Best Meditation Strategies for People with ADHD

Shot of two young women meditating at home

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If you have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you may struggle sitting still, paying attention, completing tasks, managing your time effectively, or handling stress.

There's no cure for ADHD, but you can manage your symptoms with medications, therapies, and other mental health treatments like meditation.

“The primary goal of meditation is to sit with one's thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment,” says Billy Roberts, LISW-S, a therapist at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling. “It's about both the awareness of awareness and the ability to be nonjudgemental with yourself.”

Battling ADHD isn’t easy, especially when your symptoms impact productivity, food habits, sleep, motivation, mood, behavior, relationships, or success rates in school, work, or social activities.

When you experience these issues daily, you may feel anxious, depressed, or unhappy. Meditation can help. Not only is it free and easy to implement into your day, but it has proven to be scientifically effective and requires minimal effort for optimal gains. 

Try Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are frequently used to help minimize stress, treat anxiety and depression, and improve overall physical health and well-being. Some of the most commonly used therapies include mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness meditation

For people with ADHD, mindfulness meditation offers many benefits. It has been shown to improve the mood, attention, and quality of life for adults with ADHD. It can also increase children's performance on all executive functioning tasks, such as paying attention, organizing, self-monitoring, and regulating emotions.

“Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on an ‘anchor’ such as the breath and returning to that anchor every time your mind wanders away,” says Melissa Shepard, MD, a psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins.

Melissa Shepard, MD

This constant return to the present moment strengthens your attention muscle[s], which can be really helpful for controlling ADHD symptoms.

— Melissa Shepard, MD

The skills learned during mindfulness meditation can be taken anywhere. For example, you can practice mindfulness when taking a walk, washing dishes, or spending time with a loved one.

When you become attuned to your thoughts, emotions, and surroundings, you can be more intentional and keep yourself in the present moment, which will make it easier to stay on task, pay attention, and control your emotions in high-stress situations.

Meditation Strategies

Anyone can meditate at any time. It’s an easy-to-access tool, which can help you understand yourself and the world around you, but meditating effectively requires concentration and this may be challenging if you have ADHD. 

Here are some strategies to get started or improve your practice:

  • Find a comfortable place. Sit down. Keep your back straight and your face forward. Notice the tension in your body. Make sure you’re relaxed, but not too relaxed. You don’t want to be laying down or slouching. It can help to choose a comfortable chair or cross your legs on the ground. As you breathe in, focus on your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You may want to close your eyes, to eliminate visual distractions, but it’s not required.
  • Keep your mind open. As you practice, your thoughts will likely wander. This is completely normal. Maybe you’re thinking about your dinner and then suddenly you’re thinking about pasta and how it's made or maybe your mind has wandered over to Reddit and now you’re thinking about dog videos. Once you realize this, make note of the thought trail, and simply return slowly back to your breath. It can help to choose a mantra. You can remind yourself to “breathe in” and “breathe out,” or “be calm.”
  • Give yourself grace. Throughout your session, you may feel a strong urge to move, stretch, itch, or count the lines in your blinds. This happens. Instead of abandoning the session or the practice, be kind to yourself. Scratch the itch and return. Understand that you can’t make mistakes while meditating; you can only learn. Even if you follow your thoughts down a wandering path or leave the session before the time ends, keep with it. 

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can feel uncomfortable at first. As you continue with your practice, try out different techniques, such as walking meditation or Zen meditation, to figure out what works best for you. The more you practice, the more benefits you’ll experience.

Tips for Building a Sustainable Practice

Meditation can help slow down your thoughts, calm your mind, and increase your self-awareness, but it’s a skill that needs to be practiced. 

“Meditation can be a powerful tool for increasing your ability to control your attention and regulate your emotions and impulses,” says Dr. Shepard. 

If you’re just beginning or looking to improve your meditation practice, try implementing the following tips:

  • Start slow. Set a goal of just three minutes per day. This may feel like a long time in the beginning. Your mind will probably wander. This is OK and normal. The goal is not to clear your mind, relax, or keep your thoughts still. The goal is to simply observe your mind and bring it back to your anchor whenever you notice it wandering, says Dr. Shepard. 
  • Use a meditation app. These can help guide you through the basics of meditation, says Roberts. And there are many options out there, from Calm to Headspace. Each one offers a wide range of resources for beginners and experts, as well as additional benefits like community groups or targeted meditations.
  • Add meditation to your daily to-do list. Habits are hard to form, but if you tie meditation to a pre-existing habit, it’ll be easier to remember and integrate into your day. Dr. Shepard suggests doing meditation before brushing your teeth or after finishing a workout. Set reminders in your calendar and, if possible, find a dedicated place to meditate, such as your back porch, living room, or car. 
  • Find an accountability partner. Doing meditation with another person can help individuals with ADHD stay focused, says Dr. Shepard. You can join a guided group session or meet a friend on Zoom for a set amount of time. Even if your mind wanders during the sessions, accountability can help you establish a routine practice.

“No habit is formed easily, so starting small and building upwards is key to success,” says Roberts. “Even a minute or two a day goes a long way to train the brain to use its observing and non-judgemental mind.”

A Word From Verywell

Building a daily meditation practice can help you manage symptoms, but meditation should not replace your current medication or therapy sessions. If you’d like to make changes to your treatment plan, schedule an appointment with your physician. 

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2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bigelow H, Gottlieb MD, Ogrodnik M, Graham JD, Fenesi B. The differential impact of acute exercise and mindfulness meditation on executive functioning and psycho-emotional well-being in children and youth with adhd. Front Psychol. 2021;0.