Meditation: Benefits, Roadblocks, Tips!
Meditation is fast being recognized as one of the most effective ways to reduce ADHD symptoms. Whether we practice mindful meditation, walking meditation, mantra meditation or meditation of any other form, its calming effects are a perfect way to counteract the hectic and restless energy associated with ADHD.
So what is meditation? In short, meditation is a practice that helps us raise our awareness by offering us time to reflect and disengage from the daily grind. During meditation, the meditator becomes an objective observer of his thoughts, feelings and external surroundings. Through this process, he gains inner peace by calming the chaos and introducing a feeling of natural, energetic balance.
By simply observing what is happening inside and around us – with kindness and interest rather than judgement – we introduce more positive energy into our mind and body. Meditation affords us an opportunity to detect negative thought patterns by changing the way we perceive ourselves and our reality. By raising our consciousness, meditation helps us relax so we can put things in a different, healthier perspective .
Meditation has a positive impact on many ADHD symptoms because it:
- reduces anxiety and stress
- increases attention
- enhances executive functioning and planning
- reduces depression
- increases emotional control and self monitoring
- enhances organizational skills
- enhances memory
- increases self-confidence
- decreases muscle tension, headaches, allergies and other physical problems
- increases neurotransmitter levels
- reduces emotional distress.
Meditation can be seen metaphorically as ‘cleaning the slate’ every now and then. The practice is an effective means of protecting the mind and body from the obstructive, distracting clutter of dense energy.
By meditating regularly, we find ourselves in a more productive, focused and relaxed state; problem solving becomes easier and we feel better since our outlook is cleared of unwanted noise. Meditation has the power to create permanent, positive change in our life because it offers a means to peacefully influence us on a fundamental level.
Meditation as an ADHD Treatment? What to Avoid
Pressure and Expectations
To begin with, for meditation to be an effective tool in reducing ADHD symptoms, it is important that you avoid adopting a goal-driven attitude. Approaching the meditative process with specific expectations is to miss the point entirely. The moment one assigns expectations to the meditative journey, one loses touch with its essence. It is therefore crucial that you stay clear of this pressure at all costs. Meditation is about the experience of being, not doing or achieving.
Make it Easy on Yourself
Secondly, make yourself as comfortable as possible. For people suffering from ADHD symptoms, sitting still can feel like a form of torture. It doesn’t have to be. Ease yourself into the process by using meditative music or brainwave entertainment. This can be done in combination with what is called ‘mindful walking’ (more on that later) or by simply jump-starting things with short, five-minute meditations.
Over time these small exercises will help familiarize you with the process of meditation and the mind slowly becomes more capable of calming itself down. As you gradually distance yourself from ADHD’s pull, you will welcome meditation time as a cherished moment of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Let It Be!
Last but not least, avoid questioning the meditative process. You may, at some point, doubt whether or not you are meditating correctly. This doubt occurs when you become impatient or simply want (italic) ‘something’ to happen. This is perfectly normal – don’t judge yourself or the experience. We live in a goal-oriented, mechanical society and meditation is anything but a mechanistic process.
Indeed, the benefits of meditation appear gradually over time. Over-analyzing things will only create tension, so have some faith and just stick with it. The only efforts required are those of getting started and of having enough faith and discipline to keep it up. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, do yourself that favor – you deserve it!
What About Roadblocks?!
There’s no doubt that meditation alleviates ADHD symptoms. However, you may encounter a couple of nasty roadblocks along the way to reaching inner peace. This is a normal part of the process. Meditation raises your awareness so that you can clear blocked energy from your system. As a result you may:
- become aware of self-destructive patterns or aspects of your life that require adjustment
- experience the release of pent-up energy that has been long been suppressed
- receive insights about hidden aspects of yourself or others
Meditation’s ability to make us aware of repressed or denied feelings can be upsetting at first. However, the turmoil associated with cleansing ones energy is just a natural part of the purification process. In most cases, the energy released dissolves all by itself. However, in some cases, a deep-rooted issue may require you to make some life changes.
It’s important that you become conscious of this aspect of meditation without getting carried away by it. When practiced regularly and with a genuinely positive intention, meditation will bring you closer to a lighter and happier state of being.
Meditation or Concentration!?
As you are probably aware, one primary symptom of ADHD is the inability to concentrate. Therefore, it is important to understand the distinction between meditation and concentration. In short, meditation is about BEING and concentration is about FOCUS.
Most meditation techniques find their origin in Eastern meditative traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism and are part of a set of practices aimed at attaining enlightenment. In these traditions, the practice of meditation and concentration are generally two separate types of ‘exercises’. In concentration, the mind is forced to focus on one object or word (i.e. a candle or a mantra). This is a Hindu practice called “Dharana”. Practicing Dharana requires one to shut out all other incoming impulses, an act demanding the commitment of substantial energy.
The act of meditation, on the other hand, is called Dhyana and is a more expansive type of attention training. During meditation, the meditator experiences everything and nothing simultaneously. This is achieved by simply bringing awareness to the present moment.
Although meditation often makes use of a focal point, this ‘object of meditation’ is nothing more than a guide to gently help bring awareness back to the here-and-now. While meditation is all-inclusive and effortless, concentration is all-exclusive and requires effort.
Note: Even though it might add to the confusion, it’s worth mentioning that Dharana is also referred to as ‘Focused Meditation’ while Dhyana is sometimes called ‘Effortless Dharana’ or effortless concentration.
How to Meditate to Alleviate ADHD Symptoms:
I’ve tried practically every type of meditation and, as usual, have found that simplicity is key. If you’re trying to alleviate ADHD symptoms, the last thing you need is complication. Meditation is about being present in the moment and gently quieting the mind. To facilitate the meditative process, remember to keep things simple:
Sit in a comfortable position. Keep your back in a straight but not rigid position. According to Yogis, the spine is the body’s energy lifeline – a straight back prevents the energy from being blocked. You can sit on a straight-backed chair or in the lotus position. Remember, meditation is supposed to be relaxing. So if, at any time, you are uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to shift your posture. Why force yourself to stay in an uncomfortable position?
Eye & Hand Position
Close your eyes and look upward, behind your eyelids. Position your eyes as if they’re looking at the center of your forehead. Don’t strain your eyes. This eye position triggers the brain to produce Alpha brainwaves and it is associated with the Third Eye chakra. Relax your hands and place them in your lap, palms upward. Don’t place the palms downward because it blocks energy.
Take a couple of nice, deep breaths. Allow yourself to exhale all your tensions and negative energy. Make your exhalation a bit longer then your inhalation. This automatically triggers a relaxation response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Be sure to maintain a calm and natural breath during the rest of the meditation.
Pen & Paper
Thoughts and ideas will invariably surface during meditation. Although many thoughts should simply be observed and released, some of them may be inspirational or important. I always keep a journal and a notepad handy. Consider using a note-pad for important to-do’s and a journal for other insights and inspirations.
The Actual Practice of Meditation
The easiest and most effective way to meditate is to simply bring your awareness to your breathing. Feel the air going in and out of the nose or become aware of the movement of the abdomen as breath is taken in and expelled.
Your mind will wander and thoughts will surface. Sounds and other impulses will enter your consciousness. This is perfectly normal. Just observe whatever comes your way like clouds passing in the sky. Remain in the present moment no matter what is happening within and around you – stay clear of judgment or attachment.
Then, the moment you become aware that your attention is no longer in the here-and-now, gently bring your awareness back to your breath. This will help you reconnect with the present. Sometimes you may feel the urge to pause between breaths. If this happens, allow your breath to guide you.
Remain present in that moment of stillness and invite your breath to come back in – or go back out – whenever it feels natural. That’s all there is to it!
Using Mantras or Counting
The sanskrit word “mantra” means mind control (man=mind, tra=control) and is used as an aid to eliminate negative or functionless ‘mind chatter’. Many people use mantras to help them clear their mind during meditation.
I’ve mentioned before that the use of mantras is essentially part of more focus-oriented attention training. Of course, this can be a challenge for those with ADHD. If, however, your thoughts are too scattered, you can attempt to get back on track by use of a mantra. Mentally repeat “in and out” or “relax and let go” as you feel the breath entering and exiting your lungs.
Words like “love” or “peace” also have a soothing effect. Keep in mind that words have an energetic vibration, so pick a word or phrase that makes you feel good. Since most people with ADHD are visual thinkers, it can prove helpful to visualize the word as you mentally repeat it.
If You Can’t Sit Still… Walking Meditation
People with ADHD often have difficulty sitting still. If this is the case with you, practice a walking meditation. Start by taking a few deep breaths then release any tension by slowly putting one foot in front of the other. Keep your awareness on the movement of your feet. As soon as you catch your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present moment and the shifting of movement between your two feet. If you don’t have a lot of space, walk in a square or circle. If you feel a mantra might help you stay in the moment, mentally say “left” and “right” as you walk.
You Can’t Do This Wrong!
Meditation is a blessing to anyone with ADHD symptoms. When you start meditating – if only for 5 minutes a few times a day – you will soon feel the benefits. You can gradually extend your meditation session up to 30 minutes or longer if desired.
Remember not to approach meditation like it’s a chore. Rather, see it as a moment where you allow yourself to let go and disengage from noise and pressures of the daily grind. A daily meditation routine is advisable, but this may be difficult for people with ADHD who prefer a feeling of flexibility and freedom.
My suggestion is to set a clear intention to meditate in the early morning and/or incorporate mini meditations throughout the day whenever possible. Do your best to extend their duration when the time is available.
You may genuinely feel that you have no time to meditate; the irony being that meditation actually creates more time to address the things most important to you because it increases your efficiency on all levels. The best part is, as your ADHD symptoms become less prominent, your motivation to continue meditating will only increase. Good Luck!
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