Mindfulness & ADHD : The Basics
If you’re looking for an effective method of reducing ADHD symptoms, mindfulness is a great place to start. I’ve been practicing mindfulness (and mindfulness meditation) for years and it’s had an incredibly positive impact on my life. Although research into the effects of mindfulness on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is in its infancy, results are promising.
Benefits of Mindfulness for ADHD Symptoms:
- Increased attention
- Reduced hyperactivity
- Enhanced self-monitoring and self-regulation
- Helps regulate brain functioning
- Creates new neural pathways
- Increased dopamine and serotonin levels
- Reduced anxiety symptoms
- Alleviates depression
Mindfulness: The Basic Concept
Like most Western meditation and mind-control techniques, mindfulness finds its origins in Buddhist traditions. It is a practice that cultivates a peaceful state of mind by anchoring attention in the present moment. Mindfulness encourages an open, accepting and kind attitude towards oneself and one’s experiences, whatever they may be.
“Perhaps we should meditate upon it. For it is said that when seeking answers one must quiet the soul in order to hear them.”
In essence, it increases our ability to make healthier, more intuitive choices. As one becomes more aware of what one thinks, says, feels and does, one begins to realize that – in each moment – there’s always an alternative choice. Through this process, mindfulness reduces negative thinking and provides lasting happiness.
Waking Up The ‘Robot Mind’
The structure of the brain is formed through experiential learning; as we go through life, many of our actions and thoughts become automatic. Routine tasks, like driving or reading, initially require practice to master, but over time become automatic – the brain creates neural pathways that are unconsciously triggered during repetitive thoughts and actions. These pathways function like a programmed ‘robot mind’ that acts, thinks and even feels ‘for us.’
While this is a natural process, it can also automate unhealthy negative responses (emotions, thoughts, actions). Mindfulness ‘awakens’ the robot mind, exposing our consciousness to automated behavior. With this added awareness, we are given an opportunity to change how we think, feel and behave. Since many people with ADHD suffer from automatic negative thoughts and low impulse control, mindfulness can alter the brain’s neural pathways and eliminate these undesirable, automated responses.
Objective Observation Of The Present
Mindfulness starts by directing one’s attention to the present moment – thought patterns, emotions and behaviors can be observed from a nonjudgmental perspective and without attachment. Detaching judgement from our experiences increases our awareness of certain behavioral and thought patterns.
One advantage of mindfulness is that it helps one identify and address negative emotional states in an objective manner – we can observe the details of the situation without personally identifying with them. The mindfulness process can therefore prevent the onset of negative thinking while enhancing feelings of happiness by allowing us space to better observe and evaluate life.
The Basic Steps
Step 1: Draw Your Attention to the Present Moment
Mindfulness is about aligning your awareness with whatever you are currently experiencing. Although the present moment offers many things to focus on, your conscious mind can only pick one thing at a time. Just allow yourself to observe and embrace whatever is surfacing, whether it be:
- Physical sensations: sound, smell, sight, taste, touch
- Mental processes: thoughts, memories, mental images
- Emotional processes: feelings (anger, grief, joy etc…)
Step 2: Be Openminded & Interested
Stay open-minded about surfacing thoughts, sensations or emotions – accept whatever enters your awareness. Be interested in what is happening as if you are a child experiencing it for the first time. Approach everything with an inquisitive nature.
Step 3: Observe Experiences Without Judgement
Detach opinions or judgements from an experience by taking on the role of objective observer. If need be, label your thoughts and feelings without personalizing them. You can mentally say to yourself something like “This is a worry. This is a memory, etc…”
Raising Your Consciousness
The process of eliminating subjective opinion from our experiences raises awareness. It allows us to learn more about ourselves and others by tuning into higher levels of consciousness. In the process, we acquire the power to eliminate negative, limiting beliefs and heal emotional wounds.
Love And Kindness
A crucial element of mindfulness (and one I can’t emphasize enough) is having an attitude of loving kindness towards oneself at ALL times. Whenever you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, STOP! Do not judge yourself. Mindfully observe your thoughts and appreciate yourself for noticing when they go sour – this process will allow their negative effects to naturally dissolve. The more you do this the easier it will become.
The Overall Effect Of Mindfulness
Mindfulness does more than reduce ADHD symptoms, it is a technique that enhances every aspect of your life. This is because it helps prevent anything that is negative, redundant or just plain unnecessary from polluting your energy. As you relieve yourself of ‘psychic weight’ (regrets of the past, worries about the future), your energy becomes more streamlined and attuned to a deeper purpose with every moment.
“Insight begins when mindfulness continues without lag”
If you don’t have the opportunity to take a Mindfulness course, I would recommend the book by Lidia Zylowska: “The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD”. It’s a great alternative that includes an audio program with guided exercises so you can get started immediately.