Meditation

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By Tammy Preston, MS

Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder that affects more than 4% of adults. Although it is likely that the roots of this disorder are genetic, that certainly doesn’t mean that you are powerless to control your symptoms.

There are many medications that are used to control the symptoms of adult ADHD. Still, medication is not a magic bullet that will solve all of your problems. There are important aspects of ADHD treatment that supplement the relief medication provide, including counseling, support groups and even meditation.

What Does Meditation Have to Do with Adult ADHD?
Meditation is a way of training your attention that increases self awareness and can help those with adult ADHD regulate their symptoms. The process involves disciplining or training your mind so that you become more aware of your ADHD-related behaviors and thought patterns, both those that are positive (creativity and enthusiasm) and negative (distractibility, stress, hyperactivity). Through meditation the adult with ADHD can gain more control over a disorder that may often leave them feeling out of control.

Can Behavioral Techniques Such as Meditation Really Help Manage ADHD Symptoms?
University at Buffalo researchers have found that combining behavioral therapy with medication was the most effective way to improve behavior of the ADHD children that they studied. By teaching their subjects techniques to modify their behavior, the investigators were actually able to reduce the amount of medication required to control ADHD symptoms. Although this study did not specifically focus on meditation techniques, it did clearly show that behavior modification can have a substantial effect on the symptoms of ADHD.

The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has specifically done meditation studies on adults and teenagers with ADHD. Their study subjects were trained in various forms of meditation once a week, for eight weeks.

The meditation exercises used essentially focused on:
· subjects becoming more aware of how they were paying attention
· catching themselves when they became distracted
· then returning their attention to the present moment

The subjects were then given cognitive tests at the end of the study. The testing revealed that, after being trained in meditation, the participants had improved in their ability to focus on tasks, even when attempts were made to distract them. As an added bonus, many also felt less anxious and depressed by the end of the study.

How Do I Learn to Meditate?
There are many ways to meditate and scores of books, CDs, videos and classes out there that can teach you the techniques. Engaging in active meditation is the best way to begin. Active meditation involves paying attention to your senses — your body, breathing, and even your voice. Focusing on activities and parts of your body trains you to stay in the moment and helps give you something concrete to refocus on should your mind begin to wander.

You can begin by sitting quietly, closing your eyes and paying attention to your breathing. If you have too much energy to start with something this low-key, you can also meditate while you walk. If you want to try meditating while on the move, just focus on your breathing as you walk or even count your steps—anything that requires your mind to attend to one single activity.

The first few times that you try to meditate, you will probably find your mind frequently wandering. Don’t worry. Meditation takes practice. Start out with short sessions, trying to focus for just a few minutes. Then work on lengthening your meditations as you develop more control.

Leaning to control your attention is a skill that will help you to become better aware of when you become distracted and eventually teach you how to keep your wandering mind on a short leash so that you can stay focused.

Sources
Medication Combined with Behavior Therapy Works Best for ADHD Children

UCLA Health And Wellness ADHD Study

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