3 Tips to Improve Focus for ADD/ADHD
Updated: Mar 16, 2019
"Why don't you just focus more? Just pay attention."
A question those of us with ADD/ADHD get asked a lot. ADHD, aka Attention Deficet Hyperactive Disorder has grown to be quite common, statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting a whopping 43% increase in children between the years 2003 and 2011. While the causes remain unknown and largely based off hypothesis (sugar, screen time, lack of physical activity, etc), the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are well known and includes things such as hyperactivity, moodiness, fidgety, and what I'm here to talk to you about today, lack of focus. Especially handy this time of year, where many of us are going back to school and going back to work from holiday vacation!
I was diagnosed ADHD when I was 16. In school, I had a mind that often wandered off while teachers talked and throughout my life, I also have had difficulty keeping focused during conversation. There are many approaches to managing ADHD, but I chose a more "holistic" path, remaining non judging of those who choose to medicate and the tips I'm about to provide are, in my hope, of aid to everyone and have most certainly helped me! Please do not look at this as medical advise, I'm not a doctor, just someone who seeks to optimize my health, better manage this lovely brain of mine and is sharing as I learn!
Now that that's covered, lets talk tips!
Tip #1 - Exercise your focus muscle daily.
What what?! Focus is a muscle?!
Of course not. However, I've noticed its very similar to one, in the sense that it requires maintenance and either grows or gets weaker as we age. A great way to work out that focus muscle is to have a daily breathing meditation practice!
To do this, optimally first thing in the morning, you simply grab a cushion or a chair, sit comfortably and set your timer for 10 minutes. I like to smile, setting the intention to focus prior, and then closing my eyes, I begin to observe my breath in its natural rhythm, using the mantra "in" as I breathe in, and "out" as I breathe out to make it a little easier! Each time lost in thought, its just note it as "thinking" and continuously get back to the practice.
This mindful breathing meditation practice certainly gets easier over time, and I've noticed it translates into different areas of my life, enhancing my ability to get back to what I'm doing when lost in thought. Mindfulness meditation in general has also shown to improve adult ADHD cognitive function in studies.
Tip #2 - Do two things at once.
I never thought that doing two things at once would be something that improves my focus but it turns out, it does. Sydney Zentall, PhD, in her studies, suggests doing a mindless activity (important that its mindless!), such as fidgeting, can be a great way to improve your ability to stay attentive during something that requires you being mindful.
I, personally, like to use a fidget block whenever I'm talking to my clients. This helps me be 100% present, which really is key in a coaching practice. You can also do things like walk while you talk (love this one), use a standing desk, listen to binaural beats and chew gum (avoid highly processed gums though!).
Side note - on the subject of mindfulness and multitasking, a Penn State University study on mindfulness actually found that students were in better moods when they practiced mindfulness while moving! This can be another way to increase that "muscle"! Bonus points if you do this, too, just use the mantra "stepping left" as you step left, "stepping right" as you step right!
Tip #3 - Listen actively.
When conversing, or perhaps listening to a podcast or lecture, one thing that I find helpful is repeating back what people say to myself as they're saying it. This is a helpful form of active listening, another thing I practice highly in my coaching practice. For bonus points, you can repeat back what people are saying to you out loud (of course, not over doing it) as a way to show them that you're present and keep your mind surrounding the conversation!
Taking notes in classroom/work type of settings go a long way, as well.
Whatever approach you choose to adopt, know that your ADHD does not make you a bad person. It's a struggle at many times, however, we have many gifts to offer the world! I also want to be clear that we are all different, and what works for me may not be what works for you, but its so worth it to make an effort to really enhance your life and give one of these a shot. You, like anyone else, deserve the best of the best.
For more, you can schedule a free coaching session with me here!
Life & Wellness Coach