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ADHD Natural Treatment: Meditation

Dr. Dennis Cantwell, former director of UCLA's Child Psychiatry Department, once described the life of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a "headlong rush into life." Since children with ADHD have trouble controlling their attention and keeping their minds focused, they often cause accidents and make poor decisions that lead to serious consequences.  While powerful stimulant medications can give the prefrontal cortex the boost it needs for improved attention, their effects are short-lived and do not correct the underlying cause of the disorder. What children need for long-term ADHD management are mental techniques that will help them control their scattered thoughts and impulses.

One mental technique that has been gaining the attention of ADHD experts is Transcendental Meditation.  This simple, effortless procedure involves training the mind to arrive at the source of all thought – transcendental consciousness or pure consciousness.  During the session, the individual relaxes his or her body so that the mind can settle down into a state of restful alertness.  Once this self-referral state of consciousness has been achieved and sustained, the individual dissolves all accumulated stress while developing latent creative potential.  Transcendental Meditation takes around 15-20 minutes and can be easily done by anyone at any location, even at school!

One pilot study on Transcendental Meditation's effects on children with ADHD involved 10 students aged 11-14 years, who were required to meditate twice a day in school for ten minutes each session.  The researchers specifically chose Transcendental Meditation because it can be easily taught to children with ADHD. Unlike other meditation techniques, Transcendental Meditation does not involve controlling the mind or re-directing attention.  Instead, the child uses a mantra – a word or series of words – in order to bring his or her mind into a state of restful alertness.  The goal of the study was to evaluate whether Transcendental Meditation practice can improve the brain's executive functions.  After three months, the researchers noticed that all 10 students showed 50% lowered stress levels and had improved attention span, working memory, organizing skills, and behavioral control.  Regular meditation changed the children's EEG patterns and dopamine levels, because the technique stimulated the areas of the brain responsible for executive function, attention, and emotional ability.  It turns out that the improved behavior of the children had positive effects on their teachers, too; they could teach better with calmer, more-focused students.  This study also suggests that the calmer mental state induced by Transcendental Meditation makes children more receptive to other therapeutic interventions.

Although this pilot study is the only one to explore the benefits of Transcendental Meditation on ADHD, there are hundreds of scientific studies that detail the classroom benefits of the technique. Among the key research findings we find improved memory, increased creativity, faster reaction time, and improved academic performance. Transcendental Meditation can be learned by children of all ages through a 7-step course guided by a personal instructor. The courses are followed by weekly and monthly follow-up sessions to make sure that the child is practicing the technique correctly.  To locate a Transcendental Meditation practitioner near you, visit www.tm.org.