It ain't called Attention Deficit Disorder for nothing. One of the biggest ADHD struggles is, (surprise surprise!) controlling your attention.
Excuse me? Deficit?
The term “deficit” is actually a misnomer, because it certainly is not a deficit of attention ADHDers experience. More like a deficit in the ability to control where we place our attention.
Although one of the most researched and strong ways to manage attention is with ADHD meds, so many of my clients struggle to tolerate the side effects.
So What's a Girl or Guy to Do?
One of the ways we can get to feel more in the driver’s seat with respect to our attention is by practicing mindfulness meditation. I know it’s a mouthful so let’s just call it MM.
Mindfulness Meditation Myths
I hear your thoughts! “Wait just a minute! Did she just say the M word? Isn’t trying to meditate when you have ADHD like trying to run a marathon with a broken leg or something?”
Well, no actually...Allow me to bust some myths for you:
MM is not about doing nothing, or even about concentrating.
MM doesn’t even have to be done sitting still.
MM does not have to be a spiritual practice. You don’t need a mantra, a guru or to have visited an ashram in India.
You can’t fail at MM!
Mindful Meditation Is:
… like a brain workout. The basic idea is about returning to a focus (your breath, a yoga pose, a guided audio), rather than remaining focused.
Imagine your attention was a muscle. MM flexes that muscle - training your brain to return to a point of focus when it gets distracted. Over time, working that muscle makes it stronger. That’s what improves attention in MM - returning to a point of focus after the fact, rather than staying attentive.
How it Works
For ADHDers, it really helps to have a solid “anchor” to focus on - like deep breathing or guided meditation.
The basic idea is to begin focusing on the anchor, and simply practice returning to it once you notice your attention has strayed. And it will stray. Everyone has “monkey chatter” in their minds, and for those of us with ADHD, it can feel like a frat party or parliamentary meeting in there!
At first, and especially for hyperactive brains, you will repeat this process a lot. But that’s good. Those are your workout reps. The 3 part act of:
noticing a distracting thought
stepping back from it and
returning to your focus anchor;
is much like the 3 part act of doing a pushup:
get into plank position
lower yourself down
push yourself up again.
This practice of re-shifting your attention, of outfoxing your brain’s natural tendency to wander, is what makes MM a good technique for ADHDers. More directing of attention means less “succumbing” to distraction.
And how lucky we are that our brains give us many, many opportunities within one short session to practice those pushups!
How to Do MM ADHD-Style
It does not have to be an hour of sitting still with your eyes closed! Just 5 minutes a day can make a big difference. Here are some ADHD-friendly options:
Guided meditations are a good place to start - I, personally, find them the easiest.
Mindful breath work
Mindful eating / drinking hot tea
Mindful movement like yoga or other exercising (Activities with repetitive movements are great for MM - think fast walking or swimming)
Mindful walking in nature - using your senses
Benefits of MM
Research shows that MM raises dopamine levels and guess what condition needs dopamine levels to rise? You got it! ADHD. Another study found that MM activates the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain involved in ADHD challenges. For an added bonus, MM is also a proven way to reduce stress, which unfortunately is pretty much guaranteed living with ADHD.
How to Set Yourself Up for Success
Try my Good Habits Guide to help you navigate building this worthwhile habit.
Build in accountability - do it with a friend or family member. Or get an ADHD coach to keep you on track. Accountability is not about rebuking. It is about keeping the goal in mind, working to accomplish it, and celebrating little victories as well as big ones.
And remember, if you forget to practice MM for days, or even weeks, you can get back on the horse at any time!
What about you? Have you tried MM? Want to try it? Comment below.