Meditation can help you harness your ADHD wildness, and manage your executive functions better.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately 10% of children and 5% of adults worldwide. It is marked by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty focusing.
Restlessness in the body is a common symptom in ADHD, and it can manifest as discomfort in the body, which the mind works hard to escape.
ADHD people have a deficiency of natural dopamine in their brains. This lack of dopamine makes them restless in body and mind, and search for excitement, stimulation, and motivation.
How can meditation help ADHD?
Meditation can be a powerful tool to manage ADHD symptoms as it can boost dopamine levels in the brain, which is often low in ADHD people. Meditation has also been shown to thicken the prefrontal cortex in the brain, helping to reduce impulsivity, improve focus, and enhance emotional regulation.
Benefits of Meditation On ADHD
1. Reduced impulsivity
Another common symptom of ADHD is impulsivity in the mind, which can lead to impulsive behaviors and poor decision-making.
Meditation can help those with ADHD become more quickly aware of their impulsive thoughts and urges. They can let their impulses pass without acting on them, and make more calculated decisions.
2. Better emotional regulation
People with ADHD often struggle with emotion regulation and may have intense mood swings.
Meditation can help them become more aware of their emotions as they rise and learn to manage them before acting on them.
Early awareness (and control) is more effective in reducing emotional outbursts and maintaining overall mood stability.
3. Reduced anxiety and stress
ADHD people may also experience higher levels of anxiety and stress, which can worsen their symptoms of executive dysfunction.
Meditation practice has been found to be an effective tool for lowering baseline tension, as well as preventing anxiety flare-ups. And this helps them feel calmer and more relaxed in low-dopamine settings.
4. Improved focus and concentration
One of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD is difficulty focusing, and meditation has been shown to improve attention span and the ability to concentrate in both children and adults with ADHD.
Mindfulness meditation helps ADHD people can learn to observe their distractions, like sounds in the environment or unease in a part of their body, and still redirect their focus on the task at hand.
Types of meditation practices for ADHD
Here are some types of meditation practices that can help people with ADHD:
1. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation can be particularly effective for ADHD people since it trains them to observe their meditative experience without trying to change anything.
They learn to focus on the present moment experiences and notice thoughts and feelings without judging them.
Mindfulness can help them embrace their drives and impulses, helping them manage distractions better.
2. Insight meditation
Insight meditation, also known as Vipassana meditation, is a type of meditation that focuses on developing insight or wisdom.
It involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as they arise, and observing them with curiosity and non-judgment.
The goal is to develop a deeper understanding of your mind and how it works. It can help those with ADHD gain a deeper understanding of their inner experiences and improve their ability to manage distractions and impulsivity.
While both insight and mindfulness types of meditation involve paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, the difference lies in the goal and approach of each practice.
- Insight meditation focuses on developing insight or wisdom, and developing a deeper understanding of your mind and how it works.
- Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, focuses on being present in the moment, and developing a greater sense of awareness and acceptance of your experiences.
Stages of insight (Grabovac, The Stages of Insight: Clinical Relevance for Mindfulness-Based Interventions, 2015):
- Knowledge of Mind and Body
- Knowledge of Cause and Effect
- Knowledge of the Three Characteristics
- Knowledge of the Arising and Passing Away
- Knowledge of Suffering: Dissolution, Fear, Misery,
Disgust, and Desire for Deliverance
- Knowledge of Suffering: Re-observation
- Knowledge of Equanimity toward Phenomena
- Attainment of Fruition
3. Transcendental meditation
Transcendental meditation involves the use of a mantra or sound to help the individual achieve a state of deep relaxation and inner peace.
The goal of transcendental meditation is to reach a deep state of inner peace and relaxation, and reduce stress.
It can be good for reducing stress and anxiety in those with ADHD.
4. Walking meditation
This type of meditation involves walking mindfully, focusing on the sensations of walking, and being present in the moment.
Walking meditation can be particularly helpful for individuals with ADHD who have difficulty sitting still for extended periods of time.
While not technically a type of meditation, yoga involves a combination of physical postures and breath control that can be helpful for individuals with ADHD.
Yoga can help improve focus and concentration, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve overall well-being. Some other similar slow-movement exercise routines can also bring similar benefits.
How to start meditating for ADHD
Meditation can be a challenge for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Here are some tips to help start a meditation routine for your ADHD mind:
Start small: Begin with just a few minutes of meditation per day and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice. Choose a quiet place that you can use every day.
Use guided meditations: There are many guided meditation apps and videos available that can be helpful for individuals with ADHD who are just starting out with meditation. These guided meditations provide structure and guidance, making it easier to stay focused and engaged in the practice.
Practice consistently: Consistency is key when it comes to meditation, so try to practice every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Practice at the same time every day: Establishing a consistent meditation routine can be helpful for individuals with ADHD, as it provides structure and routine. Setting a timer can help individuals with ADHD stay focused during meditation by giving them a set period of time to concentrate on their practice.
Incorporate some movement: Some ADHD’rs may find it challenging to sit still for long periods of time. Incorporating movement into meditation, such as through yoga or walking meditation, can be helpful for staying focused and engaged.
A Step-by-Step Insight Meditation For ADHD Adults
ADHD people have trouble focusing, paying attention, sitting still, and staying organized. This can make traditional meditation practices hard for ADHD’rs.
Most traditional meditation practices involve keeping focused concentration on the breath. And, the more an ADHD person tries to focus, the more their mind wanders, creating a frustrating loop.
Here’s a step-by-step Insight Meditation session for ADHD:
Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit or lie down. Turn off any distractions such as phones or computers.
- Get comfortable and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths.
- Try to locate if you feel any restlessness in any part of your body.
- Be curious and prepare to explore this sensation of restlessness.
- Try to pinpoint where it feels centered and where the core of it is.
- Notice the intensity and vibrational quality of this feeling. Observe how it moves and throbs in your body.
- If you feel restlessness in your chest or abdomen, place your hand(s) on the area and see how it affects the feeling. You’re not trying to make it any bigger or smaller. You’re just being curious about what you’re feeling, and noticing if touching the place changes the sensation.
- Bring awareness, attention, and clarity to the experience and notice if it changes in any way. Are you resisting the experience? Are you tightening up around it at all? Find out if you’re imagining these things.
- If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the sensation in your body and check in with it regularly. Don’t judge yourself for getting distracted; just come back to the feelings moment by moment.
- Stay focused on the sensations in the body, keep noticing and exploring, and just try to meet them with acceptance and warmth.
- You can slowly open your eyes if they’re closed.
Here are our take-home messages:
- Meditation can complement medication for managing ADHD.
- Beginners should start small and be consistent, incorporate movement into their practice, and use guided meditations.
- We suggest seeking permission from your doctor and consulting a meditation expert before trying meditation on your own for your ADHD symptoms.
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Author Bio: Written and researched by Sandip Roy — a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher, who writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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