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The benefits of mindfulness training for people with ADHD

5 April 2019 | Mindfulness Courses ,

Ever wondered if there’s a training that helps you focus better? Interested in better managing stress and feeling more emotionally balanced?

Life can certainly be challenging, especially if you have attentional difficulties or ADHD.

Take Alex’s experience:

“I just had my review and my boss told me I’m great to have in the team, I’m intelligent, I get on well with everyone, I’m good at what I do, but I just need to focus and get the job done!

I know I can do many things but I so often get overwhelmed, especially if there’s a lot of details or it’s work that’s boring or repetitive. I feel like I’m constantly behind.

“Just focus!” they say ……if only it were that easy!! I feel so weighed down at times and paralysed by indecision about what’s most important or where to start. I can spend ages on small details and constantly jump around from one thing to another. I often put in extra hours but I’m still behind. The same thing happens at home. I just can’t seem to get the balance right between what I need to do for work and keep my family and friends happy. I so much want to please everyone and do well but constantly feel bad and “not good enough”. 

We all know what it’s like for our attention to be pulled in different directions by incoming phone messages, notifications and emails, multitasking, and demands from work, study and home. It can seem as if we live in an “ADD world” that’s almost guaranteed to interfere with our concentration. 

How frustrating then to constantly live with attentional difficulties – both distractibility and hyper-focus, and other symptoms such as difficulties with time management and prioritisation, restlessness, impulsivity, and intense emotions. It’s easy to see how these difficulties can set off a cascade of secondary problems – people being upset with you because you forgot or didn’t finish something, problems with relationships when this occurs repeatedly, leading to feelings of shame and poor self-worth. It’s not surprising that anxiety and/or depression can also result. 

So, what training improves focus and attentional ability as well as emotional regulation?

Mindfulness Training

Mindfulness training has been clearly shown to strengthen attentional ability and control, and improve self-regulation. An enormous amount of research over the last 30-plus years shows this to be true for the general adult population. It is also used successfully to help people with chronic pain, stress, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and addictions. 

Mindfulness training also shows great promise to assist people with attentional difficulties or ADHD. In fact, since difficulties with attention and self-regulation are core features of ADHD, it may be that people with ADHD stand to benefit even more from this training. 

Mindfulness training for adults with ADHD

Openground is now offering an 8-week course Mindfulness training for adults with ADHD.

The course is based on Lydia Zylowska’s program described in her book The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD.

In 2004 Dr Zylowska developed a program specifically for adults with ADHD based on the gold-standard Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) courses. 

The program was designed to be more user-friendly and engaging for people who have difficulties with attention or ADHD. Some differences are shorter meditation practices, alternatives to sitting meditations and greater emphasis on mindful awareness in daily activities. 

What’s the evidence?

Initial studies reported by Zylowska found that 8 weeks of training produced significant positive differences in how participants felt about their ADHD symptoms and their well-being. The majority reported decreased ADHD symptoms and less stress, anxiety and depression. Most also achieved better results in tests of attention, memory and reasoning. Other studies and anecdotal reports also support these findings. 

Increasingly clinicians are recommending some form of mindfulness training to their clients with ADHD. The program can be used alongside prescribed medications for ADHD and is also compatible with other treatment approaches including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. 

As far as we’re aware Openground offers the only current publicly available Mindfulness Training for Adults with ADHD program in Australia. We’re hugely looking forward to teaching this program in term 2.  

Linda Surplice and Maria Gray