Executive functioning (EF) deficits are often associated with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, as a psychologist, when working with my clients, we often discover that mood states can also impact EF skills. Oftentimes, clients may endorse difficulties with impulsivity, weaknesses with working memory, as well as difficulties with attention and organization. It is also known that stress interferes with executive functioning skills and emotional regulation skills. It turns out that there are many research studies on the benefits of meditation improving our EF skills. Meditation can be a common means of coping with stress and improving emotional control, including anxious behaviors. But, there also appears to be benefits for improving our attention skills!
Although, there are many forms of meditation, researchers generally classify them into two categories: techniques of concentration or techniques of contemplation. In meditation practices involving concentration, such as Zen meditation, the focus is on a specific event, image, or sound, trying to direct all attention to a single focal point. Contemplative techniques include mindfulness meditation practices and the goal is to be aware of any thoughts and sensations, while trying not to become actively involved in our thoughts.
There is a growing body of research on the beneficial effects of meditation as a stress-coping mechanism and improving brain function. Stress and anxiety can overwhelm and lower our effectiveness and productivity in our daily lives. These can also contribute to poor impulse control, difficulties with attention, impaired working memory skills, and exacerbate emotional difficulties or symptoms of ADHD.
With that in mind, many of these meditation techniques are easy to learn and requires only 10-15 minutes twice a day. There are also findings that changes in the brain may take place within a short period of time with the practice of meditation. This is particularly encouraging for individuals who are seeking an alternative or a supplement to medication for managing their mood or symptoms associated with ADHD and impaired executive function.
If you are new to meditation, it is sometimes helpful to have a therapist guide you or try out the popular podcast: Meditation Station or this site: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~healthed/relax/downloads.html#music