People with ADHD may be distractible, hyperactive, and impulsive, but they are also energized, creative, and committed. With the right strategies, having ADHD can be a superpower.
Recent developments in fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) showed evidence of two modes of thinking -- TPN (task-positive-network) and DMN (default-mode-network).
TPN is the thinking that happens when you're focused or in the zone.
DMN is the thinking associated with imagination, drawing on past experiences, and envisioning the future.
People with ADHD have more difficulty switching between the two modes. They might fixate on one task and forget other responsibilities, or they might let their imagination clutch to negative feelings like disappointment and shame.
If you're stuck in negative thoughts, you're in DMN mode. To switch back to TPN, try taking a walk, doing a puzzle or the dishes, or anything that's outside of your head.
Recently it was discovered a strip down the center of the cerebellums of ADHD brains is smaller than normal.
The cerebellum is responsible for motor functions as well as cognitive and emotional processes. It affects abilities like learning, making quick decisions, regulating emotions, and balance.
The cerebellum is the most elastic part of the brain. People with ADHD can strengthen it with understanding and commitment, and overcome some of the challenges with ADHD.
An ADHD brain is like a racecar with a pushcart's brakes. However, there are strategies to strengthen the brakes.
Samuel was a remote patient of Dr. Hallowell's. Samuel was seven years old attending school in Shanghai. He was struggling -- he couldn't focus, had problems following instructions, and was depressed. Also, there wasn't a local physiatrist who could prescribe him medication.
Dr. Hallowell's treatment plan was unconventional. He instructed the mom to frequently hug the boy on a daily basis to counteract his negative experiences in school. He also asked the mom to consistently provide affection, warmth, and encouragement.
Furthermore, Dr. Hallowell prescribed a daily 30-minute balancing exercise for Samuel, which included activities like standing on one leg with his eyes closed and taking his socks on and off without sitting down.
Samuel showed impressive progress within weeks. He was more focused and less disruptive. This is an example of a strength-based treatment strategy.
The critical component of strength-based treatment is connection. People with ADHD often feel disconnected, which isn't surprising because their brain is different from 90% of the population.
Punishment will further drive the disconnection. This disconnection can lead to low-self esteem, anxiety, depression, poor performance at work, relationship difficulties, and acting out at school.
Connections with people are very beneficial for people with ADHD. It can even mitigate childhood pain. The author calls these connections "the other vitamin C".
To foster connections, try sharing your worries with people you trust, connect over meals, talk to friends at least once a week.
To improve your relationship with your child with ADHD, try dedicating 30 minutes each week for one-on-one activities of your child's choosing.
A pet is also a good daily source for your "other vitamin C".
The potential of people with ADHD often lay dormant or remain ignored. People with ADHD usually are exceptional or passionate about one or two things, and when those things are nourished, the superpower of ADHD can be unleashed.
For example, if a child is obsessed with science, video games, or playing the violin, express these interests to the teacher. If the teacher can integrate these interests, the child will be less distracted and more motivated. Kids with ADHD just need adults to engage with them effectively.
This is why identifying your interests and having a job that aligns with your interests is essential for managing ADHD. If you need to find your interests, try writing down the achievements you're proud of and all the things you love to do, find easy to do, are good at, and want to get better at.
Creativity is an innate part of ADHD. You might have an affinity for things like writing, drawing, carpentry, or just creating things in general. When you hone your creativity, your superpower will shine.
The environment they're in is important for the success of people with ADHD. The environment is not just the physical space you're in. It also consists of aspects like your routine and your diet.
Structure is helpful for people with ADHD. The ADHD brain is hardwired to resist structure, but you can overcome this by starting small. For example, create a daily to-do list with only two items and complete those.
If the environments you're in -- whether at home, school, or work -- are not free of shame or fear, or if you don't feel comfortable or valued in them, think about what you can do to improve them. If you can't, it might be best to find a new environment.
Diet is also an important part of your environment. Avoid processed foods with additives, coloring, sugar, or preservatives. Eat whole grains, unprocessed meats, fish, nuts, and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Limit coffee and replace sugary soda with water or tea instead. Following these dietary habits will keep you and your brain healthy.
Sleep is crucial for people with ADHD and it needs to be a priority. Quality sleep helps to reduce the risk of low mood or anxiety caused by DMN (default-mode-network). Try turning off your devices one hour before bed and keeping the room cool.
Exercising will greatly improve your performance. It releases dopamine which helps with concentration.
Two good exercises for people with ADHD are martial arts and yoga, because they cultivate focus and balance, similar to Samuel's prescribed exercises. 20 to 30 minutes a day is recommended. You'll notice improvements like lower stress in just eight weeks. These exercises are strengthening your brain and thickening that smaller part of your cerebellum.
Exercising can also be used as a short-term boost. If you need help focusing, try doing an activity that raises your heart rate. Some schools now send disruptive kids to jump on a trampoline instead of a time-out.