ADHD and Mindfulness

How can anyone with ADHD meditate?

It’s a word that is bandied about frequently and freely these days, and quite often without a lot of substance behind it…Mindfulness

The media keep telling us that its good for us all to practice it, for children to learn it at school, for adults to use it at work….. but what does it actually mean, and why should we be using it?

Mindfulness is a technique originally adapted from Buddhism.   It is the practice of being aware of whatever is happening now, and not wanting it to be different in any way.  It is the practice of being present, not considering the future or the past.  It is taking note of the sights, smells, sounds, emotions and the tactile responses you may have to something.

Mindfulness training has been seen to have restorative and preventative health benefits, including: Building psychological resilience and self-care to prevent burnout, General physical and mental well-being, Depression and depression relapse prevention, Stress and stress-related conditions like Psoriasis, Insomnia, Tinnitus, Anxiety and excessive worry, Chronic pain and stress involved with serious health problems.

An easy exercise for beginning mindfulness practitioners is to....

...stop what you are doing, and identify what you can see, what can you hear, what can you smell, what do your hands feel, and what emotions are you having.  Don’t move into those emotions, just acknowledge them.  Try doing that every 30 minutes or so during the day, and pretty soon you will find yourself doing it automatically…it has become a habit.  Slowly, you are becoming more mindful.  As you do this, you will find your stress levels reduce, and your general happiness increase.

The next level in mindfulness practice is meditation.  I can hear you saying “How can anyone with ADHD meditate!”.  Yes it is possible!  As we know, individuals with ADHD (and some of those without) learn more effectively when using visual aids.  For example, in a recent study:  “the trainers used the picture of the blue sky to explain what mindful awareness is.

 The blue sky represents the space of awareness, and the clouds represent all the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that pass by. The participants learn to observe their inner experience from a witnessing and nonjudgmental stance. In addition, the educational component of the program addresses some of the self-esteem issues of people with ADHD.  It emphasizes observing negative emotional states without identifying with them and with practicing positive emotions.

The later was done by a common mindfulness practice called ‘loving kindness meditation’, which involves wishing well to self and others.”   In this case, and in many others, slowly slowly catch a monkey.  Begin with 5 minutes each time.  Slowly over time, and as the ability to focus develops, increase to 10, 15 and then 20 minutes. 

Increasing use of mindfulness training in other areas such as individuals with severe depression and anxiety, complex PTSD (DESNOS) and childhood based traumas is indicating that there is a reduction in stress and distress, as well as challenging behaviours.  Emotional regulation and resilience are drastically improved, as is the ability to step away from potentially stressful situations.  In situations where both parents and children are provided with mindfulness training, both adults and children report an increase improvement in relationships, happiness, and ability for the ADHD child to maintain compliance with adult direction.

What must be noted here though is the following:

MINDFULNESS should be practiced along with other treatments already in place, NOT instead of.

There really is no right way or wrong way to do this.  It really is about letting go the need to “get it right”, and simply go with what feels right. 

If you can meditate for 5 minutes one day, 15 the next, that is brilliant.  Don’t be hard on yourself (or your child) if 15 minutes the next day is too much.  Breathe and let it go.  What is important is the fact that you are even trying it!  If there is a technique or practice that not only has been around for thousands of years, but is being proved across the world to be effective in improving relationships, happiness and overall relatedness….why wouldn’t you WANT to do it?

Prepared August 2015 by The Armstrong Agency: Jane Armstrong has spent 19 years honing her skills as a mental health practitioner, risk management and critical/acute care working in a range of roles across the health and private sectors.   Jane is also a member of the LADS Board (2015).

Extracts from: ‘Mindfulness Skills Useful in Addressing ADHD’, Lynda McCullough
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