Beat Restlessness and ADHD With Mindfulness


We all suffer from ADHD. You, at least, suffer from a mild form of it.

It might be easy to notice hyper kids who are having trouble focusing or staying put. But adults who suffer from it know it very well that it is not just the kids.

You notice that you cannot focus. You notice you are restless. And have trouble resting your mind.

Yet as an adult you may have faced hurdles in getting a proper diagnosis. Or a recognition by people around you. Living with ADHD could be very hard.

It may come as a total surprise that a country like France doesn’t recognize ADHD as a disease!

But those of you who experience restlessness, lack of focus and other symptoms, know it first hand that you can use some help.

Severe Restlessness

There is the milder form of ADHD. Then there is a severe form of ADHD.

Most of us who don’t have a severe form of ADHD, take the ability to sleep at night for granted. Imagine not being able to rest at all, even through the night.

Of course, you may experience a sleepless night once in a while. I personally know that even a single night without rest is such a big deal because it has cascading effects lasting for several days.

You wake up tired and cranky. You can’t get things done. You easily quarrel and fight with people.

It becomes difficult for you to go through the day. But what if it becomes the norm?

The amount of catastrophizing your mind can engage at the specter of not being able to rest at night could be devastating. There is a lot of stress that comes along with being ADHD.

You will need an infinite amount of energy, courage and conviction to keep you going because your restlessness and inability to sleep makes it impossible to rest and replenish.

Yet it is not a far-fetched scenario for some of us. It is a definite reality.

What can you do about it? Is it even possible to do anything about it?

Yes, there is something you can do about it. Both for a not so extreme case of ADHD as well as the extreme case.

There are several different ways to cope with it, and one of them is mindfulness. That is through cultivating mindfulness.

Let’s focus on how and why of applying mindfulness to ADHD.

As we have learned earlier mindfulness can be practiced in two ways.

  1. Informally
  2. Formally

Informal Mindfulness Practices for ADHD

Let’s first talk a little about informal practices. There are several different ways to practice informally.

All you do is whenever you remember you pay attention in the present moment. There are several things available at any moment to pay attention to.

  • You can pay attention to the bottom of your feet pressing against the floor.
  • You can pay attention the upper legs pressing against the chair if you happen to be sitting in a chair.
  • You can also notice the sounds that might be present.
  • Or you can notice the thought chain crossing your mind at that moment.

There are many sensory stimuli that are present in any given moment. And you can pick any of them and notice them or bring awareness to them.

You might argue that ADHD is going to make paying attention difficult. Yes, that is true. Compared to a person who doesn’t have ADHD, it is difficult for you to pay attention.

But we are talking about paying attention for a moment. We are talking about at least orienting your attention to an object and start paying attention.

When it comes to starting to pay attention, it is no more difficult for a person with ADHD, compared to a person without it.

It is when you have to sustain attention, ADHD makes it more difficult. When you practice informally, you pay attention for a blink and if you are able to sustain for a few more seconds, you should do that, but if you can’t that is okay.

Set Up Cues that Remind You to Pay Attention

When it comes to informal practices, it is helpful to set cues or triggers that remind you of informally practicing mindfulness. It could literally be any event or a transition that you can set up as a trigger.

For example, I use doorknob as a cue. Whenever I touch a doorknob, it is a reminder for me to come back to the present moment for a second.

I do it when I leave my house, I do it when I enter my house, enter a car or leave a car. Anytime I open or close a door, I pay attention. It has become a habit having practiced it for a long time.

And you can do the same. You can start with a single cue and later on introduce more of them.

That is what you can aim for. Initially, it can be difficult for you to remember to practice informally, but with practice, it can become second nature.

Formal Mindfulness Practices for ADHD

Next is the formal practice. This is where you make time for a formal meditation practice. Which can be a sitting, lying down or a walking meditation.

The formal meditation can be more difficult for people with ADHD. Or at least, it can feel that way.

Informal meditation, you select an object of attention. Like your breath, a sound, a physical sensation or thoughts.

You start paying attention to that object and you try to sustain attention. This is where you may not be able to sustain attention to begin with.

If you are having trouble sustaining attention, it doesn’t mean you can’t meditate. If you remember, wandering thoughts are completely okay to have during meditation.

But this is very difficult for your mind to accept. You notice your breath for a moment and your mind takes off.

You might be lost for the rest of the session. It may easily frustrate you.

Your mind reacts that “I can’t meditate”. Make a note that it is just a thought.

See if you are able to persevere through this initially.

When it comes to ADHD, following two things are more important when you try to formally meditate.

  1. Setting and reinforcing the intention to sustain the gentle focus.
  2. Putting in the clock time and not worry about how many times you were lost, unfocused or caught up.

Your ADHD doesn’t prevent you from carrying out above mentioned tasks. Of course, you will experience the frustration during the formal meditation.

If you find yourself miserable you can take the gradual path. Start as low as a minute and focus on progressively increasing the clock time for your meditation session.

All I Can Do Is Become Mindful of My Restlessness

So how can this help you with ADHD? At times, you will feel that ‘all I can do is become mindful of my restlessness’.

That is true. When you bring attention to your condition, you realize that all you can do is realize how restless, fidgety and unfocused you are.

Paying attention is not going to fix your focus right away. But remember that by making the formal and informal practices, we are building the muscle of attention.

In the long run, this muscle will bulk up and it will become easier for you to stay focused.

But this just a superficial benefit of practicing mindfulness for ADHD.

Here is something else that can happen.

Taking the example of the inability to sleep or rest through the night. At the surface, there is the inability to rest. You notice that you can’t easily become still.

Not only during the day but even at night. You might notice that you are tired physically. And you are exhausted mentally because your mind has continuously churned during the day.

Right when you expect to catch up some rest at night, you notice you can’t. The restlessness continues. The lack of stillness continues.

Restlessness Is the Urge to Rest

You can bring awareness to the restlessness. You can also use awareness to investigate what might there be beneath the surface.

You notice restlessness through the urge to rest. The restlessness can only arise if there is a strong desire to rest.

You want to be able to rest. But you are unable to. That is what you call restlessness.

Your body and mind need rest. You have to able to rest just in order to survive. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be able to rest.

In fact, the desire to be able to rest kicks in automatically and it stays under the radar of conscious awareness. This is something we tend to take for granted.

It is obvious to be able to rest, isn’t it?

The automatic inception of this urge to be able to rest is very crucial. Imagine if desiring or wanting to be able to rest were completely voluntary phenomena.

Say only when you consciously decided that you were going to rest, you actually rested. In other words, you never felt fatigued, tired or restless.

Would that be such a blessing? If you were to have the same physical body that you have now, imagine the consequences.

It is as if you had to consciously remember to breathe? What if you forget! You are far too unreliable and distracted to have your life depend upon you breathing.

Just like that when the body or the mind needs rest, there are automatic signals which let us know that we need to rest. These signals make us desire to rest, automatically, when we need it.

When such urge arises, it drives us to do something about it. If it is physical fatigue, it prompts you to stop the physical activity. If it is mental fatigue, again this signal prompts you to do something about it.

You may distract yourself from the mental activity, you try to engage in activities that you think will relax you mentally. It activates you as soon as the fatigue is experienced you automatically set out to do something about that fatigue.

It is very much like feeling an itch. As soon as you start feeling sensations of an itch, instantaneously an urge is activated whereby you set out to do something about it.

This ‘wanting to do something about the itch’ is driven by our innate relationship with the discomfort and not wanting to feel the discomfort. The discomforting experience of an itch.

You may not realize and such reaction becomes conditioned. And over the period of time, it becomes highly automatic.

You never fully feel an itch. As soon as the itch starts you feel compelled to drive it out.

You scratch it. And in scratching it automatically and instantaneously you never get to know what an itch really feels like.

You Can Either Fight the Fatigue or You Can Befriend It

Similarly as soon as you notice the fatigue, you reactively try to scratch the fatigue and you become restless.

And in becoming restless, you are not actually fully feeling the fatigue, but you are fighting with the fatigue.

And when you start fighting fatigue, you create additional discomfort in the form of fighting or resisting on top of the underlying unpleasant feeling of fatigue.

And it is this interface between you and your fatigue, which can become an object of curious investigation through mindfulness. How it is that you relate to your physical and mental fatigue.

You can work towards resolving your fatigue without fighting with it. How?

By not resisting the fatigue, but by opening up to fatigue. By befriending the fatigue.

Sounds impractical? It is not easy, but it is not impossible. It is relating to your fatigue in a different way compared to your habitual or conditioned ways.

And you can use mindfulness to first investigate how you currently relate to the fatigue and later realize different possibilities of relating to the fatigue.


Informal and formal mindfulness practices can improve focus and concentration.

With mindfulness, you can explore your relationship with fatigue and discomfort.

Awareness can help you take the resistance or fight away from feeling restless.

Mindfulness can help you uncover possibilities in dealing with fatigue and discomfort.


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How to Make Mindfulness Meditation Easy With Noting and Labeling


Practicing meditation can be tough. At least, in the beginning, it can be really difficult.

Your mind can get lost in thoughts or space out. Not that it is wrong. As I have always said it is not a problem.

But it can feel hard, not being able to pay attention, when you are starting to meditate.

What can you do to help make the meditation practice easy? I have listed out several things you can do to ‘improve’ your meditation experience.

Then there is noting and labeling.

Noting and labeling are a technique developed by 20th century Burmese Buddhist monk Mahasi Sayadaw.

The purpose of a mindfulness or meditation practice is to pay attention or become aware. It is paying attention in a gentle, kind and non-judgmental way.

Noting and labeling can help facilitate paying attention in this particular way. Or you can say that noting and labeling can help facilitate mindfulness practice in general.

Let’s first define what noting and labeling are.


The dictionary definition of ‘to note’ is to notice or pay particular attention. In other words, noting is same as paying attention.

Noting or paying attention actually has two phases.

  1. Orient attention or start paying attention or start noticing.
  2. Focus or sustain the attention or continue noticing.

If you take the example of breathing meditation. You initially start noticing the breath. Or you can say that initially you orient your attention to the breath.

And subsequently you focus on the breath or you sustain the attention on the breath.

Noting is not really something fancy or new. By default in meditation practice, you pick an object of attention like the breath. And you start noting the object.

Also, noting can be done with labeling or without labeling. Usually, if you don’t know about labeling you note without labeling.

It is actually labeling that can really help make meditation easy. As it can help paying attention or becoming aware.


To label means to say a word or a phrase that describes what you are noting.

As you can notice, in labeling you say the word or the phrase that you are noting. There are two different ways to say the label.

  1. Labeling using the mental voice.
  2. Labeling using the actual voice.

You can say the label using the mental voice. Which only you can hear.

Or you can label using the actual voice. Which others can hear if they happen to be present.

You can label using the actual voice in three different ways.

  1. Labeling using a whisper voice, murmur voice or a low-tone voice.
  2. Label using the normal voice.
  3. Label using a loud voice.

As you can see, you can label using the whisper voice, which is not mental voice. It is actual sound, but it is low-tone, so even the person next to you cannot hear it.

When you label using the normal voice or loud voice, people around you can hear what you are saying.

Let’s take an example of labeling with breathing meditation.

You being by starting to note the breath. Then you can start labeling the breath. Your word or phrase for breathing can literally be ‘breathing’.

Or you can make it more granular. You can note the inhalation and exhalation separately. You can use label ‘In’ and ‘Out’ or you can use ‘Inhalation’ and ‘Exhalation’ or you can use anything else.

The label has to convey what you are noticing. It cannot be completely arbitraty. For example you can potentially label inhalation as ‘Up’ and exhalation as ‘Down’ also.

But if you lable inhalation as ‘John’ and exhaltion as ‘Charlie’, that might not be very helpful. Although you can establish that relationship in the long run.

Also you want to continue to label during meditation. In breathing meditation as you continue to breath, you want to continue to lable the breath.

Also labeling is done at a relaxed pace. You only want to allow 3 to 6 seconds between two successive lables.

Combinations of Noting and Labeling

Based on the different types of labeling and noting methods listed so far, there are total 5 combinations of noting and labeling can be done.

  1. Just noting and no labeling
  2. Noting with labeling using purely mental voice
  3. Noting with labeling using acutal whisper sound
  4. Noting with labeling using actual normal sound
  5. Noting with labeling using actual loud sound

This classification leads us to the question, how to go about choosing a specific combination of noting and labeling.

Think of label helping you focus. When you need help focusing you use label. More you need help focusing, stronger the label you use.

If you think you are having a lot of trouble staying focused, use combination #5, where you use the label with loudest actual sound.

And from there depending on the strength of your concentration go up the list of combinations. When you think your concentration is effortless use no label at all.

Also the key with labeling is that, whenever you are able to note something you label it. For example, let’s say that you decided to focus on the breath as the primary object of attention.

After a while you realized that you were lost in thoughts. As soon as you notice thoughts, you can start labeling ‘thinking’ using one of the options. If the thought persists you continue labeling ‘thinking’ at a leisurely pace.

But if in the next moment, you notice a strong physical sensation, like an itch, you start noting ‘itching’ and you stay with that label as long as that sensation remains strong and demands your attention.

Then as soon as you are able to go back to the breath you can go back to the label ‘breathing’ or ‘inhaling’ and ‘exhaling’.

In short, no matter what the primary object of attention, whatever you are noticing in the moment, that is what you label.


You can use labeling to help focus during meditation.

There are five different ways you can label your experience during meditation.

Depending upon the strength of your concentration you can choose appropriate labeling option.


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How Can You Be Detached and Not Appear Careless?

man hands holding woman hand from both sides. Compassion and 
concern concept

Implicit in this question is the assumption that if you try practicing detachment, there is a risk you might appear as if you don’t care.

If that assumption was not there, the question would not make sense. You feel that if you were to appear detached, you would also appear careless. And it is common sense that it is not good to appear careless.

Is this really true? Is there a possibility of you appearing as a careless person if you practice detachment?

I would argue, it is not true. You can still be caring and have concerns while being detached. Detachment doesn’t preclude care or concern. It just means lack of impulsive craving.

How Others Perceive Is Not Up to You

There can be a perception that when you practice detachment, you are being careless. Now, what others perceive, is something you cannot fully control.

No matter what kind of intentions you have, you might still be perceived in a wrong way. People make mistakes.

How people perceive things is not that straight forward. You might have the best intentions and still you can be perceived as otherwise.

This is something you should keep at the back of our mind. What is really important is the intention. And not the perception.

The perception could be a source of confusion. The intention cannot be a source of confusion.

In intending, you exert your own agency. You are not relying on any external factors. There are clear possibilities that you can choose from when it comes to bearing an intention in your mind.

Why Would You Want to Be Detached?

Coming back to the original question again. It might be helpful investigating why one would practice detachment?

The traditional wisdom is that attachment can be a source of suffering, a source of problems.

Many traditions proclaim that the attachment is the ultimate source of all your problems. And If you free yourself from attachment, you will not have problems.

You have experienced this first hand. You easily get attached to people, pets, animals, and objects.

And when the person you are attached to is no more around you suffer. When the pet or animal you are attached to is no more around you suffer.

Your prized possession, the things that you are attached to, your car, your expensive jewelry, your expensive goggles or even your hot shower, if you lose them or if they break, you suffer.

It is the very definition of attachment, the absence of the object of attachment causes you to suffer.

The attachment means you cling to the object and you crave for the object.You crave, that object or that person when it is not around. And you cling when it is around.

In almost a reactive and compulsive manner.  You automatically do that.

It is highly likely that you don’t realize this craving and clinging. You tend not to have the awareness of your behavior.

Attachment As an Evolutionary Adaptation

Pretty much all normal human beings experience attachment when you are born. Your caretakers are an initial source of attachment.

Because in order to grow, a child has to be able to explore the world. She has to be able to venture out, experiment, take risks, make mistakes and learn from that.

But more importantly, she needs a stable base to fall back to. The world is a frightening place. You need a stable base or a stable shelter to fall back to repeatedly as you embark upon the journey of growing up.

That stable base is essential, without which you cannot do the necessary work. The attachment with your caregiver, mainly the mom, provides that firm support and enables the necessary exploration.

Attachment serves this very important purpose.  Without the attachment, it is difficult for a child to grow normally.

People who don’t have that strong base, kids who are not attached while growing up, tend to have developmental problems.

They develop emotional difficulties. They don’t learn well and don’t grow normally. Luckily you are already programmed in a way where you practice attachment involuntarily.

It is the emotional brain which causes you to get attached. And the emotional brain is the most powerful and influential part of the human brain. It trumps the rational or thinking brain.

Attachment is irrational. There is no logic to attachment. When you lose the person you are attached or when you don’t have access to the object that you are attached, no amount of logic or reasoning can convince you or soothe you.

And, how often you get attached, to whom you get attached, is not so much in your control. It just happens at times.

You fall in love with people, your pets or your belongings. As long as there are people, animals, and objects around you, it is very likely that you will get attached.

This also means it is given that you will suffer. Because people you get attached will not always be around.

People move on, they die. You might be attached to someone but they might not want to be with you.

Things break. All of that can happen. That way, you set yourself up for problems.

And that is why you seek detachment. Because you don’t want to suffer. You want to minimize suffering.

But detachment may not be that easy. As I said earlier, by design your brain lends itself to attachment. Detachment is not easy but not impossible either. And it can be learned.

Does Attachment Guarantee Care?

And despite the strength of the bond in attachment, it actually doesn’t guarantee care. It can motivate you to care for the object that you are attached.

What it guarantees is craving and clinging and not care. It is your illusion that attachment means care but that is not necessarily always true.

If you look at the bond between the mother and the child, the mother’s attachment almost guarantees care. She deeply cares for the baby. But many times the opposite is not true.

The baby also attaches to the mother. And the baby doesn’t want to leave the mom, for the baby, it might easily become an obsession.

The baby may not care about the mom. the baby just wants mom to be around. That could drive a mom crazy.

This often happens in relationships. You fall in love, you get attached to the person.

You get so blinded by that craving and clinging that you may end up not caring much for the other person. All you care for is the presence of the object, the presence of the person.

You can easily become obsessive and may even end up harming the object of your attachment. That is the nature of that emotional state.

When you crave for the person, no matter how many times you think what you are doing is silly, you still want the other person to be with you. You will drag yourself and will engage in unreasonable scheming to be with that person.

If your objective is to reduce suffering you should seek out ways to get rid of craving and clinging.

Detachment as Stopping the Craving and Clinging

Perhaps that is what you mean by detachment. That is stopping the craving and clinging.

As you can see, in reality, detachment has not that much to do with care directly. But you end up posing the question,  because of a falsely perpetuated societal notion that one cannot be caring enough if one is not attached.

You can work towards getting familiar with your innate urge to crave the connection or the presence of another person. And you can also work towards taming that urge.

Once you get to a point where that emotion doesn’t hijack you, you can become genuinely caring and concerning for others. And that will minimize the suffering for you.

And this work is no easy task. You are up against the evolutionary forces fine-tuned over millions of years. It is the training of the emotional brain.

The emotional brain is in much more control than you realize. It is extremely difficult to work with it. And that is where the meditation practices can help.

Through a rigorous mind training, you can overcome craving and clinging. And without affecting your capacity to care for.

Detachment or Letting Go?

This is also about learning to let go or, at least, letting it be. When you cling and crave you cannot let go. When you learn to not cling, you are learning to let go.

When you are able to genuinely let go, you don’t suffer. You can still have the concern and you can be caring for the person.

But whenever the slightest need arises, you are able to easily let go. In the attachment, there will always be a time, when you can use letting go.

If you are able to let go, you won’t require the presence of your object of attachment. But this can go against very fundamental human nature.

Take death for example. You just can’t accept the death of loved ones. Death is the ultimate test of your attachment.

It is one of the most difficult things to let go, that permanent severance of the connection. The strongest of the evolutionary forces incentivise you to postpone death as much as you can.

And hence the selection and the to date survival of the species.

The Nuanced Meaning of Care

As if all of this were not enough, caring itself is not so black and white. Caring itself has a range of meanings.

Martha Beck reminds us that caring can also mean sorrow as in ‘bowed down with cares’, anxiety as in ‘Careful!’ or an investment in an outcome as in ‘who cares’.

It is yet another instance of your experience which invites you to not take things for granted. An inquiry into what it really means to you when you ‘care’ could be extremely helpful.

The ideal for care and concern is the unconditional love. When you care for other, the ego, the separate self, can put conditions and ties strings around care.

You may then expects something in return, and when the expectation is not met, you may again suffer.

These are several mechanisms through which the emotional mind, subconsciously creates a framework, where it continues pushing its own agenda without regard to how you feel along the journey.

Beyond Care and Concern

All of the schemings of the emotional brain are not necessarily bleak. As they say, in your mind there are two wolves. There is a bad one and a good one.

You also feel immense empathy and compassion from time to time. If you are walking on a street and if you were to meet a person who just had an accident, you viscerally feel the compassion and would care for him.

You act out of concern all the time.

But by design, the bad wolf may be more prevalent. But you can learn to feed the good wolf. When it comes to positive emotions like kindness and compassion, you are limited by your genes. Those are the emotion that can be further cultivated and you can get better at expressing them.

The key is to use awareness to first realize the drama. What is really going on. When it comes to your relationships to people and things around you, where do you stand?

Are you just reactively and habitually driven by subconscious urges and emotions? Or you are aware of them. And awareness may not extinguish those urges, but it is a good start.

You can train to firmly establish awareness of your minds reactions. And at the same time, you can work on cultivating positive qualities.

Not appearing careless is a noble goal in itself, but you can aspire to do much more than that.


Detachment doesn’t preclude care or concern.

Attachment is suffering.

The motivation for detachment is the end of suffering.

Detachment can be extremely difficult to practice but not impossible.

Caring could also be a disguise for sorrow, anxiety or selfish agenda.

You can become more caring, or you can learn to love unconditionally.

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