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  • Writer's pictureAviva Nirenberg

Mindfulness for ADHD Skeptics

Mindfulness is an amazing tool for your ADHD treatment toolbox. However, most folks with ADHD have a strong resistance to the suggestion of adopting a mindfulness practice. This opposition though, is often based on misunderstanding of what mindfulness really is. Let’s do a quick experiment. When you hear the words mindfulness or meditation, what image pops into your mind. If you imagine a Hindu monk sitting on a mountain top in lotus position for hours, you’re not alone. While they many be many who meditate, on a mountain or a grassy field, anyone can mediate in virtually any location. There are a wide variety of approaches to mindfulness. So, even those with ADHD can find and ADHD compatible way to integrate mindfulness into their lifestyle.

Let’s start by explaining mindfulness. In essence, mindfulness is paying attention to what you’re paying attention to. It is being away of all your senses- (vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste), as well as your thoughts, and feelings in the present moment without any judgement.

So, why should you consider mindfulness? So, let’s talk about the benefits and there are many – for your ADHD, your physical health, your mental health, and overall wellbeing. Practicing mindfulness has a significant positive impact on most ADHD symptoms. Over time, mindful mediation builds your focus muscle, improving sustained attention, concentration, and working memory, and emotional regulation, while decreasing hyperactivity and impulsivity. In fact, a Harvard University study actually showed growth of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (the area responsible for executive function) for long term mediators.

Mindfulness also has a profound effect on our mental health by relieving stress and anxiety. Similarly, brain scans of mindfulness practitioners showed a decrease in the size of the amygdala, the emotional reactivity center of the brain. If that’s not enough of an advantage, health care research shows that mindfulness practices give us a better ability to fight infection, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure and the level of cortisol, the stress hormone in our bodies. Overall, mindfulness improves happiness and life satisfaction, at home, work, school, and socially. Those are some hefty benefits.

Next, let’s start to dismantle the brick wall of mindfulness myths that may be an obstacle for you.

Myth #1

Mindfulness can only be done while sitting still. No, there are many ways to interweave mindfulness into your daily life. You can practice mindfulness while walking, eating, showering, driving, even doing the dishes.

Myth #2

Mindfulness must be practiced with your eyes closed. Wrong again, you can meditate with your eyes open or closed. It’s a matter of preference. Do whatever feels comfortable but be careful if you try a mindful hike in nature with your eyes closed.

Myth #3

You need complete silence. False, many people find that background sound, like music, white noise, or nature sounds, help them to focus their attention better.

Myth #4

You need to devote a lot of time to mindfulness for it to make a difference. Incorrect, you can practice mini mindful moments for as little as 30 seconds/day.

Myth #5

Mediation is a spiritual practice. Nope, while it’s true that many religions have meditation as a component, Mindfulness can be done without any connection to religion or spirituality.

Now, that we’ve hopefully broken the barrier to mindfulness, are your ready to give it a try?You can either try it solo or with a guided app or YouTube video. Here are a few ADHD friendly suggestions to get started.

A mini mindfulness moment (Duration 30 seconds – 2 minutes) This can be done by anyone, anywhere, or anytime. Find a comfortable place to sit or stand. You can easily remember this practice with the acronym STOP. S-Stop and pause for a moment. T-Take a deep breath. O-Observe what you feel in your body as well as your senses - what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. P-Proceed with relaxation and awareness.

5,4,3,2,1 Countdown This mindfulness technique is especially helpful for relieving anxiety and stress as well as calming strong emotions. To begin, take a deep breath. Then, look and name 5 things you see. For example, you could say, I see my desk, I see a water bottle, I see a chair. Then, pay attention to your body and name 4 things you feel. For example, you could say, I feel my warm socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, I feel the warm breeze. Next, name 3 things you can hear. For example, I hear the air conditioner, I hear the beeping horn, I hear the birds chirping. Now, what are 2 things you can smell? If you can’t smell something right now, go somewhere where you can take a sniff of spices, food, or outside. Alternatively, think of 2 of your favorite smells. Finally, name 1 thing you can taste. Maybe you taste the mint from brushing your teeth this morning or the chips and salsa you had for a snack. If not, pop a hard candy or piece of gum in your mouth.

Moving Mindfulness Incorporate mindfulness into any of your regular daily activities. Take a mindful moment while walking, hiking, gardening, cooking, showering, painting, or even doing the dishes. Pause and pay attention to your senses and be present in the moment.

App Assisted Mindfulness There are a host of apps that offer guided meditations. They can also provide reminders and accountability if your goal is to create a mindfulness habit. You can find guided meditations for every level from beginner to pro. In addition, apps offer specific meditations for a variety of situations such as focus, sleep, stress relief, parenting, etc. Some of the most popular apps are Calm, Relax, Headspace, and Insight Timer. All apps offer a free version and Introductory trial versions.

To sum up, mindfulness is an awesome natural remedy for ADHD. It’s free, adaptable for your life, has now side effects, and can make a huge positive difference for your ADHD and your life. What step can you take today to make mindfulness a part of your life?

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