We live in a world full of continuous distractions. Thanks to social media and mobile phones, they are constantly a click away and while this is true for everyone, for people with ADHD, it presents even more of a challenge. So how can an attention disorder become a creative superpower in a society that rewards knowledge more than ever before?
ADHD is a neurological difference that includes traits such as dysregulation of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness that diverge from the statistical norm. Recent studies seem to point towards lower level of dopamine being produce in certain brain areas as the key reason of ADHD.
Dopamine is a hormone that we all create when we’re excited, scared or aroused. It’s the chemical compound that makes you feel satisfied when completing a task, for example. It keeps us going and it motivates a lot of our actions.
As ADHD individuals have a lower quantity of dopamine to play with, we need a real kick even just to get out of bed. This is why people with ADHD have higher chances of falling into addictions such as gambling or alcohol, as we often crave activities that produce that dopamine hit. This also means we can struggle with completing even simple tasks. But once we find something we truly love we can spend hours in a state of hyper-focus that will give us a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment.
So, how to live with ADHD as a fully functioning adult? How can we harness the pros and cons without over medicating ourselves? Let’s be clear, right now there is no “cure”, first of all because it’s a condition and not an illness, second of all because we don’t truly know what causes ADHD.
I like to think of ADHD as part of my personality, even when I struggle with it. I like to think that “out of the norm” is simply a statistical anomaly and not a social problem, that fitting into a boring school system or a repetitive work environment is not a great life goal anyway. Therefore, I find ways to put that dopamine in my system and use distraction in a constructive way. Read on for some tips:
4 ways to make ADHD your superpower
1. Distract yourself with knowledge
ADHDers want to finish their tasks just like anyone else, but can find it much harder to block out distractions. I find that I get distracted very easily and I mean REALLY easily. I may find myself wanting to finish an article or a chore in the house and suddenly I’ve spent two hours trying to find out how to become a professional make-up artist for dead people (it’s a mortician’s specialisation by the way and this is a real story).
My solution is to turn a distraction into an opportunity by keeping a formative distraction at hand: a book I would love to read, a podcast to listen to, anything that I don’t need to finish in a short amount of time, but that will give me something to learn as a distraction.
2. Timeframe and reward yourself
Social media and smartphones can be a source of distraction for everyone, but as mentioned above, they present even tougher challenges of concentration for ADHDers.
I tackle this issue by switching off my notifications almost completely:, no Facebook on my phone, close as many tabs as possible and concentrate for a minimum amount of time I set, let’s say an hour.
Sometimes I start and then I reach 5 hours without even realising, but if I struggle and still get distracted, I create a system of small rewards (dopamine kicks!) for every minimum amount of time I actually work on the task at hand. It may be a small piece of chocolate – as it helps the release of dopamine – or 5 minutes of true distraction, the important thing is tricking the brain to look for that dopamine after a certain amount of less interesting work.
3. Create your own routine
A lot of ADHD adults already know that routine is a double-edged sword: it may help you as much as bore you so much that you’ll seek excess and addictions to compensate boredom.
My routine is based on physical activity as it releases dopamine in the body, keeps me happy and fatigues me enough to expel some of that energy that will take away my sleep. Unfortunately, there’s no universal recipe for a successful routine, but I suggest you keep a diary of activities and monitor your productivity levels. You’ll find when you’re more productive during the day (I’m not a morning person!), which activities influence you the most and even how to change your diet.
4. Use your gifts
Living with ADHD can be challenging at times, but there are advantages to neurodiversity that you can use to your advantage, as long as you can embrace your differences.
It’s important to really accept that you’re different:, it’s not an excuse for being late on assignments at work but it is a struggle to live in a society that doesn’t easily allow us to be us. So be sure to love yourself as you are and use your gifts.
You can actually multitask and still have the energy to spare, you can focus so intensely that your work will be done in half the time (when properly stimulated), you have great ‘out of the box’ thinking thanks to your lack of conformity so you may see a truly new approach to any common problem, that others may miss, you’re attracted by truly exciting ideas and activities, you’re honest and spontaneous.