There’s a standard list of lifestyle changes that get suggested for people with ADHD. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, keeping a healthy diet. And trying meditation.
These are, without a doubt, all excellent things to do. They’ll improve your mental health, which will make it easier to cope with ADHD.
But are they ADHD treatments specifically? In other words, do they have an effect on ADHD beyond the generally good effect on mental health that they have for almost everyone?
That question is a little more complicated. It’s especially complicated in the case of meditation because, unlike the other lifestyle habits I mentioned, meditation isn’t based on a biological necessity. You know that if you don’t sleep you’re going to be in trouble, but if you’re not meditating, are you missing out on much?
A lot of studies have gone into trying to answer that question. In a recent project, researchers on three continents decided to review those studies, with an eye toward the question: is there evidence that meditation helps with ADHD?
The answer turns out to be: yes, kind of. Compiling studies on the topic, the researchers found there was evidence that meditation improved core ADHD symptoms.
That said, the researchers found limited evidence that meditation improved cognitive performance in adults with ADHD, and no evidence that it did so in teenagers and children. Moreover, many of the studies reviewed were determined to be at high risk of bias.
Taken as a whole, then, the research on this topic suggests that meditation is potentially helpful in improving ADHD symptoms. However, there’s certainly no overwhelming evidence that meditation has effects on ADHD above and beyond the beneficial effects it potentially has for everyone, and meditation shouldn’t be considered a cure-all for ADHD symptoms.
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until the last scientific word is in before trying out new coping strategies. Many people with ADHD do report that meditating has improved their lives.
So the best approach is to try it, and if you find it helpful, keep doing it! Just don’t go into it with the expectation that it will fix everything. The evidence we have so far suggests that meditation is potentially a useful tool in coping with ADHD, but it’s definitely not the whole toolbox.
Image: Flickr/David Leo Veksler