In my endless, possibly misguided quest, to diagnose my own mental ailments, I’ve now stumbled into the realm of ADHD Pinterest. Although it’s difficult to distinguish between autism and ADHD symptoms because many are so similar and often these two overlap or co-occur. As it stands right now, I honestly think I have both. If I could afford it or even had access to a mental evaluation I’d love to have one done. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with internet memes to diagnose myself with for the time being.
Anyway, my newfound knowledge about ADHD has helped me realize my brain’s need for novelty. I can be completely engrossed in a new hobby or interest at first. I could spent every hour of every day learning about it or practicing it, but then without fail, I lose all interest after the initial magic of the “shiny new toy” wears off. This used to cause me a considerable amount of distress. I felt like a failure, unable to stick with anything for any significant amount of time. I would avoid committing to things even if I was obsessed because I knew that feeling would inevitably wear off and I would abandon whatever project or goal I had set. Then I would spent months feeling anxious and guilty about quitting.
Now that I know doing new things, or doing old things in a new and interesting way is what keeps me focused, I have a better chance of keeping myself happy and engaged in the tasks I want to perform or the goals I set for myself. It’s no easy feat to come up with ways to keep changing up my routine though. My autistic traits make me crave consistency, which is at odds with the need for novelty. I get very anxious at the idea of changing up a habit, even once it has become tedious and unpleasant. It takes a lot of mental effort to think of how I can alter my routines in a way that is small enough so it doesn’t overwhelm me with anxiety, but big enough to help me maintain interest.
So far, I’ve only seemed to make progress with this in the realm of my physical fitness. After over a decade of working out, I can get really frustrated and bored doing the same things every day, even if they are always a somewhat different HIIT workout. The one thing that I’ve found to help me stay motivated and excited to workout is having a clear goal in mind. Now before this, while my workouts would change periodically, my goal was always the same: lose weight and/or build muscle. These goals were far too vague and also, for me personally, deeply frustrating and unsatisfying as no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to do either of them to any noticeable degree.
If you’re someone like me who may have ADHD and/or someone who just has trouble staying interested in a regular workout routine, I would suggest picking a goal more fun and specific than losing weight. Something that you can measure without risking tipping over the edge into unhealthy body image and eating habits as I have in the past. Lately when I workout, I try to work towards gaining a new ability through my physical fitness journey. For instance, I want to be able to do a handstand one day in my yoga practice. There are a plethora of exercises I can incorporate into my workouts to build up the necessary strength and balance to achieve that. Doing a handstand is a goal that is fun and feels worthwhile for it’s own sake.
Another goal I’ve had since I found out about the exercise, is being able to do a pistol squat. Essentially this is lowering down into an extremely deep, low squat with only one leg, then raising yourself back up into a standing position. I really never thought I would be able to do that, but for a few months, I’ve added in a lot of pistol squat prep exercises into my weekly leg workout. Today, I am proud to say, I managed to do three sets of six reps of pistol squats on each leg! I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It’s the first time I’ve had that much fun in my morning workout for awhile. They may not have been perfect, but I can’t wait to get better and better at them.
At least as far as physical fitness goes, this strategy seems able to provide an endless supply of novelty. I can keep building on my physical ability more and more over time. Once I’m able to hold a handstand with a wall behind me in case I fall, I’ll work on doing it without a wall, then I’ll work on lifting up into a handstand, then handstand pushups, then handstand to crow pose, etc. I can’t wait to see what this body of mine may be capable of one day. Now if I can only find a way to implement this same principle of finding consistent novelty into my other passions and pursuits. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggests or if you struggle with this quest for novelty as well.