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Universiteit Leiden

Can Bodhi-Tree leaves stop a summer storm?

Can Bodhi-Tree leaves stop a summer storm? Photo created by Agnė Steponavičiūte

Meditation has long been considered a method used to detach from the world and oneself. In contrast, ADHD is understood as the inability to detach from all kind of influences. A recent study has now investigated if meditation could help people with ADHD.

The wise Zen-Master is sitting under a Bodhi-Tree looking not so much outwards but inwards, slowly breathes in, accepting his slowly wandering mind. Suddenly the noisy kid enters which the viewer has been following for a while now. Even though reasons might vary, a quest for revenge, a dead family or an ancient prophecy, the following story is clear, the calm Zen-Master will teach the noisy American kid how to fight, but mostly how to merely watch the outer world, as well as his emotions without interfering.

 

In the movies all of this is easy, the noisy American kid is just that, a noisy American kid. But that’s not real life, here the kid has a 1 in 20 chance to be affected by ADHD, his impulsivity may not just be due to too much video games and rock and roll music, or whatever your parent generation is claiming to be the problem. It may be due to him having problem with his Serotonergic or Norepinephrine levels, two substances that may sound like you don't really need to care about them, but highly influence how you think about the world. His inability to sit down and share a cup of green tea with the Zen-Master may not be due to our disgraceful Anglo-European culture, with its Coca Cola and Comic Books, but due to him suffering from hyperactivity. Finally, his unhindered and overreaching cry for revenge making him swear an oath to kill the villain, may be due to his impulsivity, a common symptom of ADHD. Of course in the end, when he reaches his goal, given the possibility to kill the villain he spares his life, remembering the lessons the Zen-Master taught him.

 

But would the old Zen-Master, teaching meditation to his student, be able to overcome his problems, if the student have ADHD? A recent study by Zylowska tried to answer this question. They offered forty-nine adults and twenty-one adolescents, suffering from ADHD, the possibility to partake in an eight week training program, teaching them mindfulness meditation in blocks of two and a half hours a week. In this short amount of time, 78% of participants reported that they felt better, and they improved in tasks that asked them to decide what they want to focus on. These improvements were so severe that statistical tools could not tell them apart from a healthy group. Furthermore some of the participants who suffered from clinical depression before using meditation were able to overcome this ailment with the help of mindfulness meditation.

 

Even though the discussion about these topics is far from settled, there seems to be some truth to the picture of the old Zen-Master sitting under the Bodhi-Tree, teaching the young kid how to control his chaotic mind.

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