Recent research offers evidence that meditation may be more effective than medicine in treating ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Dr. Sarina Grosswald, a cognitive learning expert and pioneer in this research, explains that medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall, only temporarily suppress ADHD symptoms while in the bloodstream; yet, a regular meditation practice not only relieves symptoms, it can actually help address the underlying problem, a lack of neural integration.
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Over the last several decades, numerous studies have shown meditation to be an effective means of coping with stress. Dr. Grosswald’s research has shown that ADHD is mainly a stress disorder, inspiring her to study the effects of meditation as a coping mechanism for kids with ADHD.
The participants in the study meditated for 10 minutes twice a day. This seemingly small amount of time had a significant impact. In the pilot study, anxiety levels of participants were reduced by 50 percent. In the full study, participants showed improvement in all five measurements of brain function and processing. Perhaps even more telling is the feedback from the children who participated in the study. They were overwhelmingly grateful to learn the technique and surprised at the degree to which it helped.
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder among children in the US. For the last thirty years, a prescription for psychoactive stimulants has been the main treatment option medical professionals had to offer. As with all medications, these drugs come with a wide array of side effects, including insomnia, anxiety, weight loss and stunted growth. Many of the participants in Grosswald’s study have been able to lower their dosage or stop taking medication after several months of implementing meditation practice.
She is careful to point out that meditation is not a quick fix; a regular practice must be cultivated and maintained for several months to start seeing significant and sustained improvement. However, the two children whose stories she shares immediately liked the practice and how they felt after. “Mom, I love this!" was the reaction of one boy after learning the technique for the first time.
While it takes some time to see results and requires dedication to maintain them, it is possible that meditation could change the lives of kids with ADHD. In addition to the health benefits of reducing or eliminating ADHD medicine, meditation is a life skill that provides tools for dealing with stress throughout a lifetime. The improvement in cognitive function and neural integration could change everything from their performance at school, to their future performance on the job, and even their career choice. That is a big return on a twenty minute a day commitment.
Do you or your child have any experience with the effects of meditation on ADHD?