Having ADHD Can Make It Harder to Be Happier. But…
ADHD and happiness are not always best buds. When we live a life of nearly constant overwhelm, daily frustrations, self-doubt, frequent inability to accomplish things we’re “supposed to be able to” accomplish…Well, that’s a tough place from which to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day.
It’s no wonder we ADHD adults and teens are statistically more likely to suffer from…
- Low self-esteem
Even those of us considered to have an “up” personality are subject to all of the above — and don’t get me started on some of the even uglier statistics about ADHD and quality-of-life.
But here’s the “but.” We have a surprising amount of control over how happy we are, both in the moment (i.e., there are “happiness hacks” you can use to alter your mood on-demand), and for the longer haul (i.e., there are habits and rituals you can cultivate to have what I call a “happier emotional home”).
It all begins with kicking aside a few myths about ADHD and happiness, and accepting some actual truths about happiness…
Adult ADHD can be rough, but you can be a happier camper.
ADHD and Happiness: The Top 3 Myths
Clichés and “inspirational” quotes about happiness, frankly, just make me sad. And there’s too much BS about happiness out there. For example, unhelpful myths like…
- People are hardwired to be either generally happy or unhappy, regardless of what happens in their lives. This has been demolished by research. Yes, as noted above, we ADHD adults and teens are more prone to emotional regulation issues — maybe you saw my recent cover story in ADDitude magazine about ADHD emotions — but we are not genetically destined to be happier or sadder than anyone else — provided we vigilantly know ourselves.
- Being happy means you never feel sad. Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine says, “Happiness is not the absence of sadness.” In fact, suppressing sadness suppresses other, more positive emotions as well. Feeling down about a mess-up? It’s better to grieve a bit than to pretend everything’s OK. Just be sure you follow that up with some self-compassion.
- “If I just get that raise/win that lottery/etc. — THEN, I promise, I’ll be happy!” Money doesn’t affect happiness — for ADHD teens or adults, or anyone else. The research is stunning: Lottery winners are no happier than paraplegics! Big lottery winners are super happy after winning, but fall to baseline levels in about two months. People who become paralyzed from the waist down also return to baseline levels of happiness within a few months after their accident.
And anecdotally, as someone who’s experienced both being unemployed with $100,000 in credit card debt, and a few years later having over $1m in his checking account, I can tell you that everyday happiness has little to do with money.
Nor does it have much of anything to do with any, external factors. Fact is, it’s little things we can do every day – and try to make into habits and rituals – that can make us happier NOW, and for the long haul.
3 Science-Based Truths About Happiness and ADHD
As you hopefully have noticed by now in this blog and all my writing, speaking and videos, I like science. Whether it’s about ADHD emotions or ADHD alternative solutions or ADHD and quality of life. So herewith: three science-based truths about ADHD and happiness:
One. Happiness is not a condition, but (mostly) a choice. Gratitude, self-compassion and self-forgiveness are just three examples simple choices you can make any time you’re feeling the negative ADHD emotions that come with your frustrations and foibles.
Two. Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO. We ADHDers are more prone to impulse purchases than neurotypicals — and it’s in part because we’re trying to feed a happiness need. We’d be better off hanging out with friends or family — or just hanging out with ourselves — than buying something we think will make us happy.
And Three. How you feel about your future… is determined by how you feel NOW. Underline this one, cuz this one is KEY!! If you feel so-so right now, your outlook for next week will be so-so. If you’re down or frustrated right now, your brain is forecasting more frustration for the coming month. And from this mental stance, you’re not gonna be motivated to do much, let alone be at your best.
“Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO.” – Alan P. Brown TWEET THIS
So, what might you choose to DO today — maybe even right now, to switch from a so-so mood or even an ugly funk? Remember: based on all the above, you can choose to flip a switch to be happier right NOW (e.g., a gratitude prayer, acknowledge a small victory you had today — and explore more examples at the links below), so that you can begin your work with a stronger feeling about the future: “Hey, this is gonna work out pretty well!”
I always say, “We ADHDers don’t have to accept chronic procrastination, disorganization and overwhelm as a ‘lifestyle.'” And neither do we have to resign ourselves to disappointment, regret and pessimism as a ‘lifestyle.’
Want to Learn Some Simple, Evidence-Based Happiness Hacks?
I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to Scientifically-Proven Ways to Be Happier NOW and below is the preview of that episode, where I provide a ton of simple ways to flip the happiness switch.
What’s Crusher™TV? It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 106: 5 Scientifically-Proven Ways to Be Happier NOW. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that episode by clicking the image below.
Episode Description: Feeling happy right now? Or, if as is more likely, are you working hard, waiting until some happiness arrives? We’re mostly doing the latter. That’s what we humans do. But I’ll share 5 simple ways to be (genuinely) happy right here & now and any time. (Not including the four happiness mini-hacks I share just in the Episode Preview.) And I’m joined by guest expert Dan Fowler, The Imagination Engineer, who has a cool 6-step process for manifesting what you want.
Alan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to accomplish more in less time with less drama. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.