What does it mean?

So I’m kind of flummoxed here. Is it weird that I dreamt last night that I had a surplus of cauliflower in my refrigerator that was about to go bad (which, by the way, isn’t the case) and then this comes in my New York Times daily briefing?

Cauliflower soup photo

 

Why my challenges are also a blessing

A few months ago, I challenged myself to do something scary. Really scary. I spoke about having ADHD and dyslexia in front of hundreds of people over two nights here in Bozeman.

It was a PechaKucha talk meaning I had six minutes and 20 seconds to tell my story. I created a Powerpoint of 20 slides that played 6 seconds each behind me on stage at The Ellen Theatre. It was a powerful experience hearing people react to my words as I spoke.

It was also affirming having folks — even people I didn’t know — praise the presentation. More importantly, I was surprised and pleased to have several people thank me, themselves having been recently diagnosed or having struggled with these issues for years. Some even sought me out for advice.

Whoa!

If I think back on the days when I first started keeping this blog, I realize how far I’ve come from that anxiety-ridden, depressed woman. Now, I feel strong, confident and capable. And I’m getting things done … not despite, but BECAUSE I have ADHD.

Don’t get that? Watch the video.

A silver bullet? How a notebook changed my life

If like me, you’d never heard of Ryder Carroll, you’re not alone. It’s not like the Brooklyn-dwelling digital product designer is a household name. Until yesterday, I’d never heard of the guy either. But he changed my life and so many others when he invented a system of task organizing he dubbed bullet journaling.

I first learned about keeping a bullet journal during a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators meeting when author Janet Fox spoke about it. I was intrigued but felt like it was too complicated and free-form for me. How could I possibly keep my ADDled brain organized with something so seemingly random?

But a bullet journal can be complex or it can be fairly simple. The idea is basically to keep all your thoughts, ideas, to-do lists and calendars in one place – a notebook. Any notebook. That you WRITE in.

It starts with a few pages in the front of the book that will serve as your index or table of contents – this is key. Then numbering pages as you go along, for each topic you write about in your journal, you enter it the index so you can find it again later.

So, for example, you know all those scraps of paper you’ve collected over the years with suggestions for books to read – you can put all of those on one page in the journal with the heading “Books to Read.” Then when you are heading to the library or bookstore, you can scan the list (finding the page via your index) and pick which book to seek out.

OK, so maybe this seems counterintuitive with all our phone apps meant to keep us dialed in to our lives. But here’s the thing. How often do you actually go to your Goodreads list? Where do you keep your ideas for your next project or notes for that project? Have you lost them? Do you use multiple apps to keep track of all the things that pop into your head daily?

I used to do everything on my phone and kept a random notebook with thoughts. But I found all those apps overwhelming and the ideas would get lost in the ever-present notebook. Maybe that’s just me. I do still use Google Calendar for my appointments and the mundane tasks of life, but all my lists and ideas – they go in the bullet journal. The reason this works, at least for me, is because it keeps all my goals and lists organized and in one place so I CAN FIND THEM AGAIN.

Bonus: I’m not using digital media, so I don’t get distracted by something I see on the web or an email that’s popped into my inbox. In other words, I’m not tempted to “multitask.”

Yes, I put that in quotes.

McGill University neuroscientist Daniel Levitin wrote about the phenomenon of multitasking for The Guardian. Quoting Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist Earl Miller, he wrote, “‘When people think they are multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.’ So, we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.”

I love that. It sounds a lot like ADD and not exactly productive, right?

E.J. Masicampo, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University, studied something called the Zeigarnik effect whereby unfulfilled goals can linger in the mind … even hound us. Ever wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat realizing you’ve got a project due in a day that you haven’t even started? It’s like that.

Essentially, his team found that participants who planned out a goal were less likely to get distracted by another (easier?) task than those who had not thought about a plan.

“If you just take a moment to make a specific plan for a goal that was previously unresolved and worry-inducing, then it gets rid of that stickiness,” Masicampo told Nicola Davis of the Guardian.

Levitin noted using a blank notebook might also have a positive impact on productivity. Some people spend time creating gorgeous layouts in their journals – some may be daunting to see. On face value this may seem a waste of time, but Levitin thinks otherwise. “Research tells us that if you can take time off from your workflow and let your mind wander – maybe doodle, listen to music, draw pictures or even just stare out the window – those periods of inactivity are actually essential to having productive periods of activity,” he says. “When you’ve got a piece of paper in front of you, it sort of encourages you to expand your visual field and expand your imagination.”

A plethora of research has also shown how expressing one’s thoughts in writing can improve mental and physical health. By jotting down a thought as it pops into your brain, you can temporarily put it aside and stay focused on the task at hand. Can you say productivity?

So, there is science that illustrates why bullet journaling works for so many people. In fact, Carroll, the bullet journal’s creator has ADHD, but relishes the break from screen time (which has its own negative effects on the brain).

Writing on nice paper is soothing to me and there’s a certain gratification I get from checking off a finished task (which I will do as soon as I post this). My bullet journal keeps me accountable and organized – like any trusty sidekick should.

10 Reasons You Can Be Happy You Have ADD

AD:HD Highway to white black

  1. You notice things – lots of things, many of which others miss. And your friends are tickled when you point out the eccentric guy walking down the street with the perfect symbol for peace and harmony: a dog balancing a cat on its back who is balancing a rat on its back (that really happens – or used to anyway – in Bisbee, Arizona).
  2. Alternately, you have the ability to hyperfocus – spending many undistracted hours working on a problem or project often without taking a break to eat or sleep. Maybe Attention Deficit Disorder is a misnomer. I think we should rename it Attention Difference Disorder, or as my mosaic-artist friend Lisa Lord calls it, Attention-to-Detail Disorder.
  3. Speaking of details … some people with ADHD are nothing if not detail-oriented — known for relentless curiosity and vision, meticulous work and seemingly boundless energy. Just don’t get caught up in the endless, mind-numbing pursuit of perfection. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t exist.
  4. You can be ultra-sensitive to sound, aroma, touch, pain, flavors and emotions. But noting fine detail is fodder for great descriptive writing and inspiration for a variety of creative pursuits.
  5. Similarly, many of you feel deeply – OK, so maybe being a drama queen isn’t your thing. BUT, how about being able to read people’s emotions and feel compassion? As a writer and reporter, this trait enables me to get people to speak honestly about difficult personal things. Or to get typically close-mouthed sources (can you say sheriff’s deputies in northern Maine?) to give up information they may not otherwise share. People trust people who exhibit compassion.
  6. Your passion and enthusiasm can be contagious. This can go both ways, of course, but I prefer to think of this as part of our charm. People react to and appreciate the enthusiasm you exhibit for things you are passionate about. This makes you a persuasive influencer and an inspiring motivator.
  7. Creativity is your muse. You may see solutions to problems others miss. You astound bosses, coworkers and others with your ability to think beyond the obvious.
  8. You aren’t necessarily organized, but with the right tools, you can be. Learning how to use time wisely, setting up reminders and organizing your life doesn’t necessarily feel like a chore – that perfectionist in you loves structure and structure keeps you on task. You just have to get there (this is a subject for another day – but I’ll get to it, promise).
  9. For some, drinking caffeinated drinks makes them sleepy, happy or more focused. So, go ahead, have that late-night cappuccino (just don’t go overboard).
  10. You are more apt to take risks, are stimulated by adventure and are typically more resilient when things don’t work out. According to Psychology Today, people with ADHD are 300% more likely to start their own business. So, hey, you are in amazingly successful company including Sir Richard Branson, Michael Phelps, Jim Carrey, Justin Timberlake, Jamie Oliver, Howie Mandel, Charles Schwab, Terry Bradshaw, Pete Rose, Simone Biles, Ed Hallowell (one of my favorite people with the so-called disorder), Greg LeMond, David Neeleman and Paul Orfalea. (Check out the links for inspiration).

And if perfectionism weren’t one of my issues, I’d have finished this post a week ago … just saying.

 

Dopamine — making us dopey?

 

“The more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get.”

— Dr. Robert Lustig

I’ve kicked the habit. I have resisted doing puzzles online for nearly two weeks now and this time I think it’s going to stick. It was an embarrassing habit wrought sometimes of boredom, but most frequently of fear and procrastination.

It happened after attending a Kopriva Science Seminar at Montana State University a couple of weeks ago. The speaker was Dr. Robert Lustig, author of “The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains” and New York Times bestseller, “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease.” 

Though Lustig’s talk focused on our eating habits and how they affect our brain function, he touched on the damage we experience as a result of computer use.

He posed this question: What’s the difference between pleasure and happiness? Have you ever considered this? It’s simple really: pleasure is short-lived, happiness is longterm.

So why is this important and how does this distinction affect brain function?

Imagine you’re eating your favorite food — mint chocolate chip ice cream, for example. Your brain gets happy because it’s being satisfied with sugar and fat and all the stuff that we’ve been trained to enjoy (yes, trained, but that’s another post about Lustig). That happiness you feel is short-term — once the ice cream is gone, the pleasure dissipates.

Let’s consider that same dopamine triggered by, say, cocaine. Lustig (and many others) say longterm dopamine surges damage, even destroy, the neuropathways that enable us to feel pleasure creating a tolerance to the triggers that make us feel good. Our solution? We use more, eat more, gamble more, do more puzzles. See where I’m going with this?

flying_brain_by_pixelnase

“The more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get,” Lustig says.

Dopamine affects executive functioning or decision-making and perception, so we need a certain level of it. But too much dopamine and an addicted pleasure-seeking brain is unable to decide to “just stop using” because sensory information isn’t getting to other parts of the brain. When those neuropathways are damaged, it leads to deficits in memory, attention and problem-solving. Dopamine deficiency is also thought to cause Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar disorders, binge eating, addiction, gambling, schizophrenia and ADHD (right?), according to Psychology Today.

And there are studies indicating that online gaming, even simple computer use, produces that pleasure-producing neurotransmitter dopamine (and has other negative brain-altering consequences).

Yikes! Am I right?

I have enough trouble with my executive functioning … scared straight, I was.