Neurodiverse people have a tough time when it comes to meditating. The usual advice of closing your eyes and focusing on your breath doesn’t work.
Meditation has been gaining popularity worldwide as a powerful tool for promoting mental health and well-being. But is meditation good for neurodivergent people?
In this post, we will explore how meditation can be beneficial for individuals with neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and more.
What Is Meditation?
Most of us have heard of meditation but many have a misconception of what it is.
Meditation is a practice that involves training the mind to achieve a state of focused attention, increased awareness, and mental clarity.
It’s not about clearing the mind, and more about being focused without judgment on the present.
There are various types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, focused attention meditation, and loving-kindness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a popular form of meditation that involves paying attention to your breath, body, thoughts, and emotions without judgment.
This type of meditation helps you to become more aware of the present moment and develop a greater sense of self-compassion and acceptance.
Benefits of Meditation for Neurodivergent People
Boosted focus and attention
If you or someone you know has ADHD, you’ll be familiar with the challenges of maintaining focus and attention.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can help improve these skills by training the brain to concentrate on a single point of focus, like the sensation of your feet while walking.
Lowered anxiety and stress
Neurodiverse individuals, including autistic adults, may face higher levels of anxiety and stress.
Mindfulness practices can help ease these feelings by promoting relaxation and teaching useful coping strategies for managing emotions.
Better emotional regulation
For those who are neurodiverse, meditation can provide a way to better understand and manage emotions by fostering a non-judgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings.
A more resilient nervous system
Meditation has been shown to positively impact the nervous system, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with sensory overload or other neurological challenges.
Adapting Meditation for Neurodivergent Individuals
It’s essential to recognize that meditation is not a one-size-fits-all practice, and neurodivergent individuals may need to adapt their meditation practice to suit their unique needs and preferences.
Here are some tips to help make meditation more accessible and enjoyable for neurodivergent people:
1. Try Guided Meditations
Guided meditations can be helpful for those who have a hard time focusing on their own.
These recordings, led by experienced meditation teachers, provide step-by-step instructions and gentle reminders to return to the present moment when the mind wanders.
2. Experiment with Different Techniques
There are many different types of meditation techniques to choose from, so don’t be afraid to explore and find what works best for you.
You may prefer movement-based practices like yoga or walking meditation, while others might enjoy listening to calming music or meditating in nature.
3. Modify the Posture
Sitting still for extended periods can be challenging for some neurodivergent individuals.
Feel free to modify your meditation posture to make it more comfortable, such as lying down, standing, or using a cushion or chair for support.
4. Start Small and Build Gradually
Beginning a meditation practice can feel overwhelming, so start with short sessions of just a few minutes and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable and confident in your practice.
5. Be Patient and Compassionate with Yourself
Meditation is a lifelong journey, and it’s essential to approach it with patience and self-compassion.
Remember that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” meditation session, and it’s normal to have thoughts and distractions arise during your practice.
Real-Life Examples of Neurodivergent Meditation Practitioners
Lyric Holmans, an autistic adult, and advocate has shared their experiences with mindfulness meditation and its benefits for them.
They have emphasized the importance of adapting the practice to suit their own needs and finding what works best for their individual sensory and cognitive preferences.
There have been studies with individuals that have ADHD who have found success in incorporating meditation into their daily lives.
They often report that regular practice helps them to develop a greater sense of focus, self-awareness, and emotional regulation.
Addressing Common Concerns and Misconceptions
Who Should Not Practice Meditation?
Meditation is generally considered safe and beneficial for most people, including those with neurological conditions.
However, if you have a history of trauma or severe mental health issues, it’s important to consult a mental health professional before beginning a meditation practice.
Can Meditation Help Neurological Disorders?
While meditation is not a cure-all for neurological disorders, it can provide valuable tools and techniques for managing stress, anxiety, and emotional regulation.
Regular practice can help improve the overall mental health and well-being of individuals with neurological conditions.
Is Meditation Good for People with ADHD?
As mentioned earlier, meditation can be beneficial for people with ADHD by helping them to develop greater focus, attention, and emotional regulation.
It’s essential to adapt the practice to their unique needs and preferences, such as using guided meditations or trying movement-based meditation techniques like yoga.
Tips for Starting Your Meditation Journey
If you’re a neurodivergent individual interested in exploring meditation, here are some tips to help you get started:
Set realistic expectations: It’s important to approach meditation with a realistic mindset and understand that it takes time and consistent practice to experience its full benefits.
Create a dedicated space: Having a quiet, comfortable space for meditation can help you develop a consistent routine and make your practice more enjoyable.
Schedule your practice: Choose a regular time each day or week to meditate, and try to stick to your schedule as much as possible.
Join a class or group: Taking a meditation class or joining a group can provide valuable support, guidance, and motivation to help you establish your practice.
Be patient and compassionate with yourself: Remember that meditation is a lifelong journey, and it’s essential to approach it with patience, self-compassion, and an open mind.
Meditation can indeed be beneficial for neurodivergent people when adapted to their unique needs and preferences.
By practicing mindfulness and other forms of meditation, individuals with neurological conditions can develop valuable tools and techniques for managing stress, anxiety, and emotional regulation, ultimately improving their overall mental health and well-being.