Archives for February 2015

ADHD and Hyperfocus

ADHD and HyperfocusWhen we focus on something, we make it the center of our attention. We block out distractions, (external and internal) and mentally engage with it, for minutes or hours at a time. Focusing is how things get done. It feels rewarding and satisfying.

ADHDers have the ability to take focusing to an entire other level and hyperfocus. When you hyperfocus, you do such a good job of blocking out distractions that you aren’t aware of what is going on around you. My friend, Bonnie was reading a newspaper while her 2 small children were happily playing. The next thing she knew, her daughters head popped up between her and the paper and she was saying, “Mom, are you in there?” She had been trying to attract her mom’s attention for several minutes before deciding she needed to physically check in.

This lack of awareness of what is going on around you, can get you into trouble; you might miss appointments or worse. In her book, Adventures in Fast Forward, Kathleen Nadeau writes about an ADHDer who was hyper-focusing on writing a paper. She was so engrossed, she didn’t notice that her house was on fire. “She had missed the sirens and all the commotion and was finally discovered by firemen, as she was working contentedly in her room while the kitchen at the back of the house was engulfed in flames!” says Nadeau.

When you hyperfocus on a work project, or a creative hobby, it feels fun, creative, productive and gives a huge sense of accomplishment. When you hyperfocus on something such as a TV watching binge, or 8 hours surfing the web, it doesn’t feel good because it comes with an element of guilt or shame. Also, the people in your life gets annoyed when you are late, or they want your attention and you seem to be ignoring them.

Hyperfocus can be confusing. You can’t really choose what you hyperfocus on. Boring mundane tasks, like housework will never be tasks that you can hyperfocus on, even though you wish you could. In order to hyperfocus on something, it has to be interesting, and just the right level of difficulty. Not too difficult; not too easy, but taxing enough that it engages your brain in a rewarding way.

Here are some tips so that you can enjoy the benefits of hyperfocusing and limit the negative.

1) Write down the activities that you do hyperfocus on: The good stuff and the not so good stuff.

2) Plan chunks of time when you can do the good activities. When you have ADHD,  a lot of the time, you are trying to force yourself to take action, or focus. It seems a shame to have to pull yourself away when you are being productive and focused.

For example, I get into the flow when I do my taxes (I know it s weird!) So once a year, I schedule an uninterrupted day where I can do all the tax things at once. This takes advantage of my brain energy and makes an enjoyable day.

3) Limit hyperfocus on the not so good stuff. When you have identified your danger activities, you can still do them, but know when you start them, it will be hard to disengage. For example, if a particular computer game is one of your hyperfocus things, plan to play a day at the weekend, rather than in the week when you have work commitments.

4) Set very loud timers. If you have an appointment, or a time you need to stop doing a task, set a very loud timer and put it away from where you are sitting. This means you will physically have to get up to switch it off. You will be forced to mentally disengage and then, it will be easier to stop your hyperfocus activity.


What activities do you hyperfocus on? Leave a note in the comment below!

The Secret of Happy Relationships

The Secret to Good RelationshipsThere is a great article in The Atlantic, about what happy couples do differently than unhappy couples or ones that break up. It is based on the life work of psychologist, John Gottman and the great thing is that it’s something everyone can do, starting today.

Back in 1986, John created ‘The Love Lab’, where he and his team studied newlyweds. The couples were attached to electrodes and asked questions about their relationship. The electrodes measured heart rate, blood flow and sweat production.

Couples fell into one of 2 groups: The ‘Masters’ and the ‘Disasters’. The electrode readings from the Disasters showed increase heart rate, blood flow and sweat production. They were in a constant state of flight or fight, ready to either attract or defend. 6 years later, this group had either broken up or were very unhappy. In contrast, the Masters were physically calm and emotional connected. They had created an environment of trust; even when they fought. The masters were happy together after 6 years.

What did the Masters and Disasters do differently? Gottman wanted to find out! He created a bed and breakfast style environment, where couples hang out as they would and researchers could study them. The researchers found that couples are constantly making ‘bids for attention’. These bids can be about very small things, but each one is important. In The Atlantic article, Gottman uses this example: The husband sees a bird through the window and points it out to his wife.

If she responds with interest or support, even very briefly, that is a sign of a happy relationship. They are Masters. Alternatively, if she didn’t respond, or said something dismissive or rude, such as: ‘Don’t interrupt me’, then, the bid has been turned away and is typically how the ‘Disasters’ respond.

The attention bids had a huge effect of the well being of the marriage. The couples who had divorced 6 years later, had only positively responded to the bids 33 percent of the time. In contrast, the couples who were happy and still together, had responded 87% of the time.

When you have ADHD, responding to your partner’s bids might feel like hard work. Because it takes a lot of effort to disengage your focus from what you were doing, respond to your partner, and then try and focus again. However, it is possible, and since this is THE key to a happy, long lasting relationship, it is also vital.

Gottman says he can predict with 94% certainly where couples will be together and happy years down the road based on these types of interactions.

Your homework this week:

1. Notice when your partner makes a bid for your attention.

2. Notice how you respond.

3. Notice what you are doing when you don’t respond positively. Is there is a theme? Is it always when you are working on your computer or watching TV?

4. Can you improve your stats? Can you improve how often you respond positivity?

5. Check out the full article here: