Mindfulness Meditation for Attention Deficit Disorder

What if a single mental ability could predict success both in school and in work life? Researchers have found that cognitive control, the capacity to maintain focus on an important choice while ignoring other impulses, has such potential.

Poor planning, wandering attention and trouble inhibiting impulses all point to lapses in this ability. They also describe symptoms associated with attention deficit disorder.

Then what if, instead of medication, the current first-line of treatment for attention deficit disorder, there were exercises that could strengthen this ability?

According to James M. Swanson, an author in a large study published last year in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking A.D.H.D. medications.” He goes on to say that exercises in mindfulness seem to be training the areas of the brain that have reduced activity in Attention Deficit Disorder—getting to the cause.

Research is being conducted to test mindfulness as a way of strengthening the ability to suppress distractions. Mindfulness seems to strengthen brain circuitry for sustaining attention, an indicator of cognitive control.

Meditation is a cognitive control exercise that enhances “the ability to self-regulate your internal distractions,” said Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. In mindfulness meditation, people learn to monitor their thoughts, to notice that their attention has wandered, and without judging or reacting, to renew their concentration.

In a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers used functional MRI imaging to view the brains of meditators while they went through four basic mental movements: choosing a target and focusing on it, recognizing that their minds had wandered, refocusing on the target, and maintaining their focus on the target. The movements appeared to strengthen the neural circuitry for keeping attention on a chosen target of focus.

According to a 2014 article in Clinical Neurophysiology, adults with A.D.D. showed improvements in mental performance as good as those shown by subjects taking medications, through mindfulness training combined with cognitive therapy. Both the impulsive errors and self-judgment about making mistakes and being distracted decreased through this combination of therapies.

Here at Brownback, Mason & Associates, we teach mindfulness techniques and have many tools to aid with training. One major tool that we use in our practice to enhance meditation and to increase attention and focus is heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback. Our clients use Em-wave and Inner Balance technology to measure beat to beat changes in heart rate and to learn to recognize when the heart and brain are coherent. By increasing this coherence between emotions and heart rhythm, the alignment of emotions, mind, body and spirit is heightened. This makes it easier to focus and block out the busyness and stress in the world and is a great facilitator to meditation practices.

Source: Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits posted by Daniel Goleman on May 12, 2014


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