Mindfulness & ADHD
For adults who live with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), paying attention and regulating oneself can be incredibly difficult. Whether completing mundane tasks around the house or accidentally forgetting social plans, inattention can be at the core of these challenges. Given the twists and turns of life, rising stress levels can exacerbate distractibility and impatience. The overwhelming pace of life in conjunction with ADHD symptoms may make daily activities that require focus extremely strenuous.
Maintaining attention requires self-control, an invaluable inner skill that can be taught and grown. Mindfulness training allows you to increase your understanding of your external and internal states. It can be an attentional flashlight for your emotional, sensory, and cognitive states. This flashlight directs our attention and instructs us to stay in the present moment, remain on task, and respond instead of react. It teaches you to view emotional states as temporary, passing occurrences to be handled with acceptance and compassion, often emphasizing the benefit of resisting the urge to act on emotions or impulses. While overwhelming at first, you can learn to respond to challenges mindfully and shatter old patterns of inattention.
Three simple practices for being mindful:
Mindful daily check-ins on thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arose during this practice (i.e., while folding clothes, vacuuming, walking, washing dishes)
Mindful eating and noticing sensations and memories that pop up during the practice
When presented with triggers, replace the reaction with a burst of present awareness
Also, keep in mind the S.T.O.P practice, a method that helps turn on a conscious state for your mindful check-ins:
T= Take a breath
O= Observe in the present moment
Remember, being mindful doesn’t always come from doing a formal practice. Instead, it is just about being in the here-and-now and what you’re doing at that given moment, whatever it is.
To engage in these simple mindfulness practices, here are some tips on focusing your mind and resisting impulses:
Choose a target (i.e., focusing on your inhales and exhales)
Relax your body and mind while in a comfortable space and position
Return to your target/anchor sensation if your mind begins to drift off. Experience the sensations instead of thinking about them.
Calm your internal monologue of urges to do anything else. Bring your attention back to the anchor.
Be kind to yourself. Your mind will drift -- you will find yourself in the past or future. That is all part of the process! Imagine your brain as a muscle that you are training for a new exercise. It takes time, patience, and gentle compassion. Recognize your ability to notice these difficulties and return to the present.
The rewards of mindfulness are not just learning to monitor and control default patterns of emotional reactions. Another significant outcome is deepening the awareness of how it feels to complete this task. For adults with ADHD, this can be incredibly motivating. Recognize and praise yourself for turning off autopilot and approaching old patterns and situations with a new sense of awareness and openness.