Leading online provider of children’s health information, AboutKidsHealth, investigates the evidence suggesting that mindfulness martial arts and meditation aids those with ADHD and anxiety.
“I’ve always been an anxious person,” says 19-year-old Harry Wenban. His claim is bemusing at first, given his calm demeanor and the placid tone of his voice. But his anxiety is a characteristic he’s spent six years taming through meditation. “I am in no way the same person now,” says Wenban, recalling how his apprehension prevented him from making friends or talking to girls.
Diagnosed with a learning disability at the age of 12, practicing meditation has not eliminated his anxiety, he says, but rather helped him cultivate the self-awareness to manage it. “I notice the thoughts as they are being produced,” he says, a skill which allows Wenban to experience fear, angst, and panic with a lot more tranquility.
This act of observing one’s thoughts as they are being experienced is a key part of self and present-moment awareness – skills Wenban learned from an integrated therapy that combines meditation with martial arts, called mindfulness martial arts (MMA). Child and family therapist, Paul Badali, designed MMA therapy for kids with learning disabilities in 2002.
What makes MMA particularly intriguing for kids is the mystique of meditation combined with a socially-valued sport like martial arts. “It’s exercise, meditation, present moment awareness in being healthy, and being aware of healthy practices,” says Badali, who still runs the MMA at Integra Children’s Mental Health Centre in Toronto.
Early studies show that MMA for kids with learning disabilities is beneficial. Researchers at Integra used a performance-based task to measure impulsivity, which many kids with learning disability struggle to control. “Because they are impulsive, they have difficulty staying present long enough to make decisions,” explains Dr. Karen Milligan, psychologist and director at Integra and lead researcher of the study. Results from before and after a 10-week session in MMA therapy showed kids were significantly less impulsive after the sessions were completed.
“When you are stressed to the max, your ability to problem-solve and be flexible goes out the window. But when you are able to be mindful, you are able to stop, think, make choices, and weigh out different options,” she adds.
As a result, Dr. Milligan envisions the therapy as a useful component integrated into prevention programs and school curriculums. “The MMA programme has given us a model for how you would work with kids with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and processing difficulties.”
For more information on managing anxiety, please see Anxiety, in the Health A to Z section of AboutKidsHealth. You can also learn more about ADHD in the Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) resource centre. For the original article, please visit:
AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from what we can learn about the dangers of energy drink, to teenage drinking and driving to aiding anxiety with meditation. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.
Visit www.aboutkidshealth.cato find out more.
For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue