ADD and Meditation, written by Refuge Center intern, Carrie Michael.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is becoming increasingly common among adults. This disorder has a wide variety of frustrating symptoms that hinder professional work and personal relationships. Adults with ADD often find themselves disorganized, forgetful, late, unable to focus, and overwhelmed by many of life’s tasks. Medication is the most common and effective form of treatment, but as with any prescription medication, there are potential side effects. The good news is that alternative treatment options are beginning to surface. One of the alternative treatments that is becoming more widespread is meditation.
Meditation is ideal for treating ADD because it is essentially an exercise for training the mind to remain aware and hold attention. A consistent practice of meditation can effectively increase self-control, decreasing the impulsiveness that is so common with ADD. With increased self-control, a person is better able to make decisions based on rational thought instead of heightened emotions. In a study of 23 adults with ADD, a daily meditation practice increasing from 5 minutes to 15 minutes over an 8 week period reported a reduction in ADD symptoms in 78% of the participants (Zylowska, Ackerman, Yang, Horton, & Hale, 2008).
So how does meditation work? It’s relatively simple in theory, but it can be challenging in the beginning for someone with tendencies toward distraction. Begin by sitting in a comfortable chair without resting your head on anything. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Focus on your breath, breathing at a relaxed and comfortable rate. Every time you feel your mind wander, gently bring it back to the present moment and focus on the breath. If it feels like you are constantly having to bring your mind back from random thoughts to focus on the present moment, then you’re doing it right. With regular practice, the mind will begin to focus for longer and longer periods. Some people prefer guided meditation, listening to a voice that guides their attention. Some useful guided meditation apps available for smartphones include Headspace, One Giant Mind, and Insight.
Zylowska, L., D. Ackerman, M. Yang, J. Futrell, N. Horton, T. Hale, C. Pataki, and S. Smalley. “Mindfulness Meditation Training in Adults and Adolescents With ADHD: A Feasibility Study.” Journal of Attention Disorders 11.6 (2007): 737-46.