Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are common disorders affecting both children and adults. Primary features of ADD include inattention, distractibility and poor working memory while ADHD includes additional symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADD/ADHD affects all aspects of one’s life, and includes behaviors such as forgetting or losing items, making careless mistakes, difficulty with follow-through and organization and inability to sustain attention.
According to Healthline, in the past decade, ADHD diagnoses have increased by 42%. As such, effective treatment has become even more important, and fortunately, Buddhist psychotherapy provides excellent support.
The Buddha said “Rule your mind or it will rule you”. ADD/ADHD is a prime example of being ruled by the mind, and of the suffering that our minds can create. Essentially, all of our minds are wired to be engaged in constant thinking: the brain secretes thoughts like an organ secretes enzymes. The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that our brains are constantly running an inner monologue, but rather, in our ability to detach from those thoughts or not. And luckily for us, Buddhism offers excellent guidance on how to step back from our thinking and engage fully in the present: mindfulness.
Being mindful means “paying attention, on purpose”. We can choose to become absorbed in our scattered, busy minds, or we can ground in the senses, use our breath as an anchor, and get curious about our life experiences, about what’s happening in the here and now. When we return to this moment, and exercise our ability to be present and not lost in thought, we are able to pay attention, focus and remember whatever it is we might want or need to remember. In many ways, thinking is our greatest addiction: it’s the primary way we escape our lives, sometimes intentionally and other times unintentionally.
Meditation and mindfulness are exercises that allow us to strengthen our “focusing muscle”. With so many distractions and with an ever-shortening attention span (a recent study found that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish!), it’s easy for us to be scattered and forgetful. Learning how to pay attention and stay present is absolutely possible, but not without a bit of effort and practice. So next time you feel hopeless about your ADD/ADHD diagnosis, try Buddhist psychotherapy!