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Mindful Approaches for Adult ADHD

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

If you or someone you know lives with ADHD, you know it can be filled with embarrassment, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness. There are many therapies and regimens to work with ADHD right now like education, time management, medication, mood management, and performance management. Underneath all of this there has been budding research around the topic of mindfulness and ADHD.

Mindfulness can be an effective and more compassionate approach to work with ADHD in daily life. At UCLA, Lidia Zylowska, M.D. led the development of the Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD program.  Their program was tested in a pilot study with a group of adults and teens with ADHD and they found that after 8-weeks of training many participants performed better on several attention and cognitive tests and reported less symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, depression and stress.  These findings are consistent with other research showing that mindfulness is related to better attention and self-regulation.  You can read about this in ADDitudes magazine here.

You can use formal and informal practices when working with mindfulness and ADHD. The formal practices are intentional time set aside to be guided toward purposefully paying attention to some object of focus while putting aside our usual preconceived lenses of judgment. In other words, we begin to train our attention muscle to pay attention to what we want to pay attention to in any given moment.

The informal practices are about weaving mindfulness into our everyday lives to help with ADHD.

For example:

When getting ready to leave in the morning, instead of running around in a flurry, getting distracted and then beating ourselves up for being late (yet again!). We slightly slow down with our preparation, noticing when we become distracted, not judging ourselves, and gently returning to the goal of getting out of the house on time.

We may sprinkle mini mindfulness practices like STOP or others throughout our day to see if we are in a state of auto-pilot and redirect our attention to what we were intending to pay attention to.

When we're putting the keys down, we say to ourselves, "putting our keys down on the table." This mindful focus helps us to remember where they are later.

It's important to remember that this is a practice and takes time to integrate into life, but well worth it! When you forget to do things like this, it's important to remember the phrase Forgive and Invite. We forgive ourselves for forgetting (as it does us no good to berate ourselves) and invite ourselves now that we're present re-engage with mindfulness in our daily activities.

There are many examples of how to integrate informal and formal practice into our lives to support with ADHD.

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