“How I Learned to Meditate (Even Though I Can’t Sit Still)”
I always thought meditation was only for the zen, those preternaturally calm people with altars in their homes. Lesson one: Throw out your preconceived notions, because you don’t have to sit in silence to meditate.
Paying attention, well….it’s not exactly my strong suit. But I am getting better, and believe-it-or-not, it’s because of mindfulness.
Take it from someone with ADHD, you can train your brain, feel better, and function at a higher level using mindfulness meditation. I know, because I even surprised myself.
1. Throw out your preconceived notions.
I always thought meditation was only for the zen, those preternaturally calm people with altars in their homes. Or, at the very least, for people who could sit still for long periods of time. Chanting and mantras always freaked me out.
My mind moves very quickly, and my thoughts are scattered so the idea of being still and quiet never appealed to me.
Until I learned this: You don’t have to sit in silence to meditate. In fact, guided meditations, led by a narrator, are easier for beginners.
You also do not have to chant or speak at all. All I really had to do is practice “paying attention” in a different way.
2. Use the apps.
Most meditation apps are free (or have a free version with useful resources). I downloaded a bunch, then chose which ones I liked. Sometimes a certain narrator’s voice grated on my nerves or another’s style appealed to me more than the others.
Each app has an introduction that explains how to be mindful, step-by-step.
My favorites are:
I use them one at a time, or several at once.
3. Practice breathing.
Breathing seems pretty straightforward, right? It sounds funny, but breathing is the first skill I had to master if before I could use meditation to manage my focus and emotions.
I started by practicing counting to five as I breathed in, and counting to seven as I breathed out. There’s no magic number, just whatever number of breaths feels comfortable.
I try to notice how my lungs and belly expand, and make sure to take a full exhale as I go. I’ve learned that if I exhale correctly I become relaxed much more quickly and can follow a guided session more easily.
4. Make it a habit.
When you have ADHD it is hard to organize your time. Harder still, is finding time for yourself.
Some of us barely have time to take a shower, let alone spend a half hour meditating every day. I get it. Instead, I take five minutes to meditate first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
5. Look for the benefits.
One of the first things I noticed when I started meditating is how my physical stress response changed. I no longer get a tight knot in my stomach when I am overwhelmed. And if I do, I can make the knot go away much faster.
Prioritizing has become easier, too. Now when I check my planner and work calendar, I feel like I can calmly decide what I need to do first, second, and third.
My functioning at work and at home has increased dramatically. I will never be the consummate homemaker or the perfect employee, but “perfect” isn’t really my goal these days.
You see, meditation has blunted the sharp edges of my negative self-talk. It has changed the way I think.
Meditation will not cure ADHD. Meditation is not easy. Learning to meditate with ADHD is even harder.
But it will help you to train your brain, feel better, and function at a higher level. Keep an open mind, experiment, and figure out what makes you feel good.