A recent review published in Behavioural Neurology suggests that mindfulness is a promising way to improve attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. The study collectively examined several studies of mindfulness-based interventions as treatment for ADHD and narrowed down studies that were of good quality. Researchers examined a total of 13 studies with collectively 753 participants who had an average age of 35.  All of these studies found that mindfulness techniques were helpful as part of treatment for ADHD. 

Non-medication treatment options for ADHD are a very important consideration. Medications that treat ADHD often have medical and psychological side effects both in the short- and long-term. For example, stimulants that treat ADHD can make people more irritable and moodier than usual and come with risks to heart health as well, including irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and higher heart rates. Over time, the same dose of medication may not be as effective as before and one can need higher doses over time. 

What types of mindfulness techniques can help with ADHD? Mindfulness techniques encompass a broad array of different skills that encourage paying attention in a non-judgmental way and can include anything from a mindful walking to seated meditations. Since it is often difficult to sit still when you have ADHD, you may want to try mindful walking first and seated meditation after mindfulness becomes more familiar.

Beginners may consider starting with these exercises for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Regular practice makes the most impact.

Mindful Walking with Breath Awareness

1.    Pair your breath with your steps and notice how it feels for your feet to be walking on the ground: Breathe in for five steps.

2.    Hold your breath for five steps.

3.    Exhale for five steps. 

4.    Repeat for 10 cycles.

For seated meditation, try Trataka (Gaze) Meditation, or a Candlelight Meditation.

1.    Light a candle and place it a few feet in front of you so that the candle is at eye level or slightly lower than eye level.

2.    Find a comfortable seat and sit tall.

3.    External Gaze: Focus your eyes on the flame of the candle and hold it there as long as possible without blinking. Notice how the flame appears.

4.    You may experience distracting thoughts but continue to bring your mind back to the flame.

5.    Internal Gaze: When you need to close your eyes, do so and focus your awareness to the point in between your brows (third eye). Visualize and imagine that the flame is burning at that place in between your brows.

6.    Take five slow deep breaths until you are ready to open your eyes again.

7.    Repeat the external and internal gaze five times. 

More mindfulness skills including breathing and meditation techniques are discussed in my book The Harvard Medical Guide to Yoga. 

This content was originally published here.


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