In one 2008 study 78% of participants who practiced mindful awareness reported a reduction in their ADHD symptoms. In fact, at the end of the study the majority of participants were happy happy they had completed the training. Source
You may have been hearing a lot lately about mindfulness.
When I first heard the word all I could think of was hippies, yoga and chanting. I took it upon myself to look up the actual definition of the word so I could translate it for all of us.
Mindfulness.org defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Link to mindfulness.org
This definition brings 3 things to mind for me:
Mindfulness encourages us to stay in the moment.
Calmness is the key to mindfulness. (This part is gonna be harder for me.)
Awareness of your own feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations is important.
Mindfulness could be applied in almost any area of your life. For example, you can be mindful of your eating if you are trying to lose weight. You might want to be mindful of your body sensations if you are recovering from surgery or an injury.
Some people would argue that meditation and mindfulness could speed your recovery. I remember when my mother had her knee replacement they offered her meditation and aromatherapy to help. From what I can tell she liked it.
Yoga and meditation have never been my thing. I have trouble following the special breathing and slow controlled movements. My mind wanders and before I know it I have zoned out.
About now you are wondering what the point of this is?
I promise I am getting to it.
Mindfulness is possible with ADHD, and it might actually help reduce your symptoms.
Here are some areas of your life to consider:
Negative thought patterns
In my article about emotional management I mentioned what I called NTP’s, or negative thought patterns. Why not try to be mindful about this? We all have them and we all need a better way to deal with them.
I challenge you to hone in on these negative thoughts as they trickle through your head throughout your day. You might find that your thoughts are even more negative than you realized.
I have a list of Evergreen Strategies for Improving your Self-Awareness that relates to this.
I also work on reframing negative thought patterns in my Feel Better Fast Program. If you get on my interest list now I’ll let you know when it’s ready to go!
Along those same lines, why not be more mindful and aware of the behavior patterns in your day. For instance, I almost always have to make multiple trips in and out of the garage as I race out of the house in the morning. Maybe instead of yelling, “Sh-t!” at the top of my lungs, I should just take a deep breath.
What would happen if you committed to the same evening routine every night? You would do the same tasks in the same order at almost the same time every day. Eventually, you would start to complete your evening routine without even thinking about it.
This would be an example of a good habit. In order to form good habits we have to be aware of the bad ones. Mindfulness is a good way to assess your personal patterns and look for areas that need work.
Mindfulness can (and probably should) extend into your relationships with other people. I try to choose my words carefully in my interpersonal and professional relationships. As you are likely aware, not everyone does this.
If you have ADHD you have probably experienced the embarrassment that follows an “inserting foot into mouth” situation. We do have a tendency to speak without thinking don’t we?
When your mind is racing and you are waiting for a chance to speak, choose your words.
The words and intonation you use when you speak with other people is so very important. We should all spend more time concentrating on how we use language.
I am going to talk about an area of mindfulness where most of us struggle – eating. Many women with ADHD have impulse control problems when it comes to food. I know I have struggled with this.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what exactly drives the impulse to eat. I do not understand the science of it, but I do know I am not always physically hungry when I eat. From what I read it is a complicated chemical process involving several hormones with strange names like grehlin.
I am going to challenge myself to practice mindfulness in my diet. I want to eat when I am hungry and reject food if I am not. Since mindfulness involves awareness of your physical sensations, why don’t we stop and try to feel the sensation of our stomach. Appetite is different than hunger.
When you are really, physically hungry you know it.
Ways to get started with mindfulness
Mindfulness practice may not come as naturally as we would like when we have ADHD, but it is certainly possible. It is something we can all incorporate into our lives in small doses every day.
You do not have to be heavy into yoga or meditation. We just have to be in tune with ourselves, our bodies and our perceptions of the world.
Try starting with small 5 minute quiet times at a specific time every day. Download Headspace or Calm. Both have apps that are free and easy to use.
Try not to berate yourself if your mind wanders. Research shows that mindfulness meditation is something we have to learn, just like riding a bike. Practice really does make perfect.
Here is the simple takeaway:
There is no one size fits all version of mindfulness. Everyone can benefit from being more mindful in some way. Take the principles of mindfulness and apply them to your life in ways that work for you.
How do you use mindfulness to treat ADHD symptoms?