What's on Your Dopamenu?



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 -

  • Fidgeting

  • Chewing pencils

  • Arguing

  • Eating

  • Dancing

  • Exercising

  • Social interaction

  • Social media

  • Netflix

  • YouTube

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.


Starters:

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.



Mains:

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

  • Exercising

  • Cooking/baking

  • 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

Sides:

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".

Desserts:

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

  • Youtube

  • Netflix

  • Sugary snacks

  • Thrilling experiences (Amusement rides and bungy-jumping are better choices than other risky behaviors!)

Specials:

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



Night-Time Snacks:

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!


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