“Every day brings a choice: to practice
stress or to practice peace.”
— Joan Borysenko
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are looking forward to the holiday season and 2014 with hope and optimism. With as much celebration and fun as this season brings, it can also be an emotionally challenging and otherwise demanding time of year. The holidays present us with increased tasks of shopping and cooking, traveling and visiting, and assorted responsibilities in addition to the ongoing busyness of modern daily life. Sometimes I perceive this as AD/HD on the outside, which is an additional challenge for folks already dealing with AD/HD on the inside.
What may help ?
n addition to organizing tasks, time and space, creating templates and checklists, using timers and visual reminders, establishing other forms of structure in the service of managing multiple tasks and deadlines, and being in close connection with people who share your values, offer support and just plain fun, it is extremely useful to put time and energy into creating an internal environment of resilience and peace. More and more disciplines are coming to recognize the value of mindfulness meditation in doing precisely this. Mindfulness is being taught and its effectiveness researched in schools serving at-risk students, with prison populations, to people suffering PTSD as a result of abuse, being in the armed services and other traumatic life events and circumstances, addicts and others in recovery. Mindfulness is taught and practiced in private businesses, corporations, educational institutions and some sectors of the government. Mindfulness meditation is a tool proven to be of particular value to people dealing with AD/HD, anxiety and depression.
What is mindfulness and how does it work?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a well-known teacher of mindfulness meditation, defines mindfulness as, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” Many studies are now revealing that as we ‘pay attention to our attention’ we have the capacity to actually change our brains and positively affect our physical health and emotional well-being. Particularly pertinent for folks dealing with AD/HD and other executive functioning challenges, mindfulness meditation is a way of training your attention. It enhances one’s ability to self-regulate, manage emotions and develop empathy.
What can you do now?
As those of you with AD/HD, anxiety and depression are aware, paying attention on purpose is a particular challenge. As with learning any new skill, begin simply!
- Set your alarm for a particular five minutes every day.
- Sit upright in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor.
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your attention to one of the places where you experience the sensation of your breath (nostrils, chest, abdomen).
- Focus on this chosen area of the sensation of your breath until the alarm rings.
- Each time you become aware that your mind has wandered, gently and lovingly bring your attention back to your breath.
That’s it. It is simple, but not easy. Your mind will wander. That is okay. The act of being/ becoming aware of this and returning your attention to your breath will yield many rewards as you begin to calm your internal environment.
Have fun with this!
And, as always, I look forward to hearing your experiences with this practice throughout the holiday season and well into the New Year.
May you enjoy a peaceful and joyous holiday season!
The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult AD/HD
By Lidia Zylowska, MD
Fully Present: The Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness
By Susan L. Smalley, PhD and Diana Winston
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life
By Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
By Daniel J. Siegel, MD
By Congressman Tim Ryan
Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence
By Daniel Goleman