Mindfulness is a form of meditation derived from a 2,500-year-old practice called vipassana, or, insight mediation. It develops the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with patience, acceptance and compassion.
Research shows that mindfulness can be especially helpful for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that children between the ages of 8 and 12 who had been diagnosed with ADHD showed a significant increase in their attentiveness after receiving an 8-week mindfulness training course.
In a survey conducted in 2017 by ADDitude magazine, 42 percent of adults who struggled with ADHD reported they found meditation and mindfulness very effective for the treatment of their symptoms.
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Dr. Lidia Zylowska is a psychiatrist and the author of “The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD.”
In a 2012 interview with Huffington Post, she explained that mindfulness helps people become aware of their attention and teaches them how to become less distracted. It allows them to step back and observe their thoughts and feelings, perhaps curbing impulsive reactions and emotional reactivity.
Mindfulness decreases stress as people gain new perspective. Finally, it encourages compassion and acceptance of their ADHD symptoms.
Dr. Zylowska advocates practicing the STOP technique throughout the day, suggesting that people:
- S: Stop (or pause) for a moment
- T: Take a deep breath
- O: Observe mindfully in the moment (for example, notice your body sensations or what you are doing)
- P: Proceed with relaxation and awareness
You don’t have to empty your mind to practice mindfulness. Rather, it’s about observing your thoughts at a particular moment. You’re apt to notice a frenetic pattern of thinking. With practice, it may begin to settle down.
How to practice mindfulness
Be realistic. Keep practice sessions short. Expect that you’ll be antsy.
Notice when your mind wanders. Catch yourself being distracted and gently bring your attention back to what you’re doing.
Do a five-minute walking meditation. Slowly walk around an outside area. Take in any sounds, smells, temperatures, tastes or feelings on your skin. At the end, notice your breath and body.
Consider listening to guided imagery. Try the “Two-Minute Mindfulness Practice to Unhijack Your Attention” or “3-Minute Body Scan to Cultivate Mindfulness,” both available at www.mindful.org.
Recognize negative thoughts and judgments whenever they arise. Don’t try to stop them. Simple acknowledgment is enough.