What is Mindfulness?
The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School defines it as “the intention to pay attention to each and every moment of our life, non-judgmentally.” While mindfulness can be defined in different ways, “the key aspects of any definition of mindfulness involve purposeful action, focused attention, grounded in the current experience, and held with a sense of curiosity.”
As psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman reported in the New York Times in 2014, a “growing stream of research” suggests that mindfulness exercises may help adults cope with ADD. Goleman notes that interest in mindfulness and its potential effect on ADD symptoms increased amid “disenchantment” with ADD medication. According to psychologist and researcher James M. Swanson, ADD medications do not have long-term, lasting benefits, “but mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in ADHD. That’s why mindfulness might be so important. It seems to get at the causes.”
Several studies support this claim:
- A paper published in 2016, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy and the Adult ADHD Brain, argues that mindfulness meditation could help adults with ADHD regulate brain function and reduce their AD/HD symptoms.
- A report on meditation-based training for ADD published in 2008 noted that “meditation-based training has produced lasting changes in brain and cognitive functions” and that research on this technique and its effects “suggests that meditation may enhance certain attentional capabilities.”
- A small pilot study published in 2013 that aimed to “assess the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of mindfulness meditation” for adult ADD found that self-reported ADD and executive function symptoms, as well as clinician ratings of these symptoms, improved for adults with ADD who participated in an eight week meditation program.
- Another study published in 2013 noted that ADD is “associated with behavioral deficits, hypo-activation and cortical thinning of similar networks,” but meditation-based training is “associated with attention improvement, increased activation and cortical thickening of attention/executive-related brain areas.”
Yoga incorporates meditation techniques along with physical postures and breathing exercises. A limited number of small studies have found that practicing yoga is also “an effective complementary or concomitant treatment” for ADD. For example, a recent study of an intervention that introduced yoga as a complementary therapy for children with moderate to severe ADD reported that yoga has been shown “to improve several physiological functions and improve cognitive domains such as executive functions, attention, intelligence, memory and concentration.”