New habits wear out
With ADHD we often fall out of habits or lose them altogether, the same for interests and passions too. We may end fitfully, over some while, as we jog less often or check our to do list less regularly; we may be knocked off track by a holiday or illness and never return; we may be distracted by shinier new projects; or for no reason we can think of we just stop doing stuff.
It’s the reason that much conventional advice and support doesn’t help us with ADHD. Advice of the just do it nature simply fails. The just-do-it focus is on short term success: to exercise in the morning, clear the office or plan your day. It’s often quite easy with ADHD to start a new novel project, even if it’s getting to bed early. With a bit of will power and a sense of possible success we are excited to change. Perceived wisdom sees this point as “job done”. You’ve started, it’s easy, so why on earth no continue.
Everything comes to an end
But with ADHD the end can come far sooner than expected. This is a frustrating, annoying and distressing problem, we just stop doing things. We lose interest in jogging, we forget our newly resolved bedtime of 11pm, our office becomes a disaster zone again. Sometimes even more astonishingly than this, we may lose all interest in a task, hobby or habit that we have enjoyed for weeks or even years previously.
I might love reading about a particular new science topic but then suddenly I no longer have any enthusiasm for it whatsoever. A hobby in developing black & white photos disappears overnight. A favourite holiday destination simply became a bore. When did I stop juicing, I did it every day for months – I loved it? Why did I stop? It’s all to do with dopamine and reward.
Once novelty wears off dopamine release declines steeply, the task becomes considerably less engaging and we stop it. The trouble is we may depend on the extra buzz that novelty brings. The short lived initial excitement when a new project starts (like going to bed early) soon fade. When we learn and develop new skills and acquire new knowledge, novelty remains high and dopamine remains high. Once the habit or task becomes mundane and repetitive, with nothing changing it’s game over and we move on. People with ADHD stop doing things that have been perfectly happy doing before. because they have, for the moment, taken everything they can from them.
So how do we best handle this issue? Accept it. Accept that our interests will vary, that our lives will be full of change. So change the routine, get support, increase stimulation and consider rewards.
While you brush your teeth play music, dance, brush with a friend, compose your to-do list and buy yourself a nice book at the end of the week as a reward for seven straight days brushing!! Consider alternative ways to achieve the same end results. We can cycle rather than jog, find a new hobby to replace photography and research & discover exciting new holiday destinations.
ADHD lives are full of change and variety, so embrace this. Expect to be always starting over and over.
It can be hard work, it can be stressful but it is far preferable to being stuck in a boring rut or beating yourself up for failing at a task.
When you set out on a new task or routine, accept that at some point you will lose interest. It’s normal for ADHD. Accept the starting over, plan for it, what will come next when jogging no longer inspires, or juicing ends ? Find a suitable replacement task, hobby or routine and start over…