Seven Top Secrets for Adult ADHD: Boost Your Mood
Strategies from positive psychology research.
Posted Aug 20, 2019
Adults with ADHD are more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological challenges. There are many theories why this is the case, including overlapping biological causes as well as the psychological challenges of ADHD throughout the lifespan.
Fortunately, there is significant research from a field of science pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman called Positive Psychology, the study of strategies that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Positive Psychology offers useful tips for adults with ADHD as well. I would like to share with you seven strategies from Positive Psychology that you may find helpful.
I recommend keeping a curious attitude since it may be difficult to believe that these strategies may be of benefit. The research also shows that different tips benefit people more or less depending on the fit with the person. Thus, experiment with different strategies, perhaps starting with the ones that seem to resonate most with you.
1. Express Gratitude
The research shows that people who practice gratitude have a greater sense of well-being, a better mood, and less anxiety.
There are many ways to practice gratitude. One strategy is to keep a gratitude journal once a week, writing five things for which you are grateful and the reason why.
Another technique is to write a thank-you note to someone who has helped you in some way and to send it.
2. Focus on Your Strengths
In school and at our job, we are often encouraged to work on our challenges; however, the research shows that focusing on our strengths can improve our productivity and sense of well-being. A study conducted by Michelle McQuaid discovered that 70 percent of professionals who use their strengths are more engaged at work.
You may be aware of many of your strengths and yet may not appreciate others. One resource to help discover your hidden strengths is the VIA Survey.
3. Imagine Your Best Possible Self
Professor Laura King at the University of Missouri-Columbia has performed extensive research demonstrating that imagining and writing about what your ideal life will look like in the future can have a significant impact on your mood. Besides, it can help you think and be more aware of your ideas and goals, clarify your thoughts, prioritize what’s important to you, increase a sense of capacity and control, feel more hopeful about the future, enhance motivation, and create a strategy or path to move forward.
In the study, participants experienced a boost in their mood that lasted for weeks and even had fewer physical symptoms for several months.
4. Practice Kindness
Practicing acts of kindness has been shown to boost our mood. One theory of why this is a mood booster is that it puts the focus more on others and less on ourselves. Also, it can lead to a greater sense of connection and community, which has long been known to boost mood and resilience.
There are many ways to practice kindness. Acts of kindness can include making a donation, saying hello to a stranger, or buying a gift for a friend. The act can be something small or large. We all do acts of kindness at work and with our family and friends. So, for the maximum benefit, it is important to do something different, something above and beyond your normal acts.
One way to do this is to have one day a week where you do a certain number of kindness acts. The research shows that the benefit is larger when it is done within a short period, such as a day, rather than spread out over a week. Also, it can be helpful to track the number of kind acts and to notice the impact it may have on the person as well as on you.
5. Set Goals
Several strategies to boost your success with goals include writing down specific and measurable goals, creating a written strategy, and recruiting and tracking your progress and success.
For some strategies for creating effective goals, see my article on "Adult ADHD and Setting Goals."
6. Savor Pleasurable Experiences
Another strategy to improve positive feelings is thorough savoring. When you experience something pleasurable, such as hearing good music, eating something delicious, or seeing a beautiful sunset, notice it and savor it.
Another strategy is to write, think, or talk about past positive experiences. It is helpful to think about the specifics, including colors, sounds, and tastes.
You may select new or additional pleasurable experiences to add to your day, such as taking a walk in the park, listening to music, or getting a massage. This can add positive experiences in your life and expand your positive emotions.
7. Practice Mindfulness
There is significant research that shows mindfulness and meditation improve mood and positive feelings. Moreover, meditation has been demonstrated to improve many symptoms of ADHD, including focus, concentration, and mood regulation.
There are many strategies for increasing mindfulness. One way is to connect mindfulness to an activity you do every day, such as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Bring your complete attention to the activity and notice the sounds, sensations, and thoughts that are taking place.
A key element of mindfulness is paying attention and noticing when your attention drifts in a non-judgmental way. You may have thoughts of your ability to attend to an activity or not attending and feelings and opinions of the activity. These are judging thoughts. And just noticing that and allowing these thoughts to pass away is part of mindfulness.
Developing a formal practice of meditation can also improve the ability for mindfulness. The meditation doesn’t need to be extensive. Even a brief practice of five to 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. I have found with my patients that when they practice with a guided meditation on a recording, this helps them become more successful.
There are numerous strategies from the field of Positive Psychology that have the potential to boost your well-being and help you to thrive, even with the challenges of ADHD.
You may not find every tool helpful. Try out a few and discover which ones resonate with you.
Bryant, F. B., Smart, C. M., & King, S. P. (2005). Using the past to enhance the present: Boosting happiness through positive reminiscence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 227–260.
Cohn, M. A., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010). In search of durable positive psychology interventions: Predictors and consequences of long-term positive behavior change. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(5), 355-366.