Home Self-Care Can an ADHD person meditate?

Can an ADHD person meditate?

by Dorsey McFadden

My Journey to Meditation

Yes, it’s possible!

Before I tell you how I did this, I need to explain another part of my journey. Because nothing is as simple as at first it seems.  I longed to meditate, focusing on all the benefits of which people raved. Every single time without fail I couldn’t sit still. I’m sure you know the feeling if you’re ADHD.  

To be able to meditate you need to first develop the ability to stay still for any length of time. In body and mind. I didn’t realize this was a key step toward meditation at the time but hindsight, you know? 

During a low period of my journey I needed to force myself out into the world. After thought and consideration over what I knew about myself I ended up tying a physical desired outcome to a physical commitment. I started to volunteer at a community Yoga program where I live called Project Yoga. This forced me to show up weekly for at least one class – built-in accountability! 

You know how some yoga classes are overcrowded gyms or other yucky mood places?  At Project Yoga the environment is serene, in a way I’d expect a yoga temple to be. They have a room with wooden walls and, for whatever reason, it’s a very good space to cultivate focus. After a particularly enriching class (my body was feeling it) the teacher had us do an extended Shavasana. This is the period at the end of yoga classes where you stay, seated or lying down, still for a short period of time. She wanted us to do 15 minutes! Internally I was like “Yikes, can I do it”. 

Armed with curiosity I chose to enter the experience with an open mind and a willingness to try new things. 

Dorsey

We’d all gotten bolsters and blankets to make us comfy and warm. The teacher was saying gentle and inspiring words throughout the class and it was surprisingly easy to stay still because my muscles were fatigued. All I could do was to try. Saying it and thinking in my mind’s eye. 

Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out.

Yes repetitive but remember the teacher is still talking so your mind is engaged in more than one way. Hearing her words and focusing on the breath.Those were the only two things in my head. 

Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out.

This is reminding me that I need to….I’d started to think of a task I needed to get done….  Now I’m gently recognizing that “I’m human and no one is perfect” and that I’ve stopped focusing on the breath.  Redirect.

Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out.

There’s a name for this. It’s called guided meditation!

I’d done it! So now I realized I had the ability, I just needed to practice. It’s in the practice of trying to stay in that state that all of the health benefits attributed to meditation come from. What I learned in that class helped me on my journey to meditation.

Next came my experimental stage, I tried to put together what I knew about myself with what has worked for other people. There are actually multiple ways to meditate, here’s a list from Newsweek.

I tried to meditate while I did a mundane activity. That didn’t go so well. While walking, I ran into things. While cooking, I burned things. Meditation through coloring books was certainly beneficial but overly stimulating. Nope, none of it worked like that first meditation. I had to set the stage for meditation with less movement so I tried a style of yoga called Vin that featured holding a single position for short periods of time. After that I was able to be still longer because it felt so good to my body. That last experiment ended up being the best because I’d discovered I needed to focus on self-care and make it special enough that I crave it. We’re so prone to addiction after all.

You can do this. Your path may not look like mine but you can still get there. 

Keep trying new ways of meditating until you find how it works for you. 

Approach it with a fail fast attitude. Fail fast to get to success. 

Can an ADHD person meditate? 

Here’s the most important part about meditation – you will do it wrong for a long time.  That’s okay, it’s still working! 

If the goal of meditation is to quiet your mind, how do you do that with a million requests for your attention every minute from the environment external to you and your internally?  All you can do is try. And that’s actually the point of meditation. In trying to meditate we are gaining experience and practice at quieting our minds. 

When you meditate you’ll try to focus on your breath and not think of anything else. If you’re like me, this is when some of my best thoughts come flying at me. That’s okay. The really good ones tend to stick around. When you realize you’re not focusing on breath and thinking about what needs to be done, rest. 

Recognize that you’ve gotten off your meditation mission, and just gently start focusing on the breath and words of the mediation again. Again your mind will stray, but the action of gently redirecting your attention is what matters here. That’s the piece that will help you learn to quiet your mind on demand over time. 

Another trick I use to focus (and I use this for life too) is to repeat what the video says in my head. 

This keeps part of my brain occupied…just don’t forget about the breath. 

The more you practice the quieter you brain can become, and the easier this can be. 

How to Meditate if you have ADHD: 

  1. Draw yourself a warm bath. 
  2. Shut the bathroom door and set the mood! (candles, essential oils)
  3. Put 2 cups of Epsom salt into the tub to dissolve while it fills. Why? We’re all deficient and it’s a very beneficial mineral. Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA. If you aren’t sleeping well or don’t feel well this is where I’d start giving your body some love. Source
  4. Add in essential oils or bath bombs – there are tons of ways to spoil yourself here and making this a special activity will ensure you want to do it again. 
  5. Put your phone or another media device near the tub. 
  6. Find a good guided meditation. See my list below for recommendations. You can find free ones on YouTube or Insight Timer. 
  7. When the tub is full of hot water, sit cross-legged, kneel or lay down in the tub. 
  8. Listen to the meditation, be comfortable. Repeat the words in your head.

I started with Body Scans as my first type of guided meditation which is fantastic in a tub because the temp of the water and the temp of the air makes it so that you really can envision being at one with the energy of the universe. 

I then moved on to meditations that serve some purpose, like decreasing negative-thinking or increasing self-compassion. I think those are the two subjects we ADHD people often need the most. 

Here are some of my favorite YouTube guided meditation videos:

So are you going to give it a try? If you do, please let me know how it goes in the comments below!

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