindness meditation, or metta, involves cultivating feelings of compassion and love for oneself and others.
This practice can help individuals with ADHD enhance emotional regulation and develop a more positive mindset.
5. Walking Meditation
Walking meditation combines mindfulness training with gentle physical activity, making it an ideal option for people with ADHD who struggle to sit still.
By focusing on the sensations of walking, such as the movement of their feet or the rhythm of their breath, individuals can develop greater concentration and mindfulness.
6. Breathing Exercises (Pranayama)
Breathing exercises, or pranayama, involve focusing on one’s breath and using specific techniques to control and regulate it.
These practices can help individuals with ADHD to improve focus, reduce anxiety, and achieve a sense of calm.
Building Your Meditation Toolbox
Books to Guide You
There are several books that offer mindfulness practices for helping with ADHD. A few popular options include:
Seeking Professional Help
While meditation and self-help books can be helpful, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance if you need it. Mental health professionals can provide additional support and strategies for managing ADHD symptoms.
The Role of Nutrition and ADHD
A healthy and balanced diet can have a positive impact on ADHD symptoms and enhance the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation.
Consuming foods rich in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and magnesium may help improve cognitive function and reduce hyperactivity. Alongside practicing meditation, consider incorporating the following dietary changes:
- Include more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Reduce the consumption of processed and sugary foods.
- Incorporate omega-3 rich foods, like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.
Remember that it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional or a nutritionist to create a personalized diet plan that addresses individual needs and preferences.
Many individuals with ADHD experience coexisting mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. These conditions can exacerbate ADHD symptoms and make mindfulness meditation more challenging. However, practicing meditation can help manage these coexisting conditions by:
- Reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation.
- Enhancing emotional regulation and fostering self-awareness.
- Encouraging self-compassion and understanding.
Incorporating mindfulness meditation into a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses coexisting conditions can lead to improved overall mental well-being for those with ADHD.
ADHD is associated with differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas responsible for attention, impulse control, and emotional regulation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to positively impact the brain by:
- Strengthening connections between brain regions responsible for attention and focus.
- Enhancing neural pathways that help regulate emotions and reduce impulsivity.
- Increasing gray matter density in areas linked to learning, memory, and self-awareness.
By practicing mindfulness meditation regularly, individuals with ADHD can facilitate positive brain changes that help manage their symptoms more effectively.
Age-specific Mindfulness Meditation Techniques
Different age groups may require tailored mindfulness meditation techniques to address their unique challenges and abilities. Here are some age-specific meditation techniques for children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD:
- Guided visualization: Use simple and engaging stories that encourage children to use their imagination and focus.
- Short breathing exercises: Teach children to take slow, deep breaths, counting to three during each inhale and exhale.
- Mindful movement: Incorporate simple yoga poses or stretching exercises to keep children engaged while practicing mindfulness.
- Body scan meditation: Encourage teens to develop body awareness by mentally scanning their body and observing sensations.
- Loving-kindness meditation: Help adolescents cultivate compassion and empathy for themselves and others.
- Mindful journaling: Encourage teens to reflect on their thoughts and emotions through writing.
- Focused attention meditation: Instruct adults to concentrate on a specific object, such as their breath, a mantra, or a candle flame, to improve focus and attention.
- Open monitoring meditation: Encourage adults to nonjudgmentally observe their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations as they arise.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): Introduce adults to this structured program that combines mindfulness meditation with gentle yoga and body awareness exercises.
Remember that it is crucial to adapt these techniques to individual needs and preferences, allowing for a more personalized and effective mindfulness meditation practice.
Tips for Success
Begin with short meditation sessions of just a few minutes, and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
Meditation is most effective when practiced regularly. Aim for daily sessions, even if they’re short.
Create a Calm Space:
Find a quiet, comfortable spot for your meditation practice. Minimize distractions to help maintain focus.
Progress in meditation can be slow but don’t get discouraged. Remember, practice makes perfect!
Mindfulness meditation training for people with ADHD can be a helpful and valuable tool for managing attention deficit disorder symptoms and improving mental health.
While it may be challenging to begin with, persistence and patience will pay off in the long run. Give it a try, and discover the benefits for yourself!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.