Let’s talk about why meditation is fantastic for ADHD and why it’s a great tool to turn your brain switch on.
You see, studies show that meditation helps ADHD brains work better.
Meditation strengthens attention, cognition, and memory. It builds awareness and improves how we deal with stress. And there’s more!
Meditation improves brain structure. Yes, that’s right. It’s phenomenal really.
Meditation strengthens your brain by building your prefrontal cortex. That’s the part of your brain (located right behind your forehead) responsible for focus, planning, and impulse control.
Meditation also raises dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical brains need to pay attention and get stuff done. Not enough dopamine is believed to be a cause of ADHD.
Yet there’s a problem. Knowing all the research and miraculous benefits meditation has on ADHD symptoms isn’t enough. You still need to meditate. You may even be frustrated with yourself about it.
But we can fix that. After all, how can you afford not to take advantage of this amazing, natural way of managing ADHD?
Why ADHD Adults Don’t Meditate
The reality is most people know meditation helps, and they still don’t do it. In fact, meditating is often high on the list of goals clients want me to help them reach.
Ready for a true confession? For at least 18 years of my time as a professional ADHD coach, I didn’t meditate. Oh, I’d try. But I found meditating nearly impossible. I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
You see, a bunch of problems pop up when it comes to meditating if you have ADHD. Sitting still is hard. Quieting your mind is hard. Following a routine is hard. Finding the time to do it is hard. Handling emotions that arise if you do manage to quiet your mind and sit still is hard.
Meditation, when you have ADHD, is hard.
But what makes meditation hard for ADHD – losing focus and having to come back to focus over and over again – is one of the things that makes it so good for us!
How to Meditate with ADHD
When you meditate, sit or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes and try to focus your attention on something. A breath, or sounds, a phrase, or feeling.
Your mind will chatter. Thoughts and sensations will bombard you. And that’s okay. That’s what minds do. Especially ADHD minds! Your goal isn’t to stop thinking.
Your goal is to try and stay focused on the thing you’re focusing on. So when your attention drifts, and it will, you notice and bring it back to your meditation focus.
A common misconception is that when you’re meditating, your mind is supposed to be quiet. That’s not possible! Minds think! Especially ADHD minds!!
The game is to do your best to not get drawn into the thinking. To notice what the mind is up to. This gets so tricky for ADHD brains!
You have another mission, too. Each time you notice your thoughts have wandered, you bring yourself back to your focus. Be kind to yourself. No shaming or judging. This simple act of noticing and not judging is key to the practice. Regardless of what’s pulled you away from your focal point and broken your concentration.
6 Easy ADHD Meditation Tricks
Okay. Now that you know why meditation is good for your brain, let’s talk about how to make it ADHD-friendly. This is the tricky part. If building a regular meditation practice is hard for typical people, then it’s going to be a lot harder for people with ADHD.
1. Use an App. There are many different apps you can use to meditate: Calm, Headspace, Ten Percent Happier Meditation. These will have guided ones with visualization or simple sounds to keep you focused. Many are free and you can upgrade for different meditations when you get bored.
2. Start small. A trick that helped me get started meditating was starting with 2 minutes. This is the trick that finally got me to meditate regularly. Let go of any ideas that you need to sit for 20 or 30 minutes right away. You want to get there, but at first it’s too high a bar.
Meditating for just 2 minutes will seem ridiculously easy. That’s what you want. You need to sneak up on it. Gradually add a couple more minutes at a time. Eventually, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day. Our first ADHD meditation trick is to start small and build over time. (Want to use a fun timer to keep track of time? Check out this rainbow productivity timer!)
And trick #2.5: It’s more important that you find the right time of day that works best with your schedule. Ease into it slowly. Remember you’re building a muscle.
3. Ignore the Shoulds. There are a lot of shoulds surrounding meditation. How you should sit. Where you should sit. How long you should sit. When you should meditate. Guided meditation or not. Eyes open or closed. Focus on breathing, seeing, counting, phrases.
Let go of the shoulds and don’t make a big deal of it. Don’t get caught up in the how — just do. Don’t worry that you’re meditating wrong. There’s no perfect way to meditate, just be happy you’re doing it.
The only thing you do need to know is that sitting and thinking isn’t meditating. Focusing on something, noticing when your mind wanders, and kindly redirecting it back is.
The more I’ve meditated the more I’ve learned what works for me. And that makes it easier to meditate.
4. Shift it Up. ADHD brains thrive on change. This applies to mindfulness, too. A meditation technique that works for you one day may not work the next.
Some days I like focusing on my breath. Some days I do better focusing on sounds. Some days I want to meditate sitting on the floor. Some days laying on the sofa. Eyes open…closed. Shift it up. There are many different ways to meditate. Play with them all.
This may not be by-the-book meditating. The point isn’t to follow some meditation dogma. The point is to sit and try to quiet and direct the focus of your very busy mind.
Try different mindfulness and meditation apps and techniques. Have choices depending upon your mood and how much time you have.
5. Make Peace With the Fidgets. When I first started meditating, my fidgeting frustrated me. But fidgeting is who I am. So I decided to try to make peace with it.
The trick I learned to make meditating with ADHD easier was to put all my focus on the part of my body that wanted to move. Say my big toe was itchy. I’d notice it and resist the urge to scratch it as long as I could. When I couldn’t stand it any longer I’d move.
Tara, a woman in my first ADHD Success Club, would actually get up and shake out the fidgets and then settle back down. Now THAT’S making peace with the fidgets
6. Find Your Best Formula. It can take some time to figure out the best meditating formula for you. That’s okay. Meditation is worth taking time to figure out.
Some things to consider: What time of day? What app? How will you remember to meditate? Where do you like to meditate?
Also, know what gets in your way. I can meditate with the dogs snuffling around, but not my human family members. My phone needs to be set for Do Not Disturb. Pinging notifications are too distracting.
Practice. Figuring out what works best for you is an important trick for making meditation easier for ADHD.
Remember, any meditation is better than no meditation. Distracted mediation is better than no meditation. This is ADHD Land. Sometimes meditating is like herding crickets. Just notice it. Don’t stress.
The more you meditate, the sooner you’ll get comfortable with it. And the sooner you begin to notice the focus, calm, and other benefits for ADHD.
Meditation is tricky and it’s worth it. I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Want other tips to help you naturally manage your ADHD?
- Blog: Natural Ways to Help ADHD You’re Probably Missing
- Blog: Plugging Your ADHD Energy Drains
- Kick Some ADHD podcast: Ep. 50: The Power of the Pause