Mindfulness: An Emerging Treatment for ADHD

While treatment for ADHD often includes medication, some researchers are suggest- ing an alternative first-line treatment that does not involve pharmaceuticals.

Daniel Goleman, writing in The New York Times Well Blog, points to growing interest in “mindfulness exercises” to improve cognitive control—planning, attention, impulse control, the very behaviors that befuddle those with ADHD.

This new area of research comes at a time when many are questioning the merits of using medication as the primary treatment for ADHD. As Goleman reported:

In a large study published last year in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers reported that while most young people with ADHD benefit from medications in the first year, these effects generally wane by the third year, if not sooner.

“There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking ADHD medications,” said James M. Swanson, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of the study. “But mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in A.D.H.D.”

“That’s why mindfulness might be so important,” he added. “It seems to get at the causes.”


Sharpening mindfulness involves teaching people to be aware of their thoughts
and feelings, and learning how to refocus when their concentration flags. To ex- Ac- cording to a report in Education Week, “Genetic factors related to general anxiety and math cognition accounted for 40 percent of the variance in math anxiety. The other 60 percent of the variance was explained by environmental factors specific to the child. Family-level environmental factors, they found, were not a significant indicator.”