Written by Tara Boustany on:

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. They find it extremely challenging to concentrate and keep still.

They also often make unexpected decisions or spontaneous actions. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, it affects how the brain develops.

The usual treatments include medication and therapy. But, they are not the only option. Meditation may also help relieve some of the symptoms. It involves awareness training and having healthy perspectives.

There are many different kinds of meditation. Yet, they all aim to focus on the mind and achieve mental clarity. It is a set of techniques that can have various physical and psychological benefits.

Such practices help calm emotions and experience a stable state. It is being practiced to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Meditation has also been championed to enhance inner peace, perception, and well-being.

Can Meditation Really Help with ADHD?

Meditation can improve attention, decision-making, working memory, self-control, and mood. It can reduce negative self-talk and bolster self-esteem. This technique can help in rethinking a challenging situation to lessen negative emotions.

Furthermore, it can enhance the ability to switch between tasks. It can improve the organization of complex thought processes. Meditation has also been found out to thicken the prefrontal cortex. This brain part is responsible for focus, planning, and impulse control.

The following studies have looked into the benefits of meditation:

A 2021 paper reported the influence of mindfulness-based intervention. This technique involves paying close attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations. It entails being present in the moment and being more accepting. Mindfulness-based interventions aim to develop greater awareness. They are being used to foster psychological well-being.

The research participants with ADHD showed significant post-treatment improvements following the practice. It is interesting to note that the ADHD symptoms lessened even at follow-ups. The research participants also benefited by having better well-being.

A 2017 study  was also on mindfulness meditation training for ADHD in adulthood. The researchers found out that the practice helps regulate emotions and relieve ADHD symptoms.

Mindfulness helps in strengthening the ability to self-observe. It is beneficial in training attention and in responding to stressful situations.

A related research evaluated the behavioral and cognitive impacts of mindfulness-based interventions. The systematic review involved a combined total of 753 participants. It found that mindfulness-based interventions including meditation reduced ADHD-associated behaviors.

Mindfulness can help develop inner skills. It can foster the ability to control focus and the sensitivity to observe oneself. For instance, an individual with ADHD may become less impulsive by being more aware of his emotional state.

A similar paper measured the effect of mindfulness meditation among adults with ADHD. The research participants underwent eight weeks of mindful awareness practices.

The results showed that the adults had better affective ratings. They had higher levels of quality of life and attentional performance. Mindfulness meditation was also able to lessen depression and anxiety symptoms.

Moreover, a review delved into studies on mindfulness meditation for the treatment of ADHD. The programs were able to address attentional problems. They increased mindful awareness and decreased externalizing and internalizing problems.

They were able to lessen impaired social behavior and reduced cognition. Also, mindfulness meditation improved their executive functioning and self-control.

A 2019 study showed the benefits of focused attention meditation (FAM). Meditators who practice FAM learn to maintain attention and focus while having distractions. This meditation style can strengthen the brain areas for attention, error correction, and motor control.

Also, FAM can increase dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; it is a chemical messenger between neurons. It is responsible for executive functioning, memory, and focus. It is also involved in mood, emotions, sleep, and stress response among others.

A 2016 study looked into mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and the adult ADHD brain. The researchers suggested that mindfulness meditation could help regulate impaired brain functioning.

This mental training can improve attention control and emotion regulation. It strengthens the function of brain regions which underlie neuropsychological deficits in ADHD. Healthy psychological functioning seems to depend on neuronal networks’ coordinated functioning.

A 2014 paper discussed the positive impacts of nondirective meditation. This kind of meditation permits mind wandering. This means that the individual does not need to focus on a particular object. The researchers concluded that nondirective meditation activates pertinent brain parts.

There was a stimulation of the areas associated with episodic memories and emotional processing. It yields more extensive brain activation than concentrative practicing or regular rest. This is a helpful mental exercise for improving attention, memory, and decision-making.

Can Meditation Help Kids with ADHD?

Meditation can be incorporated into home and classroom activities. Unlike medications, mindfulness, yoga, and other related practices have no harmful side effects. They can also be at no cost if parents or teachers are educated or trained.

Several studies have looked into the effect of meditation on ADHD symptoms:

A systematic review and meta-analysis looked into meditation-based therapies. It included research across different age groups with ADHD.

The researchers concluded that meditation is helpful in reducing symptoms. The children and teens manifested less hyperactivity and had better impulse control.

Another study found that an eight-week yoga program improved cognitive functions. The children (ages 8 to 12) with ADHD showed more sustained attention and discrimination function. The group which underwent yoga intervention had better reaction time and response accuracy.

A related study on the influence of yoga cited anecdotal evidence. One mother reported the benefits of “staircase breathing” (deeply inhaling and exhaling in spurts through the nose).

She insisted on using the practice when her son exhibited symptoms. Particularly when he became more restless, hyperactive, and impulsive. She also observed that he showed more restless behavior in the car on the way home when he did not practice the relaxation technique in yoga class.

Another mother said that her son could better cope with more than one instruction. Her son also exhibited improved memory after the yoga intervention. Furthermore, one boy with ADHD reported that the relaxation technique helped him sleep.

Findings suggest that mindfulness training may benefit attention and decrease ADHD symptoms. Primary school children (ages 7 to 8) underwent mindfulness training thrice a week for eight weeks. The post-test revealed that the children had better attention and fewer internalizing issues.

There is a similar study on children with ADHD (aged 7 to 11). It was on the clinical application of mindfulness-oriented meditation (MOM). This kind of meditation is self-regulatory training for behavioral and attention problems.

The researchers suggested that MOM training is a promising intervention. It may be beneficial for cognitive and clinical ADHD manifestations.

One study assessed the influence of mindfulness training for 8-year-old boys with ADHD. The intervention was facilitated in a school setting. There were four participants in the multiple baseline research.

The children showed greater on-task behavior after the mindfulness training. Their teachers and parents have also observed that they became less hyperactive.

A study on adolescents found that meditation can reduce impulsivity and aggression. In the experiment, a mindfulness program was administered for 10 weeks. The sessions were for 1 hour and 30 minutes per week and the teens practiced daily for 30 minutes.

The results showed that their academic performance and self-concept improved. Moreover, their anxiety levels decreased. The paper suggested that meditation can control repetitive and chaotic thoughts. Hence, it can improve cognitive abilities as well as personal balance.

A related study on adolescents with ADHD reported the potential benefits of Tai Chi. The participants practiced Tai Chi for five weeks. They then showed a decrease in anxiety, daydreaming, and inappropriate emotions. They also exhibited a decrease in hyperactivity and inappropriate conduct.

In addition, the research participants still exhibited improvements at the two-week post-intervention post-test. The researchers hypothesized that the positive effects may also be due to the lower levels of stress.

Studies on a child and parent mindfulness program showed self-reported improvements. The participants reported a decrease in attention problems and externalizing behaviors. The adolescent participants also reported enhancements on their personal goals and happiness.

Moreover, the parents observed improvements in self-control at post-treatment. This was also evident at the eight-week follow-up.

How Do You Meditate with ADHD?

It may be difficult for some people with ADHD to imagine themselves meditating. Since they have been experiencing racing thoughts as well as movements, it may be unthinkable for them to sit down in a lotus position for 30 minutes.

There are many kinds of meditation. If what you have tried is not your cup of tea, try something else. Here are some tips:

Humble Beginnings: One-Minute Meditations

Try to start with one-minute meditations. Though it is usually a good idea to have 15 minutes of meditation, 60 seconds can also be helpful. You may set a 60-second timer on your phone while standing or sitting still.

With eyes closed, take a deep breath in and out. Do this while scanning your body from your toes to the top of your head and back again. Listen to your breath as it goes in and out. Be more aware and feel it as it fills and leaves your lungs. You may also listen to one-minute audio meditations.

Some prefer those which feature relaxing sounds like ambient music and ocean sounds. You can know more about one-minute meditations here.

You Do Not Have to Sit Still

Meditation is not always sitting in a lotus pose. The following are some of the options:

Qigong

It is an ancient Chinese practice that has slow and flowing movements. It focuses on calming the mind and maintaining steady breathing.

Tai Chi

Considered by many as a type of Qigong, this martial art involves gentle movements. It aims to achieve mental clarity and spiritual balance. You may be able to focus your thoughts as you move with intention.

Yoga

Yoga improves flexibility and is great for working up a sweat. It also aims to achieve relaxation and focus. It clears your mind while you are moving through the different poses.

Walking Meditation/ Mindfulness Walking

This practice is simply being in the moment while walking. You become more aware of each step and breath. This can be practiced anywhere like in the mall or in the parking lot.

Get Crafty or Clean Your House

Decluttering can be therapeutic. When you incorporate mindfulness into your cleaning, the usual chore can actually be a form of meditation. Similarly, busying your hands with crafts can be calming.

For instance, the repetitive motion involved in knitting can bring on a state of calm. In a study, patients with anxious preoccupation reported that knitting had a calming and therapeutic effect. Seventy-four percent of the research participants experienced mental clarity.

Try Guided Meditation

If you are a newbie, guided meditation is a good place to start. This form of meditation helps in directing your thoughts. It may be done under the guidance of a teacher or a trained practitioner. You may personally grab a guide or check many free sources on the web.

It Does Not Need to be in Silence

You can meditate with music as your focus. Individuals with ADHD can reap benefits by simply practicing breathing to the melody of an instrumental music. They can mindfully inhale and exhale according to a song.

Download a Meditation App

Meditation apps have been trending. One of their useful functions is to remind you to sit down and meditate. Many people set the intention to meditate but it is usually a challenge to remember it and make it happen. With apps’ friendly notifications, people with ADHD can be nudged to take some minutes to center themselves.

Just Let Your Mind Wander

The mind is a thinking machine. When you notice that your mind is starting to wander, just accept it and return your attention to your breath.

Do not judge yourself and allow your mind to have more time to practice as you bring your focus back to your inhale and exhale. It is normal to frequently experience drifting attention at first. A racing brain can surely be trained to achieve peace.

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