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Meditation may appear to be nothing more than sitting still. But meditation is an active process that trains the brain to focus and be present.
If you or your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the possibility of meditating may seem challenging.
That said, studies indicate that people with ADHD can meditate successfully, and that meditation may have benefits for some of the behaviors associated with ADHD.
Here are eight tips that may help you or your child learn to meditate effectively and manage ADHD-associated behaviors.
1. Dedicate a specific time of day to meditation
Some people find that meditating first thing in the morning can help reduce the day’s stress. Meditating early can also help you build it into your schedule before your daily activities begin.
If you’re a night owl or need help getting to sleep, meditating right before bed might be a better choice for you.
There’s no wrong time of day to meditate. Figuring out when you’ll be able to fit it into your routine is what matters most.
2. Find a comfortable position
There’s no one specific pose that enables meditation more readily than any other.
Some people like the traditional poses, such as the crossed-legged lotus position often associated with this practice. But you can just as easily choose to meditate sitting in your favorite chair or lying down in bed.
Whatever position you choose, make sure it is one that is comfy enough for you to maintain for the duration of your meditation practice.
3. Wear relaxed clothing
It may be harder to let your mind relax if the waistband of your pants is digging into your skin or your sweater itches.
The same thing goes for earrings that pull down on your ears or shoes that feel tight. Wear clothing that sits on the body and feels comfy to you.
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4. Turn off your phone
Place yourself in a quiet location that is free from distractions, including alerts from electronic devices, such as text messages and incoming email.
If possible, close the door or go into a space where you can be alone for the entirety of your meditation.
5. Remember that quiet is relative
Even if you live in a city on a busy street, it’s possible to meditate successfully. With practice, meditation will enable you to ignore noise by focusing on your breathing patterns.
If you choose, you can also tune out noise by meditating to soft music or using a guided meditation app.
6. Pay attention to your breathing
Meditation uses the experience of breathing naturally to anchor the mind to the present moment.
Start by breathing in and out naturally, noticing how it makes your body feel. When you’re ready, deeply inhale, again noticing how your body feels. Does your tummy rise? Does your chest feel full?
Hold the breath for a few seconds, then gently exhale for as long as the breath requires. Notice how your body feels as it lets go of the breath.
7. Let your mind wander
The nature of the mind is to think — and it will, even during meditation.
When you notice your mind wandering away from the now, simply acknowledge the thought and return your attention to your breath. Accept that it is the nature of the mind to think, and give yourself permission to have a wandering mind.
Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts or focus your attention on them. Simply bring your attention back to the now by focusing on breathing.
8. End your practice slowly
Whether you meditate for 1 minute or 30 minutes, give yourself a few seconds or minutes to become present again after the experience.
- If your eyes were closed, open them.
- Take a moment to notice what is happening in your environment.
- Notice how your body feels.
- Take a moment to acknowledge your emotions and thoughts.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects both children and adults. There are three types tied to the major groups of behaviors associated with them:
- inattention: getting easily distracted or having trouble concentrating
- impulsivity: taking excessive risks or being interruptive
- hyperactivity: having high energy levels that don’t seem to subside and often manifest as fidgeting or fast speech
ADHD-related behaviors, such as trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, may all be reduced through meditation.
Multiple studies have analyzed mindfulness meditation’s effects on ADHD-like symptoms in the general population — with positive results. Data indicates that meditation can foster and improve on-task, sustained attention, reduce mind wandering, and regulate emotion.
One study on high school students found it beneficial for reducing impulsivity and aggression. These findings have been substantiated in several studies specific to people with ADHD.
One small study of adults with ADHD found that meditating improved emotional regulation as well as the mental skill sets associated with executive functioning, including:
- flexible thinking
- working memory
A systematic review of 13 studies with a combined total of 753 adults found that mindfulness-based interventions, including meditation, had benefits for the reduction of ADHD-associated behaviors.
These studies are also backed up by anecdotal evidence from some parents of children with ADHD as well as adults with this condition.
Is there proof that meditation for ADHD works?
Meditation’s benefits for people with ADHD have not been definitively proven. Several issues affecting the reliability of some studies include:
- high levels of bias
- small study size
- lack of control groups
One systematic review of randomized controlled trials on meditation and ADHD found that more high-quality studies are needed.
But despite the lack of large, high-quality studies on ADHD and meditation, meditation does appear to have real benefits. Anecdotal evidence indicates that millions of people find that meditation helps them focus and feel calm.
Other lifestyle tips for ADHD
Additional lifestyle treatments and tips you may wish to try for ADHD include:
- lifestyle changes, including maintenance of a solid routine and reduction in environmental distractions
- utilizing organizational tools, including apps that provide reminders and time management suggestions
- social skills training
Meditation, while beneficial, is not meant to be the sole treatment utilized for ADHD.
Since ADHD-associated behaviors vary and can include psychological and mood-related symptoms like anxiety, see a doctor qualified in diagnosing ADHD. They will take a detailed medical and psychological history to determine the right diagnosis and treatment.
Talking to a doctor or therapist can also help you develop a multifaceted treatment plan that can work over the long term. This is especially important if you’re not sure whether you or your child have ADHD.
Research suggests that meditation can be useful for reducing disruptive ADHD-associated behaviors, such as trouble focusing and impulsivity.
Despite the large body of evidence about meditation’s benefits in the general population, high-quality studies that focus on ADHD and meditation are lacking. Even so, anecdotal evidence and existing clinical evidence indicate that meditation can be helpful to children and adults with this condition.