5 Ways I've Made Meditation Realistic and Accessible (for my ADHD)

Jan. 23rd 2017

A ton of people have been saying a ton of great things about meditation, for thousands of years, recently, and with reference to mental health. It all sounded great to me, in theory, but I shrugged it off because I have ADHD and I felt my energy was better spent on things that were a more logical fit for my brain type.

As I began to get solid handles on many of my more crippling issues, I decided to give it the good old college try, mostly so I could prove that it was not a good fit for me. This stubborn “you can't tell me how to be happy” streak is one I've seen over and over again in my fellow ADHD brains.

I've never been on a mood-stabilizer, so I don't know what it feels like, but “stabilized mood” literally are the main effects I noticed from my first experiments with regular meditation. It genuinely feels like my mood has fewer sharp spikes, if it were represented by a graph. Although I have heard people talk about medications like mood stabilizers and antidepressants reducing their positive emotions as well, meditation did not do this to me. On the contrary, it has enabled me to engage deeply in the scattered fragments of joy hidden by the dark clouds of irritability, anxiety, and depression.

Here are 5 ways I made meditation accessible and realistic for me.

1. It was for me

Although the strategy I used to begin the experiment was accountability, I decided to meditate for myself, not because someone else told me to. The first time I heard about meditation being helpful for mental health wasn't the right time to start, nor was the second. The time I started was the right time. I wish I'd started a long time ago, but that doesn't matter. I started when I started.

2. Fully accept my thoughts

Instead of fighting my thoughts and being angry at them for interrupting my meditating, I've learned to notice when I'm engaging with them, accept that this is part of meditation, and move on. Two things have particularly helped me to do this:

1. The first is the description of meditation I heard at my ADHD support group. “Think of meditating like a workout for your brain. Each time you bring your focus back to wherever you intend it to be, that's a ‘rep’.” This makes me feel like the thoughts are actually helpful, because they are what allow me to perform that mental ‘rep’.

2. The second thing is keeping the note page of my phone open in my lap. There are some thoughts I don't want to float away forever, so I open my eyes, write the idea down, and go back to meditating. This has been incredibly helpful because I'm not trying to simultaneously focus on my breath and hold on to the ideas I want to remember until I can record them.

Some of my best ideas come to me when I'm meditating and I think this is because I'm open and unfocused, allowing things I'd never think of when I was carrying around my beliefs to emerge.

3. I did it myyyyyyy waaaaaaaaaay...!

I've heard that the “best” form of meditation is silent, with no movement. The study I read (and now cannot locate) show this builds the most grey matter in the brain. Part of me wants to do this, because if I'm going to do it I'd better be getting the maximum benefit possible for my efforts. I know myself well enough to veto this however, because if I don't meditate in the “easiest” and most comfortable way for me, I will stop doing it. Science agrees with me here and says while there are different “degrees” of effectiveness for various methods of meditation, any amount is more beneficial than none. So I recline, feet on my desk, with a specific track of music on, and my focus on my breathing. My way might be "imperfect" but it allows me to be consistent.

4. Fidget

Lately I've been getting super into the fidget to focus method of ADHD management. I've found that a fidget toy is an excellent focus for meditation. It can give something physically tangible to pull my attention back to.

5. Limit interruptions

Once I'm in “the zone”, one of the biggest irritants are interruptions. It took me all this effort to get here and now something else dares to ask for my attention?! I turn my phone to “do not disturb” and my smartwatch on “quiet time” before settling down to meditate. Luckily my only housemate knows I'm meditating and has never interrupted me, but if I were in circumstances where this were not so, I would inform anyone who might need my attention and/or remove myself to a private room.

For more information from an ADHD perspective on meditation, this video.

What would make it easy for you to meditate regularly?