Kids Who Practice Mindfulness Less Likely to Exhibit ADHD Behavior
Even kids deal with stress, and its effects have a tendency to be shown in their behavior. Children with ADHD face even greater behavior challenges in the face of stress, but mindfulness training can help kids direct their thoughts and make positive choices.
The practice of mindfulness emphasizes self-awareness of both a person’s thoughts and surroundings. During a mindfulness exercise, the focus should be on the present moment and a non-judgmental understanding of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness training teaches participants to pay careful attention to their breathing, while deliberately increasing their awareness of the sensations around them. Although mindfulness is related to the Buddhist tradition of meditation, it can be practiced without religious ties.
People of all ages, including children, can benefit from mindfulness practice. It has been shown bolster the immune system, increase kind behaviors, improve brain function and protect against depression. Particularly in children, especially those with ADHD, mindfulness is beneficial in the following ways:
Mindfulness relaxes the body. Heart and breathing rates slow down when children focus on the breaths that they are taking. With a relaxed body, children are better able to focus in school and at other tasks.
Mindfulness boosts self esteem. In focused breathing, children learn to separate their identity from their thoughts. They learn that they don’t have to be controlled by their negative thoughts and that they possess the strength to regulate their emotions.
Mindfulness reduces stress. In a study from Stanford University, fourth, fifth and sixth graders participated in eight weeks of mindfulness training. By the end of the study, not only were their anxiety levels lower, but they were also more skilled at navigating daily stress. They made better behavior choices and possessed a greater ability to keep their emotions in check.
Mindfulness soothes emotions. Through mindfulness, children can learn to find a quiet place within themselves. Mindfulness coach and holistic physician, Dr. Amy Saltzman, teaches participants to breathe in and breathe out and to focus on the space between the breaths. She describes this still pause as a quiet place that children carry with them and can turn to, no matter how they are feeling. Children learn to turn to this quiet place in times of heightened emotion, rather than to act out with excessive activity, anger or out-of-control behavior.
Mindfulness training may also be beneficial for parents. In one study, parents noted that ADHD symptoms decreased in both themselves and their children after both they and their kids participated in eight weeks of mindfulness training. Further studies are required to demonstrate whether the difference was primarily in the children, the parents, or a combination of the two, but the study implies that it certainly couldn’t hurt for both parents and children to pursue mindfulness jointly.