Mindfulness to Treat ADHD
Parents who are concerned about medication and adults with ADHD who wish to move away from medication are finding new methods of treatment for ADHD symptoms. One of the most popular is mindfulness. Although this treatment does not provide the immediate change in symptoms that medication does, working with mindfulness techniques can help some people who struggle with ADHD symptoms.
Mindfulness is a meditation practice based on Eastern philosophies and practices, which guides the meditator to focus on the present moment without judgment. If the individual notices their attention has wandered away, then they guide their concentration back to the present. This practice also encourages the practicing person to observe their thoughts, emotions, and reactions without judgment.
Since scientific studies on mindfulness are fairly new, so there is not much evidence about the effectiveness of the treatment compared to medication. However, treatment and steps to overcome mental health issue are very individual, so mindfulness likely works better for some people than for others. Thanks to brain imaging techniques, some of the effects of mindfulness can be observed; however, the main studies on mindfulness have been conducted on adults, so there is little information available on whether children are helped by these techniques.
Here is a list of studies that show links to improvements in ADHD symptoms:
- A 2009 study showed that mindfulness improves a person’s ability to pay attention to the present moment by taking advantage of neuroplasticity to train the mind to focus.
- A 2010 study of adults with ADHD showed that mindfulness techniques can improve problem areas, leading to the conclusion that this training is an effective intervention for adults.
- A 2011 study that examined depression and anxiety displaying similar symptoms to ADHD, characterized by frequent lapses in attention and self-regulation, showed that symptoms were improved through mindfulness meditation. Again, the study focused on adults.
- A 2011 study on mindfulness for children, ages 8-12, showed that symptoms dramatically improved with mindfulness practices. The study included the parents of the children studied, because ADHD is an inheritable condition. The parents involved in the study also displayed symptoms of ADHD, which were improved by undergoing mindfulness training with their children.
A program created by the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), called Mindful Awareness Practices for ADHD (MAP), with the help of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), notes that the majority of participants show great signs of improvement in symptoms. The program uses visual cues, as most people with ADHD are visual learners. Participants in the program begin working on meditation for five minutes and eventually increase the practice to 20 minutes. The program uses two principles – focus on the present moment, and remaining open and curious to experiences – to help participants. While MARC has reported success among MAP participants, the changes are self-reported, and the group is self-selecting: Those who are interested in mindfulness are likely to participate, while those who are not interested in mindfulness will not.