Updated: May 1
Dopamine - it's the secret sauce for "feeling like it"- for motivation.
ADHDers have difficulty regulating their dopamine levels. It's why you either constantly seek stimulation (the opposite of boredom) or you suffer from over-stimulation. Interestingly, that's what ADHD stimulation medication does - it "stimulates"- regulates dopamine levels in your brain, so you don't need to seek it elsewhere.
There are a myriad of different ways ADHDers find the stimulation they need -
You name it, ADHDer have used it for stimulation. However, just like the menu in a restaurant, there are healthier and less healthy choices of activities that will raise your dopamine levels.
These are quick and easy activities for you to revitalize yourself during a short break, like:
Listening/dancing to a song
Doing some deep breathing
Taking a walk around the office
Making a cup of coffee
Grabbing a snack.
These are engaging, fulfilling activities that you enjoy or will help your wellbeing, and they are key to thriving with ADHD. They take longer than starters, but I highly recommend scheduling them into your life, because they are your fuel, your battery, your chargers. They are activities like:
Creative hobbies like drawing or painting
Learning a skill, like playing an instrument
Spending quality time with friends and family
Going on a hike/going outside/going for a walk
Watching comedy or other things that bring laughter
These are things you can add to boring tasks to make them more interesting, like:
Listening to a podcast or music
Watching a show
Calling a friend
Lighting a scented candle
Working with a "body double" - a friend next to you, or even on a "Zoom work date".
These are things you need to consume sparingly. Just like dessert gives us a quick sugar-spike, but then drops just as quickly, these give you a quick dopamine hit, but one that doesn't last long, and may leave us thirsting for more. That's why these activities can be addicting. Some examples of "dopamine desserts" are:
Checking Whatsapp/social media
Thrilling experiences (Amusement rides and bungy-jumping are better choices than other risky behaviors!)
These are things you can also indulge in occasionally, but they take more time or money than dessert. Here we are talking about things like:
Taking a vacation
Having a massage
Buying something for yourself
Going to a concert or show
These are good for those of us who, rather than seeking stimulation, sometimes need help unwinding from stimulation. This is definitely me! Here's what I do:
Get into comfortable clothes
Breathe or meditate for 5 min
Take a roaming walk with my dog
Turn the lights low
Leave my phone and other blue-light screens in another room to my bedroom.
The dopamenu concept was made popular by Eric Tivers and Jessica McCabe, especially on a video from Jessica's YouTube channel, "How to ADHD". They, and other ADHD experts, recommend you write your own personal "dopamenu" - a guide for healthy stimulation-management in your life.
Grab your template here and get cooking!