Mindfulness meditation for ADHD is hard. Or anyone else who can relate to feeling totally scattered when they try to focus on their breathing.
“I can’t meditate.”
I can’t tell you how many times I hear this, read this, see this…especially from ADHDers. But honestly, a lot of people without ADHD say this, too.
Meditation and mindfulness is one of the most highly recommended non-medical strategies for managing ADHD, anxiety, depression, and so much more.
But…what do you do when you just CAN’T?
I’ve got a secret for you. the truth is…
Yes, Seriously. No one’s mind stays perfectly focused. Everyone’s mind wanders. No one is perfect (or even good) at meditation.
Especially not when they first get into it.
“But my mind is constantly distracted! I just can’t do it.”
I promise you can, you just need a little help. Read on and I’ll show you.
Why Bother Learning to Meditate?
There’s a reason it’s one of the top three natural strategies to manage ADHD and so many other challenges.
- It improves focus
- It helps regulate emotion and anxiety
- Meditation improves impulse control and working memory
- Even reduces stress
- And help you sleep better
So it basically helps improve many of the biggest ADHD, Anxiety,e and emotional challenges we experience.
When it comes to mindfulness meditation for ADHD…
Your mind WILL wander. It just will. It may even wander more than it stays focus. That’s ok.
The fact that it wanders does not in any way mean that you are doing wrong, that you are bad at it, or that you cannot meditate.
In fact, you should expect it to wander.
That’s part of the practice of meditation and we set ourselves up when we expect that our mind should just naturally stay put. It won’t. And when it wanders, because it will, you are still meditating.
You are still doing it right. Wandering is part of the practice.
It’s like Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” Exactly.
The key to making it work for you is not in how well your mind “stays put” but in how you handle it when it wanders. Think of it this way…
Your Wandering Mind is Like a Puppy and you HAVE to be gentle.
Have you ever had a puppy?
Many dog parents first teach potty training to a new pup by the use of puppy pads. When you’re teaching your new little canine to use the pad, he uses it perfectly the first time, right?
You put the puppy down, he runs off.
Do you chase him down screaming at him to get back on the stupid pad before you cut his leg off? You might, but I hope not.
If you scream and berate your puppy, he will learn to fear you and sometimes even to fear the puppy pad. That makes it pretty difficult to potty train…
Instead, the most effective way to teach your puppy to use the pad is to pick him up when he runs away and gently bring him back to the pad. He will run away again and again.
Each time, you go get him and gently return him to the pad. Your patience and gentleness with your puppy greatly increases your chances of him learning to use the pad.
The mind is very similar. It will wander just like the puppy does. And that is….NORMAL!
If you berate yourself every time your mind wanders in meditation and get disgusted with yourself for your “failure,” you teach yourself to avoid the practice altogether.
It becomes too emotionally painful.
The shame sabotages you and makes it harder to even attempt to focus your mind.
If you, instead, treat your mind like that puppy and patiently and gently bring your attention back each time you notice that it was gone, over time your mind is much more likely to focus and stay focused for longer periods of time.
The moral of this story is that shame is counter productive and all that negative self talk is shame.
If you continue to struggle with the shame, I can’t recommend this workbook enough. It’s one of my all time favorite self help resources.
In it’s simplist form, Meditation is…
Doing one thing at a time and intentionally focusing all of your attention on that one thing.
Yes, it’s hard. Every mind likes to wander. It’s not natural to us, especially in a western culture where we value multitasking, to do one thing at a time and focus exclusively on that one thing.
But what’s that old adage?
The best things in life don’t come easy.
With this view of what meditation is, the options for how to meditate are as broad as they seem, which is good news for us.
Some of the options for practicing mindfulness meditation for ADHD may be more practical or useful to us than others.
Experimenting with different ways to meditate can be really helpful. You may hate one way but love another.
Best Strategies for Practicing Mindfulness Meditation for ADHD (and other challenges)
For me personally, I hate the “focus on your breathing” types of meditation. They usually go one of two ways for me:
I get too bored and hate life or I focus too much on my breathing and start feeling like I’m hyperventilating.
Those are not for me. You should try them, though, because you may love them. If you don’t, try one of these…
1. Guided Meditation.
I actually really like these. You can find some good ones on Youtube or various free apps but these are the ones with a person telling you to imagine something.
I prefer the ones that have you imagining a relaxing or even exciting outdoor scene or activity.
Guided meditation for ADHD can be nice because, when your mind wanders, it can be a bit easier to reorient your mind to the voice you are hearing.
Plus, some of the things you are told to imagine can be interesting. That’s a key word if you have ADHD. But also helpful even if you don’t!
Here’s one of my favorites from the app Stop.Breathe.Think.
Here are a few great apps:
2. Creative Activities.
The most meditative I get is when I’m painting, writing poetry, or journaling.
I can get so absorbed in creative activities like this that it almost feels like the world ceases to exist and all that is left is me and what I’m working on. I always leave a creative session feeling calm, focused, and content.
You may not think of this as meditation but revisit that definition above. Doing one thing and focusing only on that one thing.
That’s meditation and creative activities can be a more natural and effective way to practice it.
More than just obvious creative pursuits, creating in general can be mindful.
My husband’s best mindfulness strategy is building a fire. He always leaves that activity calm and content because his whole attention is on that fire and figuring out how to build and sustain it.
Let your mind run wild here. The options are pretty endless.
3. Physical Activities.
Yoga is probably the most obvious application to using a physical activity as a mindfulness practice.
Yoga has you focus on one move and one breath at a time. For those who really hate the sitting still aspect of meditation, a physical strategy may be what you need in practicing meditation with ADHD.
Yoga is and has been trending for a while now. For good reason, too. It appears to have a fairly significant benefit on anxiety and depression.
I love Yoga International because you can stream expert led classes at any level, any time. Sign up for a 14 day free trial. If you love it, it’s only $15 a month. If it’s not for you, just cancel it. I love being able to stream classes any where I am.
While Yoga is the first activity most people think of, it definitely isn’t the only application.
You could easily do that with dance or any other preferred exercise so long as you intentionally focusing your mind on the activity you are participating in and not just letting your mind do whatever the heck it wants to do.
I recently discovered Class Pass which is an app that lets you get into fitness classes and studios from a bunch of different gyms and it has workout videos you can stream online. It’s got a 14 day free trial so you can see if you like it. It’s $59 a month after that, if you like it but it’s the only gym membership you’ll need. Not too shabby.
Exercise has it’s own benefits on memory, attention, emotion regulation, and general well being. When you combine it with a mindful practice, focusing on the one thing that you’re doing, it’s even better.
4. Use Your Hyperfocus.
Another potential benefit of the ADHD Hyperfocus is that, yes, it can offer ways to be meditative.
Especially when we are hyperfocusing on something we are interested in and not just momentarily tricked ourselves into obsessing over something.
If you are really really interested in something and you pursue it and only it for a period of time, focusing your mind exclusively on that one thing, it could be meditative.
I don’t recommend doing that with television (I know I’m not the only one that hyperfocuses on that ha!) or anything that causes anxiety to run wild
(I hyperfocused on medical diseases for a long period of time once. It was interesting but also anxiety producing so I don’t recommend that one!)
The options for Hyperfocus and mindfulness are limitless.
I’ve hyperfocused on hair care and styles, gymnastics, learning to crochet, cooking, singing, learning an instrument, various research interests, and so on.
Just remember, with hyperfocus, we often have a hard time coming out of it so make sure you time it when it works best for you. Probably not right before you need to leave for work
Some of these ideas are not what you think of as a way of practicing mindfulness meditation, but that’s ok. They are some of the best activities for ADHD.
Exercise your creativity to identify what works for you.These strategies can be mindful if you make them so by focusing exclusively on them in the moment.
They can be more natural ways of practicing such an important and helpful strategy for those of us with ADHD. But also to anyone who really struggles with meditation.
Connect with Me
Now, I want to know your top mindfulness meditation for ADHD strategy! What way do you practice that works best for you? Which are you most interested in trying?
And don’t forget to let me know how it goes!
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