Have you ever stayed up late at night thinking about the person you want to be? I constantly think about all the bad habits I want to break and all the good ones I want to start, but when I wake up in the morning, all that motivation is gone. I know what to do and how to get to where I want to be, but I lack something everyone else seems to have that will kickstart me into gear. Finding internal motivation with ADHD is like asking a pig to fly, and don’t even get me started on decision paralysis. So here are a few tips for tricking yourself into building better habits.
Battling Depression with ADHD
This section isn’t going to be some blanket cure-all for depression. It’s rather a niche, but it rings true for many of us with ADHD. My depression stems from my ADHD. Trevor Noah said it best in an interview with 60 Minutes back in 2021, “if I’m not careful in how I sleep, how I eat, how I– how I manage my routine, I can become overwhelmed, and it can just feel like the whole world is just too heavy to bear.” Maintaining that routine is super difficult at times. (As I write this article at midnight.) But I have been more mindful of my routine since I watched this interview. It has taken a lot of time and work, but maintaining my routine and battling off this ADHD-fueled depression has gotten way more manageable.
I have gamified my life in a few ways so that an external motivation tricks me into sticking to everything. I recently bought a Garmin Forerunner 245 Music watch, and it’s made life so much better. There is something about seeing all of your “health stats” laid out for you that is eye-opening. I know I don’t sleep well, but it’s one thing to say, “I only got 5 hours of sleep last night,” and to see a breakdown of your sleep. I recently had a night where I got less than 6 hours of sleep, and only 15 minutes was REM sleep. The rest was mostly light sleep with a bit of deep sleep. Seeing the numbers laid out helped me figure out why I’m ALWAYS SO FREAKING TIRED.
All this to say is to find a system that works for you. Then, find ways to hold yourself accountable and run with it.
Gamify Your Life
Gamifying things isn’t a new concept. The big thing to gamify right now is learning. Educators love to turn anything and everything into a game. We learn better that way and want to keep learning because we are having fun. We trick ourselves into enjoying the process. I never liked when people (professional athletes) used to say that you need to fall in love with the process/grind of training. Some of us are happy to roll out of bed, shower, and leave our apartment. Get out of here with that whole “romanticizing the hard stuff.” Nope, what I’ve done is trick myself into doing stuff, like how I trick my dog into taking her medicine by covering it in peanut butter and bacon bits.
For example, I now set aside a dollar for every mile I run in a month. I HATE RUNNING, but it’s easy to do and good for the heart. Sometimes I don’t feel like going to the gym and lifting useless weights until I’m tired. And since I spend so much time inside between my job and classes, running lets me get some much-needed fresh air. So even though I hate running, paying myself to do it has kept me consistent. It makes me want to get better at it as well. I started off being super out of shape (thanks, Covid) and inconsistent (I don’t like doing things I’m not good at), and I only ran 5 or 6 miles in my first month. I’m hitting those numbers weekly and adding more as I get better.
At the end of April, I ran/walked 27 miles. $27 isn’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of being an adult, but I treated myself to a movie night with a large popcorn. Just have to find little ways to trick yourself and your ADHD into wanting to do something.
I swear, 60% of being an adult is cleaning your kitchen. And I don’t know about you, but me and my ADHD hate cleaning. It’s the worst. It can feel so overwhelming at times. I’ve got to load the dishwasher, do the laundry, clean the bathroom, mop the floor, wipe down my kitchen counter, and wipe down my wood furniture. It leaves me paralyzed sometimes. The kitchen is the worst, though, because it feels like you have to clean it every single day. Lowkey, nothing is more a simple but effective downer to a great day than coming home and needing to clean the kitchen.
My hack is to meal prep on Sundays. Half of the messes in my kitchen are from cooking. I can handle cleaning a plate and a fork every night, but throw in the wooden spoon, strainer, and whatever pots or pans I used, and now my brain throws tantrums. My brain prefers if I spend a few hours on Sunday cooking all my food for the week and then cleaning my giant mess up all at once. I also eat better throughout the week and am less likely to spend money ordering out.
The best part is that even though I love cooking for others, I hate cooking for myself. So how did I trick myself into enjoying my time in the kitchen every Sunday afternoon/evening? Dungeons and Dragons. I watch a new episode of Critical Role or Dimension 20 while I cook. I don’t have blocks of time to sit and watch 3+ hours of D&D. It’s the perfect content to hold my attention, but I don’t need to necessarily be looking at the screen the whole time. That or I throw on a baseball game, but I’m a baseball dork.
Routine, Routine, Routine
I need a routine. Otherwise, it’s easy to slip into a depression pit where I only want to stay in bed and sleep. Having a set sleep schedule has helped tremendously, but I never knew what to do with my time in the morning. I felt so lost. I would get out of bed and make some coffee, but now what? Starting work first thing in the morning felt unhealthy to me. Video games before 11 am feel like drinking before 5 pm unless it’s the weekend.
I noticed how productive I felt throughout my day if I went to the gym or ran first thing in the morning. If I can do that one thing, then I can do everything else I need to get done today. Some mornings, I drag myself out of bed, hop in the shower fully clothed, and turn the freezing cold water on, because now I need to change, and I might as well put on my workout clothes. It’s a domino effect. I do the first thing in my routine, and the rest follow. If I don’t do the first thing, everything becomes increasingly more difficult.
Find your morning kickstarter. Some people have elaborate coffee-making routines, while others start their day with Wordle. In high school, I had an alarm that I could only turn off after solving a math problem. You just have to find something you look forward to doing and make it part of your routine.
Being mindful of myself has helped me the most to overcome all of my mental health struggles. It’s okay to have bad days. I remind myself that I’m only human. Mistakes are okay. Feeling like crap sucks, but I can’t let myself wallow in those negative feelings; otherwise, I’ll get sucked in, making it harder to get out. I have to be mindful of how I sleep, eat, and manage my routine if I ever want to give myself a shot at finding personal success.