A timeout for our brains

Exercise, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, and medication are all shown to help folks with ADHD function better. Aside from the right medication and sleep, my experience is that creating a mindfulness practice can be a huge game-changer for the person with ADHD. 

I understand that for the typical adult or teenager with ADHD the thought of turning off the constant activity in our heads, for even a moment, can seem impossible. However, I’ve seen it work! I’ve seen many folks better able to control their emotions, turn off negative self-talk and increase self-regulation in many aspects of their lives with regular practice. And when these things are better, increasing exercise, getting more and better sleep and improving nutrition becomes possible.

So, what is mindfulness? The “official” definition is, moment to moment awareness without judgment. That is a pretty tall order considering that most of our time is spent in a thought tornado, thinking and sometimes ruminating about the past and planning and stressing out about the future. 

A more practical view is that mindfulness is a timeout for our brains, the non-stop thought tornado. It is the chance to give ourselves a break, even if only for a nano-second. 

There is a simple (though not easy) tool that we all have with us all the time to create a mindful moment… our breath. 

  • Take a breath. A real breath, one that starts in the belly and works its way up through our lungs. 
  • What were you thinking about in that moment, as you were breathing, as you followed the breath from your belly to your lungs? 

You were probably thinking about breathing. So, in the space of one breath, the tornado calmed down, you came into that moment by moment awareness. Good job!

When I work with clients, often this is where I start – one breath at a time. Practicing mindfulness helps you to develop the ability to come back to the present with more ease. A mindfulness practice can increase in duration over time and with it your ability to disconnect from the thought tornado and come back to the breath.

If you are interested in developing a mindfulness practice I have some suggestions. I am a raving fan of the app Headspace. Their guided meditations teach you meditation techniques, help you build your practice and change every day so they don’t become boring. Also, the book “The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD” by Lidia Zylowska. M.D. has a great overview of ADHD & Mindfulness, including a CD for guided meditations.

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