We discuss mindfulness for ADHD, anxiety, and cognitive function. Learn why and how to apply mindfulness to enable you to increase your understanding of habitual reactions to challenging situations and create the possibility of choosing to respond in more effective ways. This is available in video, audio and text format.
Do you prefer and audio format? Click here and listen to our extended podcast version.
Do you ever go through your day and find that you can’t remember certain things?
For instance, do you wonder whether you have turned off the stove, locked the door, or taken care of some other necessary part of your day?
Perhaps you find yourself in the middle of a conversation with someone (or at least that’s what you’re supposed to be doing!), and at the end of the conversation, you realize that you haven’t heard one word the other person was saying.
This tendency is related to something called mindfulness.
The Centre for Mindfulness Studies explains that mindfulness is a non-judgmental way of paying attention in the present moment. It enables us to increase our understanding of our habitual reactions to challenging situations and creates the possibility of choosing to respond in more effective ways.
The simplest way to think of mindfulness is that it refers to paying attention to what is happening in the present moment.
As an anxiety sufferer, at times you’ll likely find yourself so immersed in your thoughts that you are likely not paying attention to the present moment. The relationship between the lack of mindfulness and anxiety works like this. Your anxious thoughts can sort of run on auto-pilot at the expense of your not attending to other things…interestingly, paying attention to these things can break the flow of anxious thoughts if you were to attend to them.
Learning this concept can allow you to avoid missing out on all the great things that the present moment has to offer. Better yet, you can do so in two simple steps:
- by choosing to focus your attention on the present moment and really making a commitment in this regard, and
- bringing your attention back to the moment when it begins to drift.
You might be wondering what does the evidence says about mindfulness?
Authors of a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology conducted a literature search of 39 studies totaling 1,140 participants.
The participants were receiving mindfulness-based therapy for a range of conditions, including cancer, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and other psychiatric or medical conditions.
The authors concluded: “These results suggest that mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations.”
Dr. Daniel Goleman, in his video on Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfilment discusses the power of mindfulness, which he refers to as cognitive control. In particular, Dr. Goleman discussed a longitudinal study in New Zealand that looked at Cognitive Control.
The results of the study revealed that:
“Cognitive control was as a better predictor of financial success and health later in life than the subjects’ IQ or socioeconomic status of the family.”
The researchers in charge of the study argued we should be teaching cognitive control skills to children in order to level the playing field.
Dr. Goleman also discusses research from Dr. Richard Davidson, a renowned neuroscientist. When we are agitated, there is a lot of activity in the right side of the brain and the amygdala, the triage point for fight or light response related to anxiety.
When we are in a positive state, there is a lot of activity in the left side and no activity in the right.
Dr. Davidson paired up with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in order to address chronic conditions in the workplace. Researchers were hired by a company to teach their employees mindfulness. When taught mindfulness over a period of 8 weeks, researchers found that employees’ brains were tilting to the left and they were once again remembering what they loved about their job. Recognizing its benefits, more businesses are bringing mindfulness training into the workplace.
These are pretty powerful findings and indications about the benefits of mindfulness.
Dr. Goleman, indicates that attention is like a muscle, and we have to exercise it in order to improve it, just like going to the gym to exercise your muscles. Attention can be strengthened by practicing the 2 steps we shared earlier in the video on a regular basis.
Dr. Goleman stresses that if you find that your mind is somewhere else bring it back again and gently restart. The key is not to prevent your mind from wandering, but to notice when it wanders, and simply bring it back again. That’s what strengthens the connectivity in the attention circuitry of our brain, and this will allow you to strengthen your attention over time and manage it at will.
In summary, by practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, we can help our anxiety. And, we can also improve our cognitive control by exercising our attention to focus on one thing, and then bringing our attention back when it wanders. Remember, the implications of the research findings: developing a new habit in this practice can increase our chances of success and health more than IQ or our family’s status related to income, education and occupation. Mindfulness is a great technique to keep in mind for many children and students who are getting back to school this time of year.
Reference / Further Reading
The Centre for Mindfulness Studies. MBCT: coping with anxiety/depression
Retrieved February 9, 2013, from:
Goldman, D. [iqsquared]. (2013, November 2 Daniel Goleman on Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfilment. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTfYv3IEOqM