In my article about parenting ADHD children while you have ADHD, I touched on mindfulness playing a role in preventing and mitigating conflict.
What is mindfulness? How is it related to ADHD?
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being present. It’s about being aware of what’s happening around us at this exact moment, without judgement: how things are, not how we want them to be.
By regularly practicing mindfulness, we develop patience and we learn to separate our reactions from our selves. When we observe our emotions without judgement, we no longer see them as good or bad, just as existing.
How is mindfulness related to ADHD?
One hallmark of ADHD is difficulty regulating emotion. That means people with ADHD get easily frustrated, and that frustration can easily evolve into anger.
Other common ADHD qualities are forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, and impulsivity. These qualities can lead us to forget things, procrastinate things, and do things that annoy others, causing them to lash out at us.
When these things build on each other, they can increase our stress levels. Add that stress to the anger I mentioned before, and you have a recipe for an emotional explosion.
Mindfulness can help mitigate factors that contribute to such outbursts. When we take time to be aware of our experiences, we can address some of the qualities of ADHD that create struggle for us.
For example, when we are aware and present as we unload the children from the van—rather than be in a rush—we may be less likely to leave the van unlocked.
When we are aware and present as we are driving, we may be more likely to focus on our surroundings (using ADHD to our advantage) rather than daydreaming.
When we are aware and present as impulses emerge, we can pause and consider the effect our impulses may have on others (or our future) rather than letting the impulses overtake us.
When we are aware and present in situations that annoy or frustrate us, we can acknowledge our emotions rather than let them build up or get out of control. We can ask ourselves why the situation causes anger within us rather than just letting the anger occur. And being aware of the root causes of our anger may help us address the root causes. It may even help us choose which emotions we let grow.
How do we practice mindfulness?
Before we can separate our emotions from ourselves, we must become familiar with experiencing our circumstances objectively. Mindfulness is something that comes with practice.
So, how do we practise mindfulness?
The Foundation for a Mindful Society has a handy 5-step process you can keep in mind as your practice your mindfulness:
- Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
- Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.
- Let your judgements roll by. When we notice judgements arising during our practice, we mentally note them and let them pass.
- Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up; just practice recognizing when your mind wanders off and gently bringing it back.
As the list indicates, the point of mindfulness isn’t to clear our mind or achieve Zen. It’s about separating ourselves from our experiences, so we can observe those experiences objectively. That objectivity is the critical element we’re trying to nurture; it’s what will help us be aware, to help us remember, to help us complete tasks, to help us reign in our impulses, to help us control our anger.
To help us use our ADHD to our advantage.