Meditation can help improve symptoms in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an international psychiatry conference heard this week.
The Australian study in 48 children diagnosed with ADHD found Sahaja yoga meditation led to an average 35% reduction in symptom severity over six weeks, and enabled many to reduce their medication.
Study co-author, Sydney general practitioner Dr Ramesh Manocha, told the World Psychiatric Association conference in Melbourne this week that improvements occurred in behaviour, self-esteem and relationship quality.
Children said they slept better and were less anxious at home. They also said they could better concentrate and had less conflict at school.
Parents were happier, less stressed and more able to manage their child’s behaviour.
The trial, at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, taught the technique to children under 12 taking ADHD medication and their parents.
The technique uses visualisation, music and nature plus one-on-one instruction. For six weeks they attended two sessions a week at the hospital and meditated twice a day at home while soaking their feet in cool salt water.
“We had remarkable results. Overall there was about a 35% improvement in symptoms, which was significant,” Manocha says.
“Six were able to go off medication and their behaviour normalised, 12 halved their medication and another group reduced it by about one-quarter.
“Feedback from children was the best, things like ‘I always knew what I was doing was not good and upset people but now I can control it’.”
In the moment
Manocha, who has taught Sahaja yoga meditation to patients in the past, says the meditation is about being in a state of mental silence and not thinking.
He says it gives people the ability to tap into the present moment.
“Kids are generally naturally meditative; they think in the moment,” Manocha says.
“Children with ADHD are inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive but meditation is the opposite. It focuses attention, is still and in control of urges.
“This re-teaches kids who have forgotten these skills and lost their natural ability to meditate because something in their environment is off balance.
“It gives them a tool to get back into the normal zone.”
The study has been published in the journal Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.