Treatment for ADHD will always include medications and a selection of therapies. But there are things that the person with ADHD can do that can simultaneously make life better, and make treatment more effective.
These activities, oddly enough, are no different from some of the beneficial activities that could be recommended to the human population in general.
But there are very good reasons for these activities to be recommended to those with ADHD, and we will look at those reasons along with the activities here.
One of the best things a person with ADHD can do for their mental health is to integrate exercise into their daily routine. Exercise plays a very positive role in the production and regulation of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that have been indicated as areas of significance in ADHD. If, for instance, you work at a desk, and you have difficulty focusing on your work after a while, start to schedule short walkabouts at regular intervals. Alternately, you might be a candidate for a new trend of work space called a walking desk or even the intermediate standing desk.
If it is possible, you might consider walking or bicycling to work. Additionally, a brisk walk or cycle at lunch time might make it easier to concentrate during the early afternoon part of your job.
If you work in a larger office setting, consider being your own inter-office mail courier. In addition to getting a bit of exercise, this added contact with other workers might facilitate creativity and understanding among you and your co-workers.
Other forms of exercise, formal or informal, are also beneficial. There is generally no time when exercise is not a good idea, so long as it doesn’t interfere with work or other important daily aspects of life. Exercise should be considered part of schooling and work, and often is by more progressive companies. If you are self employed, make exercise part of your daily work schedule to help you improve productivity and both general, and mental health.
There are many ideas about diet and its relationship with ADHD. There are still people out there who either believe, or at least would have you believe, that ADHD is caused as a direct result of diet.
This, of course, is nonsense. One of the more easily discredited theories was the idea that sugar caused ADHD. Since there is sugar in nearly every food consumed, much of it naturally occurring, the theory was changed to state that the cause was refined sugars. This still didn’t fit as there is an ever increasing amount of refined sugar in foods yet diagnoses are not restricted to those who consume refined sugars, nor does everyone who consumes refined sugars end up in need of or able to receive a diagnosis.
That is not to say that diet, or even sugar, should be dismissed as having nothing to do with ADHD. A good, well balanced diet can be very conducive to positive treatment of ADHD. Therefore, modifying a diet based on what you need to accomplish, might be very advantageous to the person with ADHD.
Consider proteins to be very important, and while carbohydrates are also an important part of anyone’s diet avoid carb loading and over indulgence in complex carbohydrates. To much of a good thing is never wise and many people report a sluggishness of cognition when under the influence of an excessive or high carb diet.
Sugar is a stimulant, and as such, can affect the ADHD brain positively. It wears off very quickly, however, often leaving the stimulated person in a worse state than when they first indulged. Regulate sugar intake and watch for big, sugar-crash mood swings. It is best not to treat those crashes with more sugar as circumstantial evidence suggests that the cyclical mood swings from that may become very extreme and hard to manage.
To come up with the best possible diet, start with a balanced one like those recommended by the food and agriculture department of your government and then modify it based on your own experiences, always remembering that your body’s physical well being is as important to you as your mental well being is.
Perhaps the greatest paradox of ADHD is that the ADHD mind works best when it is challenged to produce, and works at its poorest when it is forced to attend to things that are dull and go easily unnoticed. Boring activities that are repetitive or offer no risk or excitement are not activities that are tolerated well by people with ADHD.
Hobby activities that can challenge the mind and keep it active are always a good choice for the person with ADHD. A person with ADHD should consider hobby choices with the awareness that they may not stay with any given hobby for their life, or even for longer than it takes to complete one project, if the hobby is one that is considered creative. If a expensive equipment is required to participate in a chosen hobby, consider borrowing or renting the equipment. If equipment must be purchased, make selections with an eye to potentially reselling it in the future.
Engaging in a hobby has a positive effect on the ADHD mind. The potential sense of well being and accomplishment that can be generated by a hobby can go a long way to reducing stress. Stress is always a factor in symptom intensity. Consider choosing a hobby as part of your personal ADHD treatment.
People with ADHD don’t always do well in social situations. But they also don’t do well as loners. In fact, they know they don’t do well in all social situations because they have lots of experiences where they tried to socialize and failed. They tried … because many of them crave human interaction.
Some people with ADHD have been lucky enough to find the perfect group of people to engage with. Often these people are familiar with the symptoms and intricacies of ADHD on a personal level, whether they have been diagnosed or not. This means that they may be more understanding.
Socializing with others who have ADHD can be accomplished formally, as in a support group setting, semi formally with others who are known to have ADHD but meet because of a desire to simply socialize, or informally as a group of friends who have gravitated together as friends before discovering their mutual disorder.
Socializing can also occur with people who do not have ADHD. The person with ADHD will have to decide whether to disclose their disorder in a non-ADHD group. Not disclosing this disorder means that the person may have to maintain vigilance in their interactions. This can be stressful and may reduce the potential benefit of socializing for the person with ADHD.
Disclosing the disorder may leave the person open to prejudice and the weight of stigma, or it may allow a more open and interactive social environment in which the person with ADHD might thrive.
Socializing can also be mixed with hobbies, as many hobbies are performed as group activities.
Along the lines of hobbies and socializing, taking advantage of courses in crafts, arts, exercise and skills can be very beneficial to the ADHD brain. Continuing education provides socializing, can be an introduction to a new hobby, or can be part of an ongoing and varying hobby of taking courses.
Even someone who had trouble in the formal education system may find benefits to attending community courses. Be aware that you get to choose your own course and so will not be forced to take courses you are not interested in. Also be aware that these courses are paid for by you and so the dynamic becomes that of customer and service provider rather than one where you are bound by rules to attend.
Like hobbies, continued learning can be a positive experience, so long as it challenges the ADHD mind. A course that does not challenge the mind will not end well. Disappointment awaits the participant who chooses a course that cannot hold their attention. There will come a point when you realize that you’ve left the classroom mentally, and missed enough of the course that, no matter how simple it was, you will not be able to fill in what you missed.
Since there are a lot of variables to be considered, the cumulative character of the class, the abilities and character of the instructor, and even the physical attributes of the classroom where the course takes place, it is best to load the dice in your favour by choosing courses that will be of interest to you.
Though meditation is not something that is easily acomplished by someone with ADHD, it does have a calming effect on the ADHD mind.
The problem is that the lack of proper function in the prefrontal cortex of the ADHD brain is not conducive to maintaining focus, especially on a concept held virtually. Some people with ADHD claim to have some success with this over time, and after much practice.
Others say that meditation is best accomplished when in motion. That is to say that many people with ADHD find it easier to meditate while moving. This movement is sometimes in the form of walking, or jogging, or working out in a gym setting.
Additionally, there are more formal methods of “moving meditation.” Yoga and T’ai chi ch’uan (Tai Chi) fall into these categories. Formal forms of moving meditation are structured and structure is beneficial to people with ADHD. Often people find sanctuary in structured activities which makes it easier for someone with ADHD to perpetuate their meditation practice.
Moving meditation, whether formal or informal also has the advantage of being exercise. As discussed above, exercise is advantageous to the ADHD mind. Thus moving meditation is beneficial in at least two ways, as exercise and as meditation.
To sum up, many activities help to people living with ADHD to create a positive and beneficial lifestyle. This list of types of activities should be viewed as a guideline, but things that don’t fit in these categories may be found that help groups or individuals with ADHD to fill their lives with positive influences that are helpful as treatment and beneficial to self-esteem.
Remaining active, especially within the community in which you live, is a positive approach to life with ADHD. The more positive your life is, the less negative impact ADHD can have on it.