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ADHD Assist
4 min readDec 29, 2022
meditation
Photo by Dorota Dylka on Unsplash

Mindfulness is one of those things, like coffee or cold showers, that feels like it’s constantly being talked about and overhyped.

Is there something to this, though? Are people onto something?

According to a 2010 study from the journal of consciousness and cognition, a mere four days of 20-minute mindfulness sessions was enough to improve sustained attention and many markers of executive function.

If you have ADHD and currently have a pile of laundry in your room, two sinks full of dishes and can’t find your keys, read on, friend.

Here is the TL;DR of the study:

Who was assessed:

  • 49 University of North Carolina students with no prior meditation experience
  • 24 in the meditation group and 25 in the control group

What was the intervention:

Mindfulness group:

  • 20-minute mindfulness training sessions from a trained practitioner for 4 days.
  • The mindfulness training was modelled on Shamantha meditation — a form of meditation practice that builds tranquility and calmness of mind by focusing on the body and breath.
  • Day 1: Small groups of three to five participants were instructed to relax, with their eyes closed, and to simply focus on the flow of their breath occurring at tip of their nose. If a random thought arose, they were told to passively notice and acknowledge the thought and to simply let ‘‘it” go, by bringing the attention back to the sensations of the breath.
  • Day 2–4: Participants worked on developing mindfulness skills. For example, subjects were taught to focus on the full breath, that is, to focus on the sensations of the breath from the nostrils to the abdomen and back. Participants were also taught to notice and focus on any sensations that arose in the body, and to simply acknowledge those feelings and then to return their attention back to their breath.

Control group:

  • 20 minutes of listening to the audiobook version of The Hobbit for 4 days.
  • The story's beginning was played in session 1, and the following sessions (2–4) continued with the story. They were instructed to silence cell phones and any electronics, sit quietly and listen to the audiobook.

What was measured:

Mood:

  • The Profile of Mood States
  • The Freiburg Mindfulness inventory
  • The State Anxiety Inventory
  • Depression Inventory — CES-D

Cognition:

  • The Controlled Oral Word Association Test — a measure of verbal fluency — listing as many words that can be recalled for certain letters
  • The Symbol Digit Modalities Test — a measure of complex visual tracking and working memory that requires decoding of a series of numbers listed on paper according to a corresponding template of visual symbols
  • The forward/backward digit span — is used to measure immediate memory span
  • The computer adaptive n-back task — measures information processing speed, working memory and attention.

What were the results:

What improved for both groups:

  • Mood improved for both groups — authors speculate that The Hobbit may have been a genuine means of mood-boosting as well — so if you just need to boost your mood, The Hobbit audiobook was as effective as mindfulness :)

What improved only in the mindfulness group:

  • Feelings of mindfulness — essentially feeling present and in the moment
  • Cognitive tasks that require sustained attention and executive processing efficiency — Symbol Digit Modalities Test, verbal fluency, and the hit runs on n-back task all significantly improved only in the mindfulness group

Direct quotes from the study:

- “The meditators were able to maintain focus and accurately retrieve information from working memory under conditions that require more rapid stimulus processing.”

- “Brief mindfulness meditation training improved vigilance and the efficiency of higher-order executive processes.”

- “Available evidence suggests that the immediate effects mindfulness meditations are not only associated with improving mood, but also developing deeper cognitive processing skills, specifically enhancing sustained attention.”

This simple 20-minute intervention for only 4 days was able to effectively:

  • Enhance mood
  • Improve sustained attention
  • Improve various cognitive abilities associated with executive function

As someone with ADHD, I was borderline salivating when reading this study.

Free. Simple. Significantly positive results in only 4 days. Yes, please.

If you aren’t ready to hire a mindfulness practitioner yet, that's ok.

If you want to try this out, see the links below for popular mindfulness meditations from YouTube.

All the love.

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ADHD Assist

160K+ followers on TikTok @adhd_assist. Talking shop about ADHD and natural solutions that can help improve our lives.