Mindfulness, yoga, and deep breathing exercises used to manage symptoms of ADHD
What is it?
Mindful meditation — also called “mindfulness” or “mindful awareness” — is a form of cognitive fitness training aimed at reducing stress, promoting self-awareness, and improving attention. Many experts believe that, when used regularly, meditation can help reduce ADHD symptoms like inattention and hyperactivity in children and adults. It can also help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression that often co-occur with ADHD.
How does meditation work?
Mindful meditation involves paying close attention to your breath, your thoughts, and your bodily sensations. In its most basic form, meditation involves sitting (ideally somewhere quiet, where you’re less likely to be distracted) and focusing on your breath as it goes in and out. When your attention naturally wanders, simply make an effort to refocus on your breathing. Doing this regularly — for as little as 5 minutes at a time — can make you more aware of how your attention wanders and give you tools for regulating it in your daily life, experts say. Once you feel able to focus on your breath for five minutes at a time, gradually increase the length of your meditation sessions to improve your stamina.
You can also practice mindfulness in other ways, like mindful eating (paying attention to what you eat and refocusing your attention on your meal when your mind starts to wander). You can also combine mindful meditation with other stress-relief practices like exercise. Yoga, for instance, is a common way to incorporate mindful meditation into an overall healthy lifestyle. Alternatively, guided meditations — many of which are available for free online — can help you get started on a regular meditation practice.
Who is meditation for?
Anyone, of any age, can practice meditation. Modified age-appropriate techniques may be necessary for young children.
How much does it cost?
Meditation is free and can be practiced anywhere. Short courses or “mindfulness retreats” exist, at varying costs, but they are not necessary to develop an effective mindfulness practice. A six-week course at UCLA, for example, costs $185.
What studies have been done on meditation?
Research on meditation has increased dramatically over the last decade. A 2010 study, published in the Journal of Applied School Psychology, found that children with executive function deficits showed significant improvement after an 8-week mindfulness training program. A small uncontrolled 2007 study, published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, concluded that “Mindfulness training is a feasible intervention in a subset of ADHD adults and adolescents, and may improve behavioral and neurocognitive impairments.” A 2009 study found that mindfulness training for both children with ADHD and their parents improved the children’s compliance, and resulted in parents and kids experiencing greater overall satisfaction with family life.
Where can I learn more?
Lidia Zylowska, M.D., head of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), spoke with ADDitude about the benefits of starting a meditation practice HERE. MARC’s website — marc.ucla.edu — has free guided mediations, information on classes, and a collection of research on mindful meditation.
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