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Acting with Awareness for ADHD

A 2015 study out of the Netherlands aims to see if mindfulness is an effective treatment for adult ADHD and discovers more about the mindfulness-ADHD connection.


This study is important because it is “the first larger, randomized controlled trial investigating the efficacy of mindfulness training in adults with ADHD,” with blinded outcome measures.

In research-speak, this means it’s a big deal. To roughly translate:

  • The study included more people than previous studies.

  • People in the study were assigned to either a group that got the mindfulness treatment or a group that did not.

  • People were assigned randomly to one group or the other.

  • Researchers who were evaluating the people in the study did not know which group they were in, so that they were less able to bias results.

This study is also valuable because they looked at a number of different outcome measures, like self-reported ADHD symptoms, “investigator-rated” ADHD symptoms, executive functioning, mindfulness skills, depression and anxiety, and overall life functioning.

Of particular importance is that executive functioning piece. As we know, ADHD is associated with executive functioning deficits. These deficits are those brain activities that people with ADHD want to rant about, like planning, organization, emotional regulation, and the ability to direct your own self.


Researchers identified adults with ADHD and put them through a 12-week training program that included 36 hours of “psychoeducation” to learn about the neurobiology of ADHD, how to cope with ADHD symptoms, and ways to use mindfulness in daily life. They practiced meditation exercises that ranged from 3-minutes to 30-minutes in length.


This study finds that the group of adults with ADHD who did mindfulness training had significant reductions in ADHD symptoms, both when self-rated and when rated by the “investigators.”

They also found a significant improvement in those dastardly executive functions.

It’s probably not surprising, but the folks who went through the mindfulness training also made considerable gains in “overall mindfulness skills.”

Researchers in this study draw a direct link between increasing mindfulness skills and increasing executive functioning/reducing ADHD symptoms. Mindfulness training led directly to these exciting outcomes.

They also draw an indirect link, or “mediating effect,” of another variable they call “Act with Awareness.” They suggest that mindfulness increases acting with awareness, which also increases executive functioning and decreases ADHD symptoms. In other words, mindfulness improves both executive functioning and acting with awareness, and acting with awareness also leads to improvements in executive functioning.

To illustrate:

Acting with awareness means engaging “fully in activities in the present moment.” Apparently, according to this study, mindfulness training leads to more in-the-moment awareness which leads to reduced ADHD symptoms. How about that?

Researchers conclude that…

"...[mindfulness training] can be a valuable addition to the therapeutic arsenal of evidence-based interventions for adult ADHD. (9)"

To learn more about mindfulness for ADHD, please visit MindfullyADD.


Hepark, S., Janssen, L., Vries, A. de, Schoenberg, P. L. A., Donders, R., Kan, C. C., & Speckens, A. E. M. (2015). The Efficacy of Adapted MBCT on Core Symptoms and Executive Functioning in Adults With ADHD A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Attention Disorders

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