Drop the story that you cannot practice mindfulness. You do not seek (and will never get) a perfectly quiet mind. Your body may remain restless. That’s okay. Mindfulness reflects that, as life can be quite changing and uncertain, it’s good to build your reserves of patience and resilience.
We often live in a state of distracted autopilot, not paying close attention to what we are hearing or doing in the moment. We get caught up in habit and reactivity, saying and responding as we typically do without intention.
But there are concrete implications to not seeing what’s actually going on as it happens. With mindfulness, in contrast, you do your imperfect best to give moment-to-moment, unbiased, compassionate awareness to your life.
Mindfulness aims to increase your happiness and ease — with or without ADHD. It takes persistence to reinforce new cognitive habits, but intentional change is possible if you choose to try.
Table of Contents
Mindfulness Practice Reduces Stress
Stress perpetuates stress when you elect to do nothing about that pattern. Stressful thoughts change your emotional state and affect how your body feels, which, in turn, affects your thoughts and emotions. Reactivity reigns in fight-or-flight mode. It’s hard to think clearly. This cycle can feel endless.
However, practicing mindfulness during stressful moments can yield important benefits. Feeling settled helps you manage the stress-producing disorder of ADHD. You think more flexibly and stick to your plans better. You break the stress cycle, which leads to easier ADHD care.
Simply said: Practice managing stress, and you will feel less stressed.
Mindfulness Practice Builds Emotional Resilience
Emotional reactivity, ranging from anger and tears to frustration and shutting down, is inherently part of ADHD; conversely, mindfulness builds emotional awareness. You give yourself permission for a few minutes to notice whatever is happening and not get caught up in it (e.g., “I’m angry but not acting on my anger for now.”). Through that process, you build patience with emotions (and anything else that triggers you).
Mindfulness is not passive. It’s about intention. For the rest of the day, there may be problems to solve or things to do. But for 10 to 15 minutes, you resolve to notice emotions and aim not to fall back on your typical reactions to them.
Simply said: Train yourself to notice emotions, and you’ll manage emotions more easily.
Mindfulness Practice Increases Self-Compassion
People with ADHD struggle mightily at times to accomplish what they know they need to do. That struggle can impact an individual’s self-image. Since your mindset relates to your resilience, this not only changes how you feel, but it can undermine ADHD care itself, which requires effort and persistence.
Self-compassion is inherently part of mindfulness practice. You try your best yet get distracted. How would you advise a young child? “It’s okay; just try again.” Reinforcing this habit within yourself matters. You cannot eliminate your inner critic (which may say something like, “I always screw up”), but you can learn to relate to it differently: “Thanks for the feedback. I’m doing my best.” It sounds strange at first, but this response becomes intuitive.
Simply said: You can learn to relate to yourself as kindly as you would support a close friend.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Set aside short-term expectations. It is called mindfulness practice for a reason. The fundamental starting point is just do it. The bottom line is that, as uncomfortable as it might seem at first, you can meditate. You’ll strengthen traits like awareness, responsiveness, and compassion, and more easily break ineffective cognitive habits. Keep in mind that it takes a while to change lifelong mental habits.
Set your best intention and see what happens next. Stay patient when you forget to practice. That’s all part of the experience. It might seem hard to stick with, but it is valuable, nevertheless.
Simply said: Anyone can practice mindfulness. Try it and see what happens for you.
How to Practice Mindfulness: Next Steps
Mark Bertin, M.D., is a developmental pediatrician in Pleasantville, New York, and the author of How Children Thrive (#CommissionsEarned)and Mindful Parenting for ADHD(#CommissionsEarned). His website is developmentaldoctor.com.
#CommissionsEarned As an Amazon Associate, ADDitude earns a commission from qualifying purchases made by ADDitude readers on the affiliate links we share.
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