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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Mindfulness and ADHD

by Cheryl Jacobs,

There are many tasks throughout the day that require our attention. Attending to them requires that we self-regulate and maintain focus, especially difficult with ADHD. Research shows that we all have a limited amount of self-regulation resources and with ADHD the supply is even smaller. I like to think of it as a reservoir that requires refilling throughout the day as we continuously drain our supply. When the reservoir is empty, we have difficulty focusing and coping; our will power is deleted. Mindfulness interventions can refill the reservoir. If we take mindful pauses during the day, we can keep the reservoir topped off. Again, a mindfulness practice teaches us the skills to recognize when the reservoir is in need of a refill.

As we practice mindfulness, we experience moments of peace and awareness. We come to know that quiet, calm space is always there and available to us. I like to compare it to an Eskimo who is asked to see himself relaxing under a palm tree sipping a pina colada. He can imagine it but he has not experienced it. We can ask someone to calm down and feel the peace but if they have never experienced it, it is just a picture. Through mindfulness, we actually have moments of calm and peace. Just knowing that it is always there, below the surface, allows us some relief. It also encourages us to continue the practice.

Mindfulness exercises allow you to observe that your mind is always having thoughts. We learn that we do not have to get caught up in each of them. I like to compare it to sitting by the highway and watching the cars go by. You can simply watch them passing by or you can get caught up with them For instance, “Oh, it’s a Jaguar, I always wanted one of those but I hear they’re always in the shop. Hmm.. There’s a Honda, that might be a good choice but I don’t like that color. What color should I get?” You get the idea. You can talk mindfully to your thoughts. “Thank you very much but right now I’m finishing this project; thank you very much but right now I’m in a meeting.” Recently, I had a client comment how amazing this exercise was for him. He said that he had never realized that he didn’t have to pay attention to each and every thought.

Mindfulness allows us to participate and be present in our lives. We learn to savor our experiences as we stop and bring awareness to the moment. I like to reference Carly Simon’s song Anticipation. There are potent words; “I’m going to stay right here ‘cause these are the good old days.” One day we will look back at a moment remembering what it was like but did we truly experience it at the time. It is important that we learn to check in using mindfulness techniques regularly throughout the day to be sure we are truly in the moment and present for the experience.

I especially remember a day this past winter. I went skiing with my son and my grandson for the first time. My grandson was 5 and really getting it was what I had heard. There were several times when I reminded myself to stop and soak in the experience. Not just the skiing, conditions and mountain but also the fact that I was one lucky lady to be here on this day with my son and his son.

As I mentioned earlier, mindfulness teaches us to be curious and kind to ourselves and others. A key to mindfulness is the development of a non-judgmental awareness. We develop the skill to become an impartial observer of our own thoughts. We learn to look for our wins; no matter how big or small. We begin to appreciate and accept ourselves wherever we are in our process.

We appreciate and become curious about the wonder that is us!!

And finally, once again, we learn that there is an internal environment that is calm and peaceful. A resource that is always there beneath the surface that we have experienced and can tap into. We begin to experience moments of clarity when the internal chatter quiets down.

I hope that this piques your interest. Know that your life can be an exciting and meaningful journey and that you can learn ways to be present for it, yourself and the people in it.

Mindfulness Programs are available at the Hallowell Centers.

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