February 12, 2018

Mindfulness for those of us with the Attention Span of a Pea.

“You should really try meditating.”

“Mindfulness will totally transform your life!”

“Ever since I started meditating regularly, I’m so much more productive at work.”

Most of us have heard of the benefits that come from meditation, like being more emotionally regulated, less reactive, and more focused.

But for those of us who have brain differences like ADHD, the idea of meditating can be overwhelming, and the process uncomfortable. But the good news is that we don’t have to join an ashram, attend week-long silent retreats, or even meditate for 20 minutes to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.

If every time you sit down to meditate, your brain explodes like a scurry of starving squirrels clamoring for a single acorn, these tips are for you.

Try bite-sized mindfulness breaks. Every minute you’re meditating counts—even if it’s just a few. When ten or even five minutes feels overwhelming, it’s okay to set our timer for one or two minutes instead. Or even thirty seconds. Adding in micro-habits helps us flex our focus muscles. No matter how busy our lives are, we all can squeeze in a minute or two, and those minutes totally count.

Use structured meditations. Especially as we’re just beginning to incorporate mindfulness into our lives, we might need more support than just plopping down and trying to “quiet our minds.” It can be helpful to use structured meditations instead of trying to do it on our own. I like the free Insight Timer app, and UCLA’s free meditations are good too.

Try Post-it notes. Starting new habits can be challenging, especially for those of us with ADHD or generally overactive, overcrowded minds. Creating reminders for ourselves can help us be more successful. Placing Post-it notes on places we frequent, like a laptop, the dashboard of our car, or our bathroom mirrors can serve as gentle reminders. Even just a simple note that says “breathe” can help us become more mindful.

Stoplight meditation. Designating certain activities as meditation breaks, like brushing our teeth or sitting at a stoplight, can be a great way to incorporate mindfulness, and they also help sass up tasks that might usually be super boring. Instead of glaring at the light waiting for it to change, I’ll remind myself that a red light means time to take a few deep breaths, or to just stop and focus on my senses: what do I hear, smell, or feel at this moment? Am I cold or warm? Why am I hearing so much honking? Seriously though, when we boil it down, mindfulness is simply the act of paying attention to the moment we’re in.

Remember: just because you have an active mind doesn’t mean you suck at meditation. The human mind is wired to be busy. When I first started, I was convinced that I was the worst at meditation. My mind leapt from topic to topic like a methed-up spider monkey—I couldn’t possibly ever get to that blank space of ease or enlightenment that I was sure every other meditator achieved on the regular. But after hearing different meditation and yoga teachers talk about how the purpose isn’t to transform our minds into a blank canvas, but rather to become a witness to the way our brains work, I started to understand that it wasn’t just me. The human brain is a busy place—perhaps more so for those of us with anxious, artistic, ADHD brains.

Meditation still isn’t easy for me, but I know it helps interrupt the crazy that often erupts inside my busy brain—even if I only take baby steps.


Author: Lynn Shattuck
Image: Hernán Piñera/Flickr 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Callie Rushton

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