Learning To Meditate With ADHD


Learn to meditate with ADHD

Self-regulation and paying attention are two of the biggest challenges for adults living with ADHD. SOURCE

Quite a while ago I wrote my first article on mindfulness with ADHD.  Since that time I have done even more reading and thinking about the topic.

Self-regulation is part of the executive function system. Executive functions will be the subject of some upcoming posts so I won’t go into it in great detail in this article.

Paying attention, well….we all know that is not my strong suit.  But I am getting better, believe it or not.

My improvement has been primarily due to mindfulness, not medication. In fact, I have yet to try ADHD medication despite several conversations with my PCP.

Yep – I have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon. Even scarier, I have become a meditator.

You can train your brain, feel better, and function at a higher level using mindfulness meditation.

Learning to Meditate with ADHD

meditate with ADHD

Throw out your preconceived notions

I always thought meditation was reserved for people who had altars in their houses. Or at least, people who could sit still for long periods of time.

My mind moves very quickly, and my thoughts are scattered so the idea of sitting in silence never appealed to me.

Chanting and mantras always freaked me out a little, too. These days I use mantras all the time to keep myself calm.

Seriously: You don’t have to sit in silence to meditate, in fact I find that the guided meditations are easier for beginners.

You also do not have to chant or speak at all. All you really have to do is practice “paying attention” in a different way.

Use the Apps

Almost all of the high-quality meditation apps have a free set of resources.

Do not hesitate to download several apps and figure out what you like. Sometimes a certain narrator’s voice or style will appeal to you more than others.

Also, each app has an introduction series, to help you practice being mindful.

Use one at a time or several at once, just practice. My favorite apps include:

https://www.headspace.com

http://www.simplehabit.com

https://www.calm.com  (Check out the sleep stories!)

Practice Breathing

Joking aside, when it comes to meditation I have to focus on the breathing.

This is the first skill to master if you want to use meditation to help you manage your focus and your emotions. When I am having trouble focusing, I just concentrate on the breathing.

Breathing seems like it should be pretty straightforward, right? Not so much.

You actually need to practice counting as you breathe in, and as you breath out.

You could breathe in to a count of 5, and then out to a count of 7.  Or breathe in to 5, and out to 5. Whatever works for you.

You will notice how your lungs and belly expand. Make sure you take a full exhale as you go. I have learned that if I exhale correctly I become relaxed much faster and this enables me to follow the narration.

For more info on deep belly breathing check out this article from Sarah at Left Brain Buddha.

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 5-10 minutes meditating every day. I get it.

But if I allow myself to fall into old patterns, where I feel unfocused and irritable then I am not living up to my new year’s resolution to make this the year of self-improvement.

Taking 5 minutes to meditate first thing in the morning, or last thing at night has become my new thing.

Meditation has become so effective for improving my mood that I now do it at work when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Do I look silly sitting at my desk meditating? Maybe. (You would have to ask my coworkers to be sure.) But I don’t really care.

Learn to meditate with ADHD

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 get 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..etc..

My functioning at work and at home has increased dramatically. I will never be a consummate homemaker or the perfect employee, but “perfect” isn’t really my goal these days.

You see, meditation has sort of blunted the sharp edges of my negative self-talk. It has literally changed the way I think about my thoughts and beliefs.

Don’t ask me about the science, I have no clue. But I do know that there is research going on right now into using mindfulness as a treatment for ADHD.

Meditation will not cure ADHD.

Meditation is not easy.

Learning to meditate with ADHD is even harder.

Keep an open mind, experiment, and figure out what makes you feel good.

Meditation will help you to train your brain, feel better, and function at a higher level.

For more info on Mindfulness and ADHD check out Lidia Zylowska, MD’s book:

(I will review it in the near future.)

Here are some other resources and free guided meditations:

Left Brain Buddha

Tara Brach

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Mindfully ADD

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