Study: Digital Mindfulness Training Improves Executive Functioning, Attention
Mindfulness training — a core component of DBT — improves attention, executive functioning, social skills, and more in kids with ADHD, even when delivered digitally online.
September 25, 2023
Mindfulness training, even when delivered digitally, reduces symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, including inattention, executive dysfunction, and social difficulties, according to a new study published in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.1
The study investigated the efficacy of digital cognitive mindfulness training, based on dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), by measuring a host of symptoms in children diagnosed with ADHD aged 8-10.
The study’s 90 participants were divided into two groups: an experimental group, which received the digital training, and a control group, which did not. The training consisted of four hour-long weekly Zoom sessions of mindfulness training, conducted by a DBT-trained psychologist.
The participants’ ADHD symptoms were measured before the training, immediately after the training, and one month after the training was completed. Immediately after the study, there were no significant differences in the inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms between the two groups. However, one month after the study, the experimental group showed significant improvements in attention, executive functioning, learning, emotion regulation, and peer relations.
“These results suggest that a DBT-based mindfulness program is a promising method of reducing ADHD symptoms in children,” conclude the authors of the study.
Mindfulness Practice: How It Works to Improve ADHD Symptoms
DBT helps symptoms of ADHD in a few ways, including by using mindfulness to push pause rather than impulsively react to an emotion, explains Sheri Van Dijk, MSW in “DBT Skills: The Go-To Treatment for ADD”. “Mindfulness meditation for ADHD focuses on doing one thing at a time, in the present moment, with one’s full attention. This is challenging for most people, and especially for the racing minds of people with ADHD,” Van Dijk says. “The goal is to over-learn the skills, so that these new ways of thinking become second nature.”
Van Dijk explains how mindfulness helped a client with ADHD who was interrupting others often: “Mindfulness has made her more aware of the urge to interrupt. We work on not acting when the urge to interrupt arises, and her behavior is slowly changing.”
A recent ADDitude survey found that 72% of parents have not tried any kind of behavioral therapy (DBT, CBT, or others) for their children with ADHD. But of the people who have tried it, a resounding 92% of them would recommend behavioral therapy to other families. The proven effectiveness of digitally taught DBT skills may help to increase access to these helpful interventions for a broader range of people, including those whose geographical location, schedule, or finances may not allow for access to in-person treatment.
“A mindfulness program helped me create new routines,” explained one ADDitude reader. “And my routines make me more healthy.” Another reader reported: “DBT-C has been exactly what our ADHD family has needed.”
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1 Ponomarev, R., Sklyar, S., Krasilnikova, V. et al. Digital Cognitive Training for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. J Psycholinguist Res (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-023-10003-2