Not just for yogis: Meditation as an ADHD intervention



You have an incredibly short attention span, especially when things are boring.  You are easily distracted by random internal or external things, and it is virtually impossible to get you back on track once your thought train has derailed.




Really, really, really give meditation a try.  The neuroscience behind why this works is extremely compelling.


Full story:

In full disclosure, I didn’t start meditating to relieve ADHD symptoms.  I started at the suggestion of my therapist to address the crippling anxiety I was having about practically everything in my life.  


Meditation is extremely difficult for people with ADHD. Let me not sugar coat this at all: It’s nearly impossible.  Which is kinda why you really need to do it.


For me, the only thing that worked to get my butt to sit down and try meditation was an app called Headspace for the Iphone (I’m sure there is an android version, too…).  Headspace worked for me because of their tracking of my “Run Streak” (consecutive days of meditating), and how extremely guided it is in the basic and many other packs. 

I had over 380 days in the previous runstreak!


There are really great animations to explain the new concepts, and basically “normalize” something that seems pretty hippie-dippy to a lot of us linear thinkers.


Some of the research I found discussed the brain changes that are visible on fMRI after only 10 hours of meditation.  I’ll have to look it back up, but basically the areas of the brain that show neuroplasticity after meditation are the areas of the brain where ADHD peeps could use a little more help.  Several books and articles on ADHD started tying all the threads together for me, and explained that you don’t meditate to clear your mind, you meditate to PRACTICE clearing your mind.  That’s a very subtle but massive distinction.  


What that means is, you WANT your mind to drift, so you exercise the “muscle” of redirecting your focus.  As frustrating as that is when it happens, the skill you are building is accepting that our minds drift, and then redirecting yourself back to your focus when they do.  As an ADHD perfectionist, when my mind would go off down a rabbit hole, I’d beat myself up once I realized I was off-task, and had no idea where I was on the task I should have been working on. Sometimes I would literally sit in my office at work and cry.  I told myself how stupid I was, how lazy, etc., etc.  The battle then became to NOT lose focus (which is pretty impossible), instead of refocusing back to where I was when I lost focus.  


Another great book that can help you embrace this “alternative” intervention for focusing is “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story” by Dan Harris.  When I read his book, I had already been meditating for over a year and a half.  Unlike Mr. Harris, though, my meditation sessions are very short, and sprinkled throughout the day.  Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I can devote 1 hour to meditating, but currently I need that time for other things.  But this book really helped mainstream and normalize meditation for me.  I felt, honestly, a bit embarrassed mentioning it at all when discussing my ADHD interventions.  Also, since I originally started this to address the anxiety, for a long time I didn’t see the impact on my focus.


The improvement in focus was super subtle.  In fact, I can’t even tell you when I started to notice things improving.  Once, in a meeting, when I found myself looking out the window and day dreaming, I realized I was off focus, brought my attention first to my breathing for two or three breaths, then I was able to resume focus on the speaker.  When I am overwhelmed it’s extremely easy for me to lose focus.  I will bring my attention to my breathing (literally focusing on my stomach expanding and contracting with each breath), and then go back to the thing I should be focusing on.  And sometimes I have to do this six times.  Welcome to ADHD.  What’s new is that I don’t hate myself for it, or tell myself how flawed I am. I tell myself I’m grateful for the opportunity to exercise my re-focusing muscles.  And in that way, I’m significantly more than 10% happier.

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