If you know you have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you also probably know that there is no cure. Your symptoms of restlessness, impulsiveness and distraction are not going to ever go away completely – but their negative effects on your life can be reduced. Knowing your weaknesses can be your greatest strength, and by treating the negative aspects of your unique brain in natural ways, you can learn to cherish your “disorder” and take advantage of its many positive qualities. And there are many things to love about your special mind – people with ADD/ADHD also tend to be creative, high-energy, resilient, ambitious, spontaneous and excellent problem solvers. Learn to properly deal with the negative aspects of your brain and you can conquer the world.
I have a raging case of ADHD. The day I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist at age 30 with this brain difference was one of the best of my life. Medication like Adderall certainly helps me control the symptoms and make life’s struggles more palatable. I don’t make value judgments on brain medications as being “good” or “bad” like many people do, however I also don’t want to live a life where my happiness and well being is dependent on a pill packed with artificial stimulation. Although the obvious answer is to make my life so stimulating all the time that I never need any outside help, the reality is that routine is prevalent in daily life. I have to work, pay bills, do the dishes, file taxes and perform many other tasks that can rightfully be called boring.
Brains with ADD/ADHD don’t just crave stimulation, they only work right when they are stimulated. If you have ADD or ADHD, your brain will never stop needing stimulation to work properly. The trick is to discover what healthy forms of stimulation work for you, and to be able to engage in those behaviors at a moment’s notice. Healthy, natural forms of stimulation are the best types of treatment for those with ADD/ADHD. This is what works for me:
1. Exercise. Quite possibly the golden apple when it comes to stimulation, exercise makes your body produce endorphins, natural stimulants that make you happy – and healthy! Find the type of exercise that you love and go for it, whether that’s yoga, Zumba, jogging, weight lifting, mud running or anything else. Some people find a workout they love and stick to it for years. If you have ADD/ADHD, you will likely have to switch things up to keep it interesting. Don’t feel like a failure if you switch things up every few months.
2. Music. A rousing rumba beat or a bangin’ techno track is sometimes all it takes to change your mood – and music is also an effective medicine for those with ADD/ADHD. Use music to make dull tasks more palatable and to make periods of waiting (in airports, at the DMV) easier to bear.
3. Meditation. Meditation is more difficult for those with ADD/ADHD, which is exactly why it can be so useful in treating its difficult symptoms. Sitting still with your eyes closed for five minutes is a tall order for restless souls – so don’t think you have to act like a yogi statue to benefit from meditation. Moving meditation works just as well and can be a godsend for people with ADHD that can’t sit still. Try meditating on long walks, while dancing, doing repetitive tasks or during exercise. Don’t think that meditation must be done while sitting still – instead, find the type of moving meditation that works for you.
4. Creation. Indulging in the creative process and tapping into your artistic “flow” is an ideal choice for healthy stimulation, and one reason that so many people with ADD/ADHD opt for careers in the arts. But you don’t have to be a maestro to create - discover which artistic outlet you love and make it a regular part of your schedule, whether it’s baking, painting, gardening, making magazine collages, coloring with crayons or singing in the shower.
5. Travel and New Experiences. When I am traveling in a foreign country, I never take medication – and it never even crosses my mind that I need it. I am so stimulated by my surroundings that my life is all the stimulation I need. While we can’t be traipsing across Asia 100 percent of the time, working to infuse your life with novel experiences both big and small is crucial for those with ADD/ADHD. Most humans love a routine – but for you, daily monotony can suffocate your soul. Strive to experience something new every single day, no matter how small – and plan on big bouts of novel experiences like vacations to keep your life as stimulating as possible.
Image: Daniela Vladimirova