Mindfulness and ADHD: Can it Help You Manage the Symptoms?

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) treatments can vary greatly, and the effectiveness of each will depend entirely on the patient. People with ADHD usually find that a combination of medications and natural remedies help them manage their symptoms, but again, this is subject to the individual.

Treatment options such as medication, behaviour therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, natural remedies and brain training exercises are all researched and well-supported interventions used to help people with ADHD manage their symptoms. More recently, researchers have begun to ask whether mindfulness can also help manage symptoms of ADHD.

In this blog, we’ll be looking into the effectiveness of mindfulness for ADHD and how regular meditation practices might help both adults and children to manage their ADHD symptoms.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of paying close attention to thoughts, feelings or sensations you are experiencing and becoming aware of yourself in the present moment. While the practice is used in some religious settings, it is not necessarily spiritual, and can simply be a useful mind exercise for those who feel they need ‘grounding’ or want to develop a greater sense of awareness.

In developing this ability to feel more aware of oneself, other benefits can also present themselves. Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to help boost self-esteem, lower stress and even help people to lose weight through mindful eating. Emotional regulation is another key benefit that can stem from mindfulness practices, which can no doubt be extremely useful for those suffering with neurodevelopmental disorders and even personality or anxiety disorders.

How can mindfulness help manage ADHD symptoms?

For people with ADHD, mindfulness can be particularly useful when it comes to managing emotions, reducing hyperactive impulses (particularly in children) and also improving attention. Mindfulness is effectively a brain exercise, and regular practice helps to develop a degree of control over brain functions. For example, somebody with ADHD might have difficulties when it comes to controlling impulses, but by becoming more focused and aware of their actions through mindfulness, they can learn to slow down their impulses and make more conscious choices.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that manages focus, planning and impulsivity. This is strengthened with mindfulness, meaning that ADHD brains that usually struggle with focus, planning and impulsivity can start to see improvements. In addition, mindfulness can heighten levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that affects our movement, memory, and focus as well as our general mood. For people with ADHD, dopamine is usually lacking.

The practice of mindfulness can help those who struggle to focus their attention. By using simple grounding techniques such as focusing on their senses, they can learn to anchor themselves in the present and away from distracting thoughts. This can significantly help those with ADHD manage their attention, particularly in situations where focus is paramount, for example, when completing a task for work.

Mindfulness is a useful practice for anyone with ADHD, as the way in which you choose to do it can suit your needs and schedule. There are plenty of resources available online for those new to mindfulness, and also some suggestions as to how children can get involved. Whether you choose to practice for 30 minutes a day or just 5 minutes, taking time to focus on the present is likely to have a positive effect on the condition in the long-term.

Other natural treatment options for ADHD

As previously mentioned, there are a number of treatments that you can incorporate into your lifestyle which may have a positive impact on the management of your ADHD symptoms. See below for some examples:

  • Diet: Incorporating foods that are high in protein, fibre, zinc, iron and omega-3 fatty acids is a good place to start. All of these nutrients can help your brain cells function effectively and some can also regulate levels of dopamine.
  • Exercise: Doing exercise can elevate levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain, which help increase focus and attention. This can be particularly useful for those with ADHD.
  • Brain training: While mindfulness is a form of brain training in itself, other games and activities can also help to develop parts of the brain that have less stimulation in those with ADHD. Brain training programmes are readily available for both children and adults on phones and tablets.

While there’s no official ‘cure’ for ADHD, there are multiple ways, both therapeutic and medication-based that can help people with the disorder manage their symptoms. Natural remedies may be more effective on some than others, however the benefits to trying mindfulness exercises certainly outweigh any negatives.

Get in touch with Psymplicity Healthcare if you need assistance with adult or child ADHD. We can provide detailed assessments and develop personalised treatment plans suited to your specific needs.
Mavish Sikander

Mavish Sikander

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity.

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