One of the most powerful holistic approaches for dealing with ADHD requires no special equipment or training. It's completely free, and it's something that can be practiced anywhere, anytime. So what is this amazing tool that can be deployed to help combat ADHD symptoms naturally?
The answer is mindfulness. It's surprisingly simple, but it can have astounding effects on the way our brains process information. Learn more about mindfulness and how it translates into brain activity for someone with ADHD.
Before diving into the way mindfulness influences the brain, it's important to understand exactly what mindfulness is on a basic level. Essentially, mindfulness is about being in the moment. But how do you achieve that? As anyone who has tried to meditate for the first time knows, it's harder than it sounds.
To practice mindfulness, it's important to focus on what's happening right now. That includes your surrounding environment and any sensory experiences you feel in your body. Rather than erasing all thoughts or feelings, mindfulness is about accepting and recognizing what you think and feel in the moment and then letting it go rather than fixating on it.
The benefits of mindfulness are impressive. In addition to helping with ADHD symptoms (more on that below), it can also help to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, and even high blood pressure.
How Does Mindfulness Affect an ADHD Brain?
The impacts of mindfulness have been studied pretty extensively. This area of research is particularly fascinating due to the noticeable effects it has on the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex.
For someone with ADHD, mindfulness can have a number of important benefits. The following four types of brain activity are positively affected by practicing mindfulness:
Adults and children who practice mindfulness often find that they are capable of sustaining their attention for longer periods of time. This stems from the way that mindfulness affects the areas of the brain associated with attention, especially the prefrontal cortex. By increasing connectivity in this area, it helps strengthen networks across different parts of the brain. At the same time, it can reduce activity in the areas of the brain which are associated with distraction and daydreaming.
Self-control is also associated with the prefrontal cortex. This ability can be particularly challenging to people with ADHD who struggle with impulsivity. But because it has positive effects on the prefrontal cortex, mindfulness could help to minimize impulsive actions. More self-control can have great results in both your professional and personal life, particularly when it comes to productivity and maintaining healthy relationships.
People with ADHD are sometimes described as moving as though they are "driven by a motor." However, the areas of the brain linked to this symptom, including the prefrontal cortex, can also be impacted positively by activities associated with mindfulness. Studies have found that people with ADHD who practice mindfulness can experience a decrease in hyperactive behaviors like constant movement and fidgeting. By quieting the mind, you may be able to quiet the body as well.
4. Executive function
People with ADHD often have deficits in their executive functioning, which includes skills like planning, problem solving, concentration, and emotional regulation. Research shows that mindfulness activities like meditation and yoga can boost executive function, which is especially important for people with ADHD who struggle with the skills that fall under this umbrella. At this point, it comes as no surprise that executive functioning is also closely associated with the prefrontal cortex.
Ways to Practice Mindfulness
When most people think of mindfulness, meditation is the first thing that comes to mind. However, this is just one of the many ways to practice mindfulness. You can also try breathing exercises, yoga, journaling, nature walks, and other activities which help you to slow down a bit, increase your body awareness, and live in the moment.
People with ADHD may struggle with mindfulness due to their symptoms. Hyperactivity can make it difficult to be still and calm, while inattentive ADHD can lead someone to become distracted rather than focusing on being present. But the more you practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes.
If you're looking for guidance on how to manage your ADHD, Done can help. Our licensed clinicians can provide an accurate diagnosis if you're wondering whether you have the symptoms of ADHD. In addition, they can prescribe ADHD medication to help alleviate your symptoms and provide guidance on other treatment options, including mindfulness, therapy, and more. Take our one-minute online assessment to get started.