The idea of silent meditation doesn’t appeal to everybody. Some teenagers may find that they get bored easily, get caught up in their thoughts, or that time seems to drag on when trying to practice mindfulness without any outside stimulation. Teens with ADHD are more likely to find the idea of silent meditation questionable, but they may benefit from more structured mindfulness practices, like moving meditation, listening to music, attending mindfulness groups, or participating in guided meditation.
How Does Meditation Help Teens with ADHD?
There is a common myth that teens with ADHD literally can’t sit still. It is more accurate to say that they are fueled by adrenaline and an insatiability for new experiences. While they may get overwhelmed at times, they usually enjoy having restless energy–until they are in settings where it is not adaptive. Learning how to slow down and find stillness may not be their main adjectives when they try meditation for the first time.
Instead, many teens with ADHD turn to meditation to:
- Pay attention better
- Be less impulsive
- Remember what they are doing in the moment
- Regulate their own emotions
- Become more aware of their thoughts
Guided Meditation vs Silent Meditation
There is no difference between a guided meditation and a silent meditation when it comes to the benefits of a mindfulness practice. It all comes down to personal preference–even on a moment-by-moment basis. It also depends on the intentions that one is setting before sitting down to practice.
If you find it difficult to sit silently, then you might choose to use guided meditations if you find it easier to follow along for extended periods of time. Silent meditation is often more difficult because you need to manage it yourself and distractions like emotions and thoughts may arise more often.
On the other hand, some teens find listening to the sound of someone else’s voice to be an added distraction, instead of something to focus on amidst other distractions.
Examples of Guided Meditation Practices:
Looking for a place to start? Check out a guided meditation led by our Senior Program Advisor, Maureen White in one of our “Mindful Moments” episodes.
- Loving Kindness. This is one of the most common guided mindfulness practices that focuses on manifesting certain values. You begin by wishing yourself love and kindness, then move onto someone you are close to, someone you struggle to show love towards, and finally, anyone else in the world that may need extra kindness or support.
- Safe Place. A popular style of guided meditation involves choosing a familiar place and trying to imagine yourself sitting there or walking through that imaginary environment. This type of guided meditation, when used in a therapeutic setting, may be recommended to establish a sense of safety or feeling loved. Examples might be picturing the beach, a particular hiking trail, or one’s childhood home.
- Sensory Awareness. When the mind enters a meditative state, one may notice a shift in their physical sensations. Teens with ADHD or anxiety disorders may worry that these physical sensations are a sign that they are doing something wrong–either sitting in an uncomfortable position or not breathing at an appropriate pace. Naming the 5 senses or areas of the body where sensations are particularly intense can help teens become more grounded and practice tolerating discomfort. Of course, it is natural to become fidgety when sitting in the same position for an extended period of time and some of these sensations are to be expected. If they go beyond their window of tolerance, they are encouraged to move positions to release that energy.
- Acknowledging Distractions. As teens with ADHD are easily distracted, they may find it difficult to practice meditation if there are other things going on in the environment. When a meditation instructor names them or they are able to name them themselves, it validates that these distractions are real and encourages them to acknowledge that they are there, but let them go. Mantras like “thinking, thinking” or counting how long their attention is sustained by a specific distraction encourages teens to refocus their attention.
- Attention Anchor. A meditation instructor may suggest that individuals pick an object in the room to focus their attention on and to bring their attention back to that object any time their mind or eyes begin to wander. Sometimes, they may give examples of objects in their environment or leave it open to interpretation.