Mindfulness and ADHD

It seems obvious, as a main issue in ADHD is an inability to pay attention, that an attention-building technique should be helpful. The problem, though, is if people with ADHD will actually be able to sit down and do it!

The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center is dedicated to the scientific investigation and promotion of Mindful Awareness — the moment-by-moment process of actively observing¬†physical, mental and emotional experiences, as a means of stress reduction and improving well-being.¬†They specifically relate the use of mindfulness techniques to ADHD.

It seems obvious, as a main issue in ADHD is an inability to pay attention, that an attention technique should be helpful. The problem, though, is if people with ADHD will actually be able to sit down and do it! The center therefore makes its programme as user friendly as possible, starting with five-minute seated meditations, or mindful walking exercises.

While the word meditation may have religious connotations, the process of observing your own thoughts and feelings can be performed by anyone with any religion or none. The whole idea is to focus on breathing in and out, and when thoughts arise, label that “thinking” and go back to your breath. The key is accepting that the mind will wander, but not jumping straight on the train and going wherever your thoughts take you.

This process of noticing thoughts and feelings, labelling them and returning attention to the breath can be done, of course, throughout the day and should be, in order to get lasting results. Eventually it may become a habit, and the background awareness, the place in which the feelings, thoughts and sensation arise, takes up more space in our attention, giving us a calmer base, a steady place with which to “check in” and ground ourselves.

Early findings from the centre’s research, involving 25 adults and eight adolescents, half of whom had the combined (both inattentive and hyperactive) form of ADHD were very promising, with significant improvements recorded, and participants satisfied with the programme. Research results also suggest that brain activity and dopamine levels may vary between those who meditate regularly and those who do not.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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