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Does music help us concentrate?

Dec 8, 2017

I had a great meeting of my CHADD parents support group last night. It was only three moms but they were all new and really ran the gamut of who comes to the meetings. One mom was really struggling with her 5 year-old boy who's recently diagnosed but long assumed to have had ADHD. One mom has a 16 year old girl who is working her tail off to hold it together in school despite having tremendous difficulty attending to just about anything. Interestingly, she did far better when she did 4 hours of gymnastics everyday. The last mom has a 14 year old who’s super inattentive and impulsive… and already well over six feet tall.

Some really interesting things came up. I’m going to try to cover them in the next few posts before I circle back to finish my work out tips series. One thing that came up near the end of the meeting was the whether or not listening to music is helpful or hurtful for concentration. I can’t remember if I’ve done a post on this or not. But, even if I have, it couldn’t hurt to do another one.

The short answer is, YES… for 95% or ADHDers. But there are some caveats to that… and of course exceptions. As with most aspects of ADHD, we ADHDers often respond in two different ways to the same issue/situation. The majority of us will will respond one way and a small percentage of us will respond in what is likely the exact opposite way. The vast majority of us focus far better when this is background sound of our choosing, ie. music.

I have no idea why this is or what the brain-based mechanism is. The way way that I’ve always thought about it was that there is 10% of my brain that is out of control and constantly seeking stimulation. If I’m doing anything that requires deep focus, that part of my brain gets bored and wants to think about or do something more interesting. Once it thinks of that thing, it hijacks the rest of my brain which goes along for the ride. However, if I chose the right music or other audio stimulation, it can keep that part of my brain occupied while I focus on what I want to focus on. As a matter of fact, we can all thank The Mighty Mighty Bosstones for my being able to concentrate on writing this at the end of a brutally long week, as I’m currently listening to their album The Magic of Youth.

The bottom line is that silence if my enemy. Of course, distracting sound is my enemy too. In this sense, we all have to find our ‘sweet spot’ of what sound is helpful. The following is what works for me.

  • Getting ready in the morning is repetitive and tedious. I have a bluetooth speaking in the bathroom and get my punk rock on first thing in the am to get me going. It is the difference between a shower seeming boring and something to avoid and it being just a thing that happens. I will also sometimes listen to 98.5.

  • When working in my office getting stuff done I will usually listen to mellower music if I’m doing more attention based tasks. Maybe The Avett Brothers, or The Old Crow Medicine Show.

  • When I’m in the car, I’m usually listening to a podcast or 98.5 or sometimes punk/ska. (I used to listen to a lot of NPR, but the current political climate stresses me out. So, I don’t do that much anymore.)

  • If I’m writing something complicated I might listen to Thelonious Monk solo Piano or Juno Reactor (electronica without lyrics… mostly.)

  • Even white noise is helpful. I sleep with a fan in the summer or a white noise machine while I’m sleeping and sometimes use that to work also.

The bottom line is that when your kids tell you that it help them to listen to music, it almost definitely does. Just encourage them to vary the music as needed to meet their attention needs.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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Videogame addiction, Paula Poundstone & Ask Amy

Dec 2, 2017

I am 100% about generating my own content, but sometimes you come across something that says it so well that it stands on it's own. Many people don't really take me seriously when I say that videogames have been been shown to be neurologically addictive. I urge you to consider reading this Ask Amy with a contribution from Comic Paula Poundstone. 

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Checklists for my son

Nov 29, 2017

My eight-year-old is a fantastic kid. But his attention is challenged, especially in the morning and evening when he's not on his Focalin. I was getting frustrated with reminding him about everything he had to do as part of his routine. And, my nagging him wasn't ideal for our relationship. So, we decided together that creating and posting checklists would be a good idea. We made a draft together (when he was medicated.) Then I typed them up on colorful paper and posted them in his room next to the door, on the wall in the bathroom, and downstairs on the corner of the TV. It's a new system, but so far we've had pretty good progress on most days.
Checklists for my son
Checklists for my son
Checklists for my son

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Don't be so hard on yourself

Nov 17, 2017

So, I don't often do something as trite as posting lyrics as a blog post. But, I'm a bit behind in posting and a song by my new favorite band, The Interrupters, really hit me the other day. I think it's pretty self explanatory, so here it is...

They always told you you were never good enough
But why oh why are you making it
Are you making it so hard?

Be easy on yourself
Be easy on yourself
Be easy on yourself
Cuz nobody's been easy on you

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Workout Tip # 5b: Where to Workout

Nov 9, 2017

Know Thy Self! Where to work out?

I think that knowing where to workout is also super important. Are you a gym person? Do you like to exercise at home? Do you prefer to be outside? Does the weather or time of year make a difference to you? I’d be willing to bet that all these things make a difference. But the answers are different for everybody. And, here’s the strangest part: the answer for you may change over time.

Maybe you have a busy work schedule and feel like it’s too much of a pain to get out to the gym. Putting some exercise equipment in your basement might be the right answer. But, if you need to have a social aspect to your workout, maybe taking classes at the gym is the right answer. If you love the outdoors, it’s likely that you won’t want to be shut up in the basement or the gym in nice weather. Then you’ll need to find options that get you outside.

And sometimes the same situation may lead to different conclusions over time. That has certainly been my experience. I work from home and am pretty self motivated. So, I build a gym in my house. I’ve got a bench, weights, bands, a balance ball and a few other misc. pieces. For several years I worked out at home because it was convenient and time efficient. But I came to a point where my business was thriving to the extent that it became healthy for me to get out of the house for an hour or an hour and a half every day to get my workout in at the gym. I’m lucky that I have a great, reasonably priced gym that is a 6 minute drive from my house. Maybe someday I’ll move back to working out at home? Who knows? But I can say that being flexible has allowed me to continue my workout routine through many changes in my life, work, and schedule.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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Fighting ADHD ignorance

Nov 3, 2017

Got an awesome (sarcasm) email last week. Decided to send a response. For your edification and amusement, check out a copy of my response below.

Hey William. Sorry it has taken a few days to get back to you. But, I feel that it’s really important to do so. I invite you to thoroughly digest my (inline) response to your initial email below.

I was browsing Google for content related to ADHD and came across your page here:
Let’s be honest. You weren’t browsing. This is an email generated by a marketing firm or an algorithm. God bless anyone who falls for your personal touch.

Looks great! 
Thanks for the smoke blowing. But, if you’d actually read my site, you’d know that you wouldn’t like it so much.

Adderall and prescription ADHD medications can be highly dangerous if abused. These stimulants have many adverse side effects and are known to be quite harmful to children despite being FDA approved. 
Your ignorance on this topic is mind-blowing in 2017. As a matter of fact I would go so far as to call these two sentences patently false, dangerous, fear mongering. There have been literally hundreds of studies showing the safety an efficacy of stimulant therapy. The vast, vast majority of those studies have been conducted on children. As a matter of fact, I have participated in more than one of those longitudinal studies at MGH I was diagnosed at age ten and have been medicated for 29 years. So, in addition to finding your assertion professionally unconscionable, I find it personally offensive. 

Since Adderall abuse has grown to epidemic levels, our research team has compiled an article about the best all-natural alternatives to Adderall.
Actually, that’s not true at all. Opioid abuse it at an epidemic level. Not so much for Adderall. You want to actually read some medical research on the topic which you seem to be implying that you are an expert on.

Simply put, we’re trying to draw much-needed awareness to safer and healthier remedies for ADHD. 
New and innovative treatments for ADHD are always needed, but not from a safety standpoint, from an efficacy one. About 85% of ADHD patients respond to stimulants. That is an amazing figure. But when you consider that ADHD affects about 8 - 10% of the population, there are still many people who don’t have an effective treatment. So, if whatever you are trying to sell me works, I strongly encourage you to be spending your time proving that in a clinical setting. 

I hope you’ll find our post useful. If you do, please feel free to link to it as a resource within your article. We firmly believe this is a post that all parents and those with ADHD should read. 
Honestly, I’m not even sure what you are trying to sell me here. But you should probably fire the guy who wrote this because it is totally unclear.

In exchange for the reference, we’ll share your page across all of our social networks to help drive traffic to your website and increase exposure. Our Twitter page alone receives over 250,000 Tweet Impressions per month. =) If you're interested, please let me know. 
I’m doing fine on my own, thank you. I have a full practice and a waitlist. I help real people every day.

Either way, keep up the great work! We appreciate your time. Enjoy the rest of your week. 
I will, in fact, keep up the great work by combatting the ignorance you so freely spouting in your email. 

In short, Fuck Off!


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