Ask the Experts

Just Breathe: Diaphragmatic Breathing for ADHD

“I have heard that diaphragmatic breathing can help me control my impulsivity and anxiety. What is it exactly, and how is it done?”

Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of relaxation breathing. It involves letting the diaphragm, rather than the chest and other accessory muscles, do the work of breathing. This is the most natural and relaxed way to breathe. There are a number of ways of doing it, which can be found online, including a good article on the topic at clevelandclinic.org. All types of this breathing involve letting the belly gently rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.

There has been no specific research on diaphragmatic breathing and its beneficial effects on ADHD. However, this type of relaxed breathing is a feature of therapies that are focused on the calming of the mind and body. Good examples of these are meditation and yoga, both of which, research indicates, may be effective for ADHD. A particular type of mind-body training called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which is widely available around the country, also has some preliminary evidence of effectiveness in both children and adults.

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