Non-Medical Treatment of Adult ADHD – Exercise to Focus, Follow-through, and Feel Good!


“A bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.”
– Dr. John Ratey

And Dr. Ratey ought to know! The illustrious neuropsychiatrist from Harvard Medical School is the author with Dr. Ned Hallowell of the “Driven to Distraction” series and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the brain-fitness connection!

Exercise elevates your mood – which antidepressants such as Prozac do – and improves attention and concentration – which Ritalin does.

More and more professionals are recommending exercise as a treatment for mood and attention-related challenges such as ADHD, depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity turns our brains on! Our brains are more active during exercise than any other activity we engage in. Exercise is natural way to trigger the brain chemicals so helpful in managing the symptoms of ADHD.

The executive area of the brain – the part that controls activities that people with ADHD often find challenging such as planning, prioritizing, breaking down tasks into manageable steps, organization, memory, mood, motivation and follow through – is switched on during exercise, and the effects last for some time after we stop moving.

Physical activity keeps our brains young and perky by slowing down the process of degeneration that can result in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It improves our memory and helps our brain learn new habits, routines, and facts. Exercise promotes sleep and is a natural depression fighter.

Exercise makes your brain better in so many ways, so it’s a “no-brainer” decision to find ways to work more physical activity into your day!

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Diet As a Non-medical Treatment for Adult ADHD

protein foods 3“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
― Ann Wigmore, natural food advocate

My mom was a nutritionist, so I grew up learning about “eating healthy.” Of course back when I was a child, the ideas about what constituted healthy eating were a lot different than they are today! But nutrition is still one of my interests!

One of the most important things you can do for your brain, and your life is to make informed choices about your diet. Taking charge of your diet is one of the most potent non-medical treatments for ADHD available to you!

ADHD doesn’t come in “one size fits all” so you need to carefully monitor your reactions so you know which foods are giving you more energy, mental clarity, and peace of mind and which are making you foggy-headed, depressed, and miserable.

Make strategic decisions about protein

Most people who have ADHD find that they reap the following benefits when they make careful choices about their consumption of protein – they

  • think more clearly
  • have more energy
  • are able to focus for longer periods, and
  • follow-through more effectively and consistently

Why is this? One of the brain chemicals responsible for attention, concentration and controlling movements of the body is the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Having more dopamine available in the brain diminishes the symptoms of ADHD. What does this have to do with protein?! Dopamine is manufactured from protein!

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Adult ADHD, Carbs and Mental Clarity

carbs“When you feed a person with ADHD, you are feeding the brain and not the stomach.”

– Anonymous

Everything we consume has an intimate connection with how our bodies function – you can’t get away from that eternal truth! Nothing in the world will completely reverse the negative effects of a “horrible” diet. Nothing.

No one understands that better than I do.

When I was 29 years old I had a complete immune system breakdown. I developed so many severe health problems that I couldn’t leave the house for 5 years…I couldn’t work for 10 years.

The list of physical problems that I had to contend with reads like a horror story:

Irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, myofascial pain syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, hepatitis, systemic candidiasis, and 25 knee dislocations (have you ever tried to take a shower when you’re on crutches – not fun).

I went from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment, and yes, diet to diet! One doctor put me on a bland diet, another a gluten-free diet, a third a macrobiotic diet. And lots and lots of nutritional supplements and herbal medicines, of course.

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Self-efficacy is a Non-Medical Treatment for Adult ADHD

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

– Ayn Rand

Empowered-LivingThe term “self-efficacy” has always excited me! It means knowing that you can “get the job done” in your life.

What I find exciting is the thought that what I do matters; the thought that I can create the results I want; that I don’t need “luck” or “timing” or “permission” – I just need “me.”

The knowledge that I can control my motivation, my behavior, and my outcomes keeps me going when times are hard. So, why did I write about self-efficacy today?

Simple. I’m a bit “bogged down.” I’m having trouble creating something of importance to me. It’s moving along, but slower than expected. I’m down on myself…(not helpful Kari, not helpful).

But I’m 100% confident that I’ll get past the “stuck point” in this project and finish it. In this case, I’m absolutely sure about me. So where did this certainty come from? From years of observation of myself and completing projects I care about. They always get done, and they get done well. Knowing that keeps me working on this project.

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Resilience and Adult ADHD

14385726019_3896b6b1a1Have you ever read the story, The Little Engine That Could?

A heavy train needed to be pulled over a tall mountain. The big engines refused to take on the job, but the little engine decided to take on the challenge.

Why did the little engine take on such a huge job? In her own words, “I think I can, I think I can.

The going was rough, at points the Little Engine faltered, but she ultimately pulled the train over the mountain. As she rolled along down the other side, she was heard to say, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

What really sets the Little Engine apart from the other engines in the yard is the power of her self-efficacy to overcome perceived impossibilities and persist in the face of challenges.

In last week’s email I wrote about the power to be unstoppable – your mind’s ability to look at a tough situation and make a decision that you can conquer the challenge. If you didn’t read it, I hope you will read it on my blog because I think it could really help you!

Self-efficacy is never more important than when you feel that you are “swimming upstream” in your life.

Life has got its ups and downs and when you have unique challenges such as ADD / ADHD, learning disabilities, emotional issues or, as in my case, physical disabilities, the “downs” may seem to outnumber the “ups.”

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Cravings and Adult ADHD

dry dirt to green grass changeSurprisingly enough, these “cravings” I’m talking about are our habits and routines – the good habits like brushing our teeth, and the bad habits like watching TV for hours at a time!

We all know that in order to meet our goals, to improve the circumstances of lives, and to achieve our dreams we need to make changes.

The problem with making changes is that the human mind is hard wired to fight against changing habits and routines. There is a smooth biochemical efficiency when our bodies run on “automatic pilot.”  Habitual actions and thoughts save time, they require less body/brain fuel – glucose – and therefore, we unconsciously “crave” our habits! They save us energy, time and effort. They make life a LOT easier!

The only problem with this intricate and efficient system of “craving” our habits is that we just gotta evolve!! We can’t tolerate “standing still.” We need to grow and learn, and achieve and master – these drives are also hardwired into our basic design.

Talk about a conflict of interests! Our needs to become and evolve push us forward, and our habits hold back our efforts to change. However, once we do change our habits, the new habit gets “treated like a queen” and claims the throne of power!

…Indeed…a tricky system to navigate under any circumstances, let alone when ADHD is in the mix.

Whenever we seek to make profound and meaningful changes in our lives, we are going to come up again resistance. And if we want to evolve and become better in some way, if we want to achieve meaningful goals, we need to learn how to navigate the turbulent waters of “change”!

Well there are tactics you can use to get moving on a path to forming new habits. But first, I want to talk about some of the roadblocks that can come up and sabotage your efforts to move forward.

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Adult ADHD – Mastering the laws of habit formation will set you free!

Steven Covey QuoteLast week I boldly claimed that,

“…if we want to achieve meaningful goals, we need to learn how to navigate the turbulent waters of “change”!”

The problem with making changes is that the human mind is hard wired to fight against changing habits and routines. There is a smooth biochemical efficiency when our bodies run on “automatic pilot” that saves precious mental and physical energy. But, changing your habits is the key to getting control of your life!

Let’s first slow down for a moment and answer the question, “Hey, Kari! Why are we talking about habits? I’m having trouble getting work done, I’m having trouble being on time, I can’t seem to get organized! What the heck do ‘habits’ have to do with the things I’m struggling with? I want to follow through, I want to be on time, I want to be neat and organized. What does that have to do with my habits?”

I’m glad you asked! The answer is … because the help you’re looking for – the way out of your ADHD struggles – is found in the neuroscience of changing the things you do every day – your habits!

In the everyday magic of new, improved, super habits, you will find what you are looking for – follow-through, time management, organization and everything else that’s calling you from your heart. Paying attention to the laws of habit formation will set you free!

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Anatomy of a Habit and ADD/ADHD

habitIn a previous post we got waist deep in habit formation…lol…

I received great feedback on my message of the strategy behind making real, meaningful changes in our lives! People really resonated with the recipe for how to make a new productive routine a part of their life!

I’ll be honest, though. A couple of people said the equivalent of … “This is so deep; can you give me another example, or break it down some more?”

So first, let me say…please do excuse me, I can get a little carried away talking about significant stuff!

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Launching Pads and ADD/ADHD

launchAutomate your “launch sequence”!

Have you ever locked yourself out of your car … or your house? I sure have!

I think about all the time I wasted sitting outside my house waiting for my husband to come home to unlock the door or, even worse, sitting on the curb or in a fast food joint a block away from my car waiting for him to come and get me where I was stranded – yuck!!

After doing that more times than I care to remember I decided I never wanted that to happen to me ever again. I decided to take control.

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Adults with ADD/ADHD – How to “hire” a new habit!

hireDid you know that research shows it takes an average of 66 days to establish a new habit?

Keep in mind, though, that’s just an average – some habits can be developed in as little as 17 days and some require 250 days to get firmly in place!

Now, it just makes sense to get a new habit set up as quickly as possible. As soon as a new behavior becomes automatic – becomes a habit – then we reap all the benefits – it saves us time and emotional energy and delivers the specific result we wanted from the habit!

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