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Mindfulness Techniques for Managing ADHD

Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be like navigating a ship in stormy waters. The waves of distractions, hyperactivity, and impulsivity often make it difficult to maintain a steady course. Fortunately, mindfulness techniques offer a beacon of light, providing strategies to calm the mind, enhance focus, and navigate the daily challenges of ADHD with greater ease.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. For individuals with ADHD, mindfulness can be particularly beneficial, as it helps in managing impulsivity, enhancing focus, and reducing anxiety.

A recent research conducted by Cairncross and Miller in 2020 analyzes the impact of mindfulness-based therapies (MBTs) on ADHD symptoms, specifically inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. It highlights the potential of MBTs as a complementary ADHD treatment option for individuals with ADHD.

The analysis found a significant overall effect size, indicating a reduction in symptoms of inattention among individuals with ADHD who underwent MBTs. Similarly, the analysis on hyperactivity/impulsivity revealed a significant overall effect size, showing a reduction in symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity. These findings suggest that MBTs could be beneficial for individuals with ADHD, reducing core symptoms of the disorder.

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Mindfulness Techniques for Managing ADHD

Living with ADHD can be challenging. That’s why we want to let you know that mindfulness techniques can help you improve your focus, regulate your emotions, and cultivate a deeper sense of presence in your daily life. 

By exploring different mindfulness practices, such as breathing exercises and mindful walking, you can find personalized strategies that work best for you to manage your ADHD better and feel more at ease. Remember, it’s okay to seek additional support such as psychotherapy and try different techniques until you find what works for you.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are the cornerstone of mindfulness. They are simple, accessible, and can be practiced anywhere at any time. Here’s how to get started:

Focused breathing 

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Concentrate on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body. Aim for 5-10 minutes per day.

4-7-8 breathing 

Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This technique can help reduce anxiety disorders and improve concentration.

Square breathing (box breathing)

Square breathing, also known as box breathing, is a simple yet effective technique to regain calm and control of your thoughts when feeling overwhelmed. Here’s how to do it:

  • Inhale for 4 seconds, slowly drawing air into your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds, maintaining a sense of calm and stillness.
  • Exhale gently for 4 seconds, releasing the air and any tension you’re holding.
  • Pause for 4 seconds before taking your next breath, embracing the quiet.

This method is particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD as it helps to interrupt the cycle of racing thoughts and brings attention back to the present moment. Practice this technique for a few minutes whenever you need a mental reset.

Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing)

This technique encourages full oxygen exchange and can significantly reduce the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, a common occurrence in those with ADHD. To practice diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Find a comfortable position: Lie on your back or sit comfortably, placing one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose: Ensure your abdomen rises more than your chest, indicating diaphragmatic engagement.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips: The hand on your abdomen should move more than the one on your chest, promoting relaxation and stress reduction.

Incorporate this breathing exercise into your daily routine, aiming for 5-10 minutes a day to help maintain a calm and focused state of mind.

Guided Meditations

Guided meditations provide structured mindfulness practice, often led by a voice that helps you visualize a peaceful scene or walk you through relaxation techniques. They are particularly helpful for beginners or those who find it challenging to focus. Many apps and online platforms offer guided meditations specifically designed for ADHD.

Studies indicate that mindfulness meditation can significantly aid in alleviating symptoms associated with ADHD. A notable study conducted by UCLA discovered that adults with ADHD who participated in weekly mindfulness meditation sessions for 2.5 hours and engaged in an escalating daily meditation practice at home — from 5 minutes eventually extending to 15 minutes — over an eight-week period, exhibited improved task focus. 

Additionally, these participants experienced reduced levels of depression and anxiety. Subsequent researchsupported these findings, highlighting the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in managing ADHD symptoms.

Guided meditations are a welcoming door into the world of mindfulness, especially for those new to meditation. There’s absolutely nothing to be scared of. If you’ve never tried meditation before, guided sessions can offer a gentle introduction. They will direct you through the process and help you find peace and focus without feeling overwhelmed.

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking combines the benefits of physical exercise with mindfulness. It involves walking slowly and deliberately, paying close attention to the movement of your body, the sensation of your feet touching the ground, and the environment around you. Try incorporating mindful walking into your routine by setting aside 10-15 minutes to walk in a quiet place, focusing solely on the experience of walking.

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Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Daily Routine

Integrating mindfulness practices into your daily life doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some practical tips:

  • Start small: Begin with short, 5-minute sessions and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice.
  • Set reminders: Use reminders on your phone or sticky notes around your home to prompt mindfulness practices throughout the day.
  • Create a routine: Incorporate mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. For instance, practice focused breathing every morning after waking up or engage in mindful walking during your lunch break.
  • Be patient and kind to yourself: Mindfulness takes practice, and it’s normal for your mind to wander, especially in the beginning. When you notice your mind drifting, gently bring your focus back to the present moment without judgment.
  • Seek support: Joining a mindfulness group or class can provide support and motivation. Sharing experiences with others who are also practicing mindfulness for ADHD can be incredibly encouraging.
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A Mindful Reapproach

Once you’ve managed to regain a sense of calm and control over your anxiety, it’s crucial to gently confront the scenario that initially triggered your anxious feelings. This mindful re-engagement allows you to observe and experience your emotions without being overwhelmed by them. It opens up a space for introspection and understanding, enabling you to dissect the anxiety and the deeper emotions driving it.

In this reflective state, consider exploring the following insightful inquiries:

  1. What specifically triggered my anxiety in this instance?
  2. What aspects of the situation are causing me concern, and why do they affect me so deeply?
  3. Am I falling into counterproductive thought patterns, such as placing undue blame on myself or imagining worst-case scenarios (catastrophizing)?
  4. Is there a constructive way to address the root cause of my anxiety? If so, what steps can I take to mitigate it? Conversely, if the issue is beyond my control, how can I cultivate a sense of peace with uncertainty and continue moving forward?

This approach not only helps in understanding the nuances of your anxiety but also in identifying practical strategies for dealing with similar situations in the future. By mindfully reapproaching the anxiety-inducing scenario with curiosity and openness, you can learn valuable lessons about managing your emotions and thought processes, fostering resilience and a more adaptive outlook on life’s challenges.

Bottom Line

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing ADHD, offering a pathway to greater calm, focus, and self-awareness. By incorporating various mindful techniques into your daily routine, you can navigate the challenges of ADHD with greater ease. Remember, the journey of mindfulness is personal and unique to each individual. Embrace the process, be patient with yourself, and celebrate the moments of peace and clarity along the way.


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