Get Zen With Mindfulness
What is mindfulness? Why has it become so popular in the modern world? And how can it help with ADHD?
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be described as the practice of paying attention in the present moment, intentionally and without judgment.
ADHD and mindfulness may seem an unlikely pairing, but studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in improving a range of ADHD symptoms:
Improved emotional regulation
Improved attention span
Other associated benefits of mindfulness include stress reduction, and increased emotional intelligence, empathy, and respect.
How Do I Practice Mindfulness?
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness.
This is the practice of non-judgmental observation of our thoughts, emotions and body states to deliberately regulate our attention. Basic mindful meditation involves sitting somewhere comfortable and with good posture, taking slow and deliberate breaths, paying attention to the breath, and gently pulling attention back to the breath when it inevitably wanders.
At first, only a few minutes will be possible, and it's likely to be difficult to do. But, practice for just a few minutes daily and it will get easier.
Mindfulness On The Go
Even if we don't have time to set aside to meditate, we can create mindfulness moments throughout the day by building it into our everyday routines and activities. Since it is simply paying attention to whatever is happening at the present moment, mindfulness can be practiced almost anywhere and at any time.
We can mindfully walk, run, sit, eat, listen, speak, and more. All we need to is cultivate the practice of observing the present moment without judgment. Here are some ways to build mindfulness skills throughout the day:
Morning mindfulness is particularly useful for the ADHD brain, as many of us are late risers, and it's a time of day when tend to have our lowest levels of energy and attentiveness. As we go about our morning routines, simply drawing our attention to what we're doing is a great way to practice mindfulness.
If the attention wanders, gently bring it back to the present without judgment. If it's particularly difficult to stay mindful, it often helps to speak the activity aloud to bring the attention back to the present moment; "I'm opening the kitchen cupboard to get the cereal."
Checking in is another great way to practice moments of mindfulness throughout the day. Pause and ask a question such as, "How am I feeling at the moment?" Listen to the thoughts and feelings in response, considering each in turn without judgment.
Reviewing the day can be very beneficial. It could happen whilst bathing or lying in bed, so needn't take up additional time. Ask questions like, "What went well today, and what didn't?"
Take a moment to consider the answers and observe the resulting thoughts and feelings without judgment. If something unpleasant happened, try to sit with those feelings for a moment and see if any lessons can be learned — what might alleviate the feelings?
By building mindful activities into our daily lives, we can derive the benefits of mindfulness without having to set aside specific times to meditate.
Mindfulness often involves sitting in quiet contemplation. But for many of us with ADHD—particularly if we have predominantly hyperactive and impulsive traits—sitting quietly is almost impossible! Thankfully, there are many ways to practice mindfulness that also incorporate movement.
Mind-body exercise is any physical exercise which is executed with a simultaneous inwardly-directed focus. The practice of such exercise does not separate thought and self-awareness from action. In fact, mind-body exercise almost always links the two very closely. Here are a few examples:
Martial arts such as karate, tai-chi and judo are based on and strongly emphasise the co-ordination of the mind and body together. Constant awareness of all parts of the body, co-ordination of the breath, and focus are all skills that are practiced and improved, whilst learning self-defence.
Yoga is a strength exercise practiced through a series of deliberate and well co-ordinated movements and poses. It involves constant control and awareness of the body and breath. Many forms of yoga deliberately incorporate elements of meditation into routines.
Archery is often described by those who practice it as primarily an exercise of the mind. To successfully execute a shot, consistent movements and body position, controlled breath, and focus are required. Non-judgment is also encouraged, as thoughts on perceived success or failure affect future shots.
Rock climbing is a very mindful sport, with complete focus in the present moment on very deliberate movements. It also cultivates non-judgment of movements or situations as they happen, as they can distract from the climb.
There are many other types of mind-body exercise. Many mind-body exercises have the benefit of being practiced in a group, gym class or sports club, providing accountability and social contact. Others are able to be practiced at home, with the benefits of privacy and no need to travel.
Which forms of mindfulness practice might work for you? How could you incorporate them into your daily life? The best way to find out is to try them and see which feel good to you.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In other words, if all you can manage one day is a short walk around the park or two minutes of meditation in your living room, that's fine. It's still far better than doing nothing at all!
Remember also not to judge yourself if you can't get it perfect right away—even a neurotypical brain would find many of these things challenging the first time!
Practice regularly, celebrate your wins, forgive your mistakes and you'll soon see improvements in your health and wellbeing.
Join us when we take a look at the relationship between ADHD and sleep disorders. Find out why those of us with ADHD tend to be night owls, how insomnia and delayed sleep phase disorder affect our ADHD symptoms, and devise an effective bedtime routine that works for you. See you then!