7 Natural ADHD Treatments for Adults
Whatever you have to do to make it happen, do it.
In Part 1 of this Adult ADHD series of posts, I talked about ADHD in general and how to know if you have it. In Part 2, I addressed getting diagnosed with ADHD, as well as common ADHD traits and symptoms.
In this Part 3, we’re looking at a few non-medical treatments for ADHD that will have a tremendously positive impact on your life as an adult with ADHD.
Yes, most of these will help children with ADHD as well, but I find that a lot of these are more of a struggle with adults.
Adult ADHD Treatment #1: Have Positive Relationships
I work a lot with entrepreneurs, with self-employed people, and the first thing you can do to treat adult ADHD can actually be a big struggle for us.
That number one natural ADHD treatment is to have positive relationships. I call this “hugs and handshakes”.
I have something up on my wall that I’ve made that says just that and it’s a reminder to get out and spend positive time with friends.
Now, for those of us who grew up in North America, and are programmed to think pills are the solution to everything, it’s kind of weird to think this helps and that you can have ADHD treatment without medication.
How does going out and having some beer with your friends, or spending some time cuddling with your partner, or watching a movie – how the heck does that treat ADHD?
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Hell if I know, but it does.
And it does make sense, though, if you really think about it. With ADHD, part of what shows up is a lack of or abundance of, or just generally – issues with dopamine, serotonin, and a few other neurotransmitters.
That creates problems for us and things like hugging someone affect our brain chemistry. It seems funny, we think:
Oh, you need pills for everything!
But it really isn’t the case.
So try spending time out with friends in larger groups, going out and laughing with a group of friends, watching a funny movie, going to a comedian with friends, possibly while having some drinks after.
Adult ADHD Treatment #2: Reduce Electronics
The second thing you can do which will reduce the negative symptoms of adult ADHD is to reduce electronics.
Reduce your social media.
The first thing where I’ve said to spend time with your friends – I don’t mean Instagramming each other. I mean go out, see each other in real life. At the very least get on a video call or a phone call. But that’s still not nearly as good as being in the flesh with people.
This is a no-brainer as we all know if you spend a day on social media browsing random stuff online will have a negative effect on you.
This is one reason I use a paper planner.
And I know it might seem ridiculous, but I do actually think that a lot of people with ADHD prefer things in the physical world around us. I actually have a theory that we’re more properly evolved people who would be really good hunters and survive in the wild, while people who just love living on their laptops are the ones who wouldn’t survive the lions…but not going to get into that theory right now.
I like paper, things like whiteboards, I tend to walk around and pace when I think if I’m on a phone call, and this is very common with people with ADHD – we like physical things. Electronic things have mostly the downsides:
You’ve probably heard about notifications or distracting and it can be addicting and all that, but I think it pulls us out of our environment and there’s a lot of negative consequences to notice.
In 2020, saying: Hey, reduce your electronics! is harder now than it has been in the past. I totally get that.
But look at ways you can set limits and look at ways you can do things differently.
I’ll give you some examples of this of how I do it within my own business.
I’ve mentioned using a paper planner. The other thing that I will do is if I have team meetings, I will often do them on my phone rather than sitting in front of a computer and go for a walk. so they won’t be video calls, I’ll just call up a member of my team and will talk as I go walk around, walk down to the beach or walk around the city.
Things like that I find at least reduce the amount of time I need to be in front of the screen.
As an entrepreneur, yes, there are certain things that I need to do that require me to be connected, but I try to really minimize that as much as I can. If there are things where I can do it by pen and paper, I’ll sometimes go out to a cafe and just bring a pen and paper and say:
Alright, let’s plan out this book or Let’s plan out this video by hand.
Then I can go type it up on the laptop or go film it, but just trying to keep this time as few hours as possible, which still often ends up being six or eight hours a day – definitely not ideal, but it is the world we live in.
Adult ADHD Treatment #3: Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
The next holistic treatment for ADHD in adults is something that has a huge impact on your ability to focus, to execute, and to make good decisions.
It is sleep.
We still don’t know all the details on what sleep is actually for and what it does for us. We do know that it does a lot to balance our brain chemistry.
A good night’s sleep will set you up to focus, to make good decisions, and will do a lot to alleviate the negative symptoms of ADHD. A bad night’s sleep will make everything exponentially worse.
I know I might be a little bit privileged with this, but my rule is I don’t use an alarm. I’ll sometimes have a back-up alarm if I have meetings at 11 or noon, but generally, I do not use an alarm, I let my body figure out how much sleep I need and have that amount of sleep.
There’ll be times where I get up after six hours and I’m alright, I’m up. I’m good to go. And there’ll be times where I need 10 hours. But what I’ve realized is the days when I don’t have enough sleep, sometimes that first day will actually be pretty good, but then I’ll notice the next day when I’ve started tracking my results is the day after a bad night’s sleep won’t actually be very good.
I’ll have a lot of brain fog, trouble focusing and trouble really getting things done, so this is something that I’ve noticed has made a big difference.
It also plays a huge role in aging and Alzheimer’s, so I’m thinking:
All right, I’ll be mentally healthier for longer, I’ll probably live longer, I’ll get more done. I’m just gonna sleep more.
Whatever you have to do to make that happen, do it.
I know there are probably a million excuses, but try to make it happen, it will make a really big difference.
Maybe right now you work ten hours a day. What if you work eight hours a day, but you’re more focused, productive, and more effective with your work because you were sleeping more?
Try it out is all I’m saying.
Adult ADHD Treatment #4: Take Care of Your Diet and Supplements
The next important area in adult ADHD treatment is diet and supplements.
Try to eat more healthy fat and more protein.
Try to have less or as minimum as possible of refined carbohydrates. Things like white bread and sugars are really bad. That includes juices and sodas.
If you’re still doing that – stop. It has a really negative impact not only on your health overall, but your mental health and ability to focus.
I’ve experimented with this a lot.
In terms of diet, I’ve done things like the keto diet. Generally, I try to minimize wheat, especially carbohydrates, and sugar. It definitely does have a positive effect.
Now, one thing with diet and this actually applies to everything I’m covering in here, including relationships, exercise, and sleep is that these things aren’t necessarily as instant as taking a pill.
If you take a pill, you might right away notice something and say:
Okay, wow, this works, I can focus!
These other things are non-medical, natural ADHD treatments and have built-up effects. With exercise (I kind of ruined the whole surprise of what #5 will be!), the first time you exercise, you might have a bit of a high from it, where you can focus more and get more done, but each time it tends to get better!
There’s a great book on this called Spark. It talks about the effect exercise has on the brain. Over time, it changes the wiring of your brain, so you get exponentially better results the more and more you exercise.
It can be the same thing with diet. If you just don’t eat wheat and sugar for one day, you’re not going to suddenly feel:
Wow, I can do everything. I’m the focus monster!
But over time, you will notice it gets better and better.
It can be the same thing when it comes to spending time with friends and people you care about. I’ll have a few days where I’m just working at home, I’m working alone, and I’m actually being quite productive. So I think:
Yeah, maybe I don’t need to go out, let me just get this work done.
And it’s always around days two or three, where I just crash in terms of my productivity. My ability to focus just massively crashes. It’s like you can get away with it only for a bit.
Same with healthy eating. I can get away with a few days of maybe eating pizza. wheat, and unhealthy things. But pretty soon that focus crashes. The brain fog comes in, it just feels like I can’t execute things. I can’t just sit down and make myself do things.
That is a consequence of not following these healthy habits ultimately, so don’t think just because one day you don’t sleep well and you get work done or one day you eat really crappy food and you’re still able to focus and don’t have any brain fog. don’t think this stuff doesn’t matter.
The effects of these things are compounding and long-term.
I know that makes it a little harder to implement because you don’t get that instant kick, but if you track things like brain fog, focus, and mood, you’ll notice a gradual improvement and a consistent improvement if you follow as many of these best practices as you can.
Adult ADHD Treatment #5: Exercise
I’ve already uncovered the fifth area of natural treatment for ADHD – Exercise.
The type of exercise you do to help you with your ADHD is really important.
The best exercise to do if you have ADHD is lower intensity cardio – for a long time.
I didn’t intentionally ever do cardio. I love to run, I have probably run since I was maybe 20 or so and actually that was a way that I was self-medicating ADHD without realizing it!
I’d like to go for a run, but I never did it in a routine way. When I go to the gym, I would just do weights and strength training. I never thought there was a big benefit of cardio.
I was obviously wrong.
It was this book Spark that talked about exercise and the impact on the brain that really opened my eyes to it.
The type of cardio you want to be doing is where your heart rate is 180 minus your age as sort of the maximum.
So if you’re 40 years old, 140 would be the maximum. The range would be like 120 to 140. You’ll get the benefits from it somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes. 30 minutes is probably where you should start aiming for.
Honestly, this kind of exercise can be boring, so I treat it like medicine for me.
I remember in Prague, there was a while where I was doing cardio every day and I will tell you right now: My mind was on fire in the best of ways! Because of my energy levels, my ability to focus, my ability to just make good decisions, do what I wanted and that serious lack of brain fog, the results from this time in my life were incredible.
Don’t worry, it is something I’m getting back to. I’m not doing cardio every day right now, but I do many days as well.
I remember then, because it was winter in Prague, that I had to just go to this gym and I treated it like medicine. I would bring my phone, I’d watch YouTube videos, I might respond to emails or YouTube comments.
But I’d just say I have to sit in this bike and do this for 25-30 minutes. It is boring, but it’s my medicine, just do it.
Now that I’m in Spain, I’m doing things like playing tennis, going for runs on the beach, occasionally going to the gym as well, to mix it up to make it more fun.
But if you are somewhere where you can’t do that right now, if the weather’s terrible, or you don’t have the time, just do 20 minutes by skipping rope and it’s done! Do jumping jacks, go get an exercise bike, but just do the 20 to 30 minutes as a minimum and you will notice the difference.
The first few days you might not notice a lot, but it will really make a difference.
In addition to this kind of cardio, you can do exercise that requires a lot of coordination and learning. Things like rock climbing, playing football, tennis, or hockey. That’s going to be even better than just boring stationary cardio.
Adult ADHD Treatment #6: Practice Mental Focus
The sixth thing you can do that will have a tremendously positive impact on the negative symptoms of adult ADHD is some kind of mental focus.
This can be prayer. This can be meditation. This can be something like yoga.
Anything you choose to practice mindfulness and mental focus will do you a lot of good if you’re an adult with ADHD.
Adult ADHD Treatment #7: Treat It Like a Superpower
One of the things you might have noticed is I’ve said treat the negative symptoms of adult ADHD.
That is because there are so many positive traits we get from ADHD that give us what I would say are superpowers.
The cool thing that I have found – and I think this is what is found really across the board – is when you treat these ADHD negative symptoms with things like exercise, positive relationships, and a better diet, what ends up happening is you get all the good still, but supercharged – and not the bad and you can be an absolute freakin’ rock star!
Speaking of rock stars, now it’s your turn to be a rock star.
Let me know in the comments below:
Which of these natural ADHD treatments you have applied in your own life and what were the effects and benefits?
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