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ADHD and Fun - Are You Having Enough Fun in Your Life?

ADHD and Fun

The topic for today is a fun one because the topic for today is: fun!

If you have ADHD, it’s very possible you haven’t given this topic enough thought, and it’s actually more important than you might think. 

So, hi! This is Julie from Julie Saad Wellness, holistic wellness coaching for women with ADHD. 

So, has this ever happened to you . . . ?

No Time for Fun . . . There's Work to Be Done

You’re behind on work for the week, so the weekend is nigh and you decide to stay in to catch up on everything once and for all!

Friday night rolls around and you decide to take a little break before getting going on Operation: Catch Up. You open one of your social media apps and . . . 

POOF! It’s 1am. What the actual  . . . ?

Okay, time for bed. No worries, we still have Saturday and Sunday to catch up on all this stuff.

You wake up on Saturday morning, maybe a little later than you thought you would but hey, no big deal, you have the whole day ahead of you. So, first, a little breakfast to get in the mood to work. Hmm, what should you make? Let’s look online for a special breakfast recipe . . . ooh look at this one, it looks so fancy. . . let’s see preheat the oven . . . . 

POOF! It’s 12pm. Breakfast was delicious but oh my God how is it already the afternoon?

Okay no problem, no problem. We have the whole afternoon to get this work done. Let’s go! Well, let’s just make some coffee right quick and oh! better put some music on too. Hmm, my Spotify app’s not working. I wonder if the site is down. Let’s Google it. . . . “Is Spotify down?”

Oh, there was something else I needed to Google, what was it? Oh yeah, “hypoallergenic dogs that don’t bark". . . . ooh look at these guys! They’re called basenjis! How cute! I wonder if there are any up for adoption near me!

POOF! It’s now 5pm. Where did the afternoon go? Well it’s almost dinner time, let’s just make something quickly, not like breakfast, which took forever. Maybe a salad or something.

It’s now 7pm. Who knows why dinner took so long to make and eat? Okay, there are still a few more hours left in the night. Let’s get something done. Ping! Ooh, the girls are going to that new restaurant we’ve been talking about. Should I go? Ugh, no. I’m working.

“Hey ladies. Sorry. Can’t make it out tonight. Working like a crazy person over here, but let’s get together next weekend. Have fun!” Should I just go out? I mean I haven’t gotten anything done. No! Okay, let’s put a movie on as background noise since Spotify’s not working. 

POOF! It’s now 10pm. We haven’t even opened the computer, but we have rewatched “You’ve Got Mail,” which we chose because we thought it was a movie we could put on in the background and ignore. 

Well, the day’s basically shot. Might as well call it a night. Hey, yeah, at least I can go to bed early and then on Sunday I’ll be super well-rested and ready to go. Awesome! Great idea! I’m not really that tired though. I’ll just take my phone into bed with me and scroll around a bit until I fall asleep.

POOF! It’s now 4am. Holy f*cking sh*t f*ck motherf*cker c*cksucker diarrhea dirty diaper f*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck my f*cking life. How did I let it get so late?? Go. To. Sleep. Now.

Just one more video.

POOF! It’s now 6am and we have passed out, mouth open, phone in hand. 

We wake up at noon. Noon. Oh sh*t. Oh my God. Okay. No problem. We still have the whole afternoon.

Ugh, so many messages on my phone. “Hey lady! We’re going to the park, wanna come?” Hmm. . . . should I go? “Hey!!! Thanks so much for the invite. I’d love to go but I’m over here working like a crazy person! Let’s get together next week!”

You say to yourself, "Liar. You’re not working at all. You haven’t even opened your laptop. What’s wrong with you? Just sit at your desk and open your laptop. Open it. Open it. Yeah yeah I will. I’m just going to go to the bathroom first, yeesh. Chill out, brain." 

POOF! It’s now 1pm. Yes, we managed to sit on the toilet for a good 50 minutes, without pooping, I might add. Just a quick pee and then nearly an hour of scrolling on the ol’ phone. Okay. It’s fine.

There’s still plenty of time to get to work before the end of the day. We should really eat something though, uff, and take a shower, and maybe exercise too and clean a bit. First, some coffee. 

POOF! It is now 6pm. What even happened? I haven’t done ANY of my work. Not one minute of it! I should have just gone out with my friends today, and yesterday. I hate this. I just want to barf and cry. I’m going to lie down for a minute. 

POOF! It is now 2am. What day is it? Is it Monday? Oh, f*ck. Well, that was the weekend. I have to get up in like five hours. I should close my eyes and go back to sleep now. I’ll just check my phone real quick . . . 

And you can finish the story in your imagination. 

Has anything similar ever happened to you? If so, how did you feel when it was all said and done? I’m willing to bet you felt pretty crappy and probably did a fair amount of beating yourself up. 

Now, what’s the solution for all of this?

I’m not going to sit here and profess to be able to solve this with just a few tips and tricks. 

Yet I do want to tell you the four main things I would do to prevent weekends like this from happening. 

  1. Treat your ADHD, in whatever way works for you, whether that’s medication, changing your diet, or something else
  2. Take care of your overall health. You probably already know that things like stress and poor quality or lack of sleep can really do a number on you and make your ADHD worse, so don’t put your health on the back burner.
  3. Learn time management and productivity strategies, and experiment until you find systems that work for you.
  4. This is the one I want to talk about today - add more fun to your life!

Yes, fun! Ironically, making sure there’s time in our lives for fun and play actually helps us have success in all the other parts of life. 

The No-Fun-Allowed Trap

Let’s look at this trap that we can often find ourselves in. 

We had a day that wasn’t so productive. So we double down. We white-knuckle it. I. WILL. WORK. I WILL. WORK. 

What happens? Even less dopamine to our already dopamine-starved brains.

Now it’s even harder to get it done, so we push harder and harder and have less fun, canceling those weekend plans, staying at the office all night, denying ourselves a full night’s sleep . . . and very often you might find that the brain just straight up takes over and goes, “nope, I ain’t doing this.” And you almost subconsciously reach for your phone, open Tik Tok and, well. . . . you know how it goes. Bye bye time. 

Fake Fun

But let’s think about how we feel when we have this kind of fun. I call it, “fake fun.” The reason I call it that is because it’s usually not intentional, we usually don’t mean to do it for as long as we do, and we sometimes don’t feel better after we do it. 

Now, you may disagree with me on any of those points, but I would say in general, no one wakes up and says, “I’m going to spend three hours playing around on social media today. Yes, that is my plan,” or, “I’m going to turn on the TV and not get up from the sofa until I’m exhausted and my eyes are bloodshot.” 

Or my favorite type of “fake fun” when the pandemic first started and we were in a strict lockdown here in Colombia was that I read as much news as I could find in English, then as much news as I could find that day in Spanish, and then would read the news in Portuguese. I would just like to point out that I don’t speak or even really understand Portuguese. This became something I did to distract myself, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, or restorative.

Was it useful? Maybe, but probably not in the amount that I did it. The headlines and an article here or there would have been enough to keep me up to date. 

Take a second to think if you do anything that you might classify as, “fake fun.” When do you tend to do it? Can you think of any triggers? For example, boredom, fatigue, anxiety about something?

Now there are many reasons why we might engage in what I call “fake fun.” We could be procrastinating, tired, in need of a distraction. I’m not here to shame you and tell you never to go on social media again or to plan out your TV consumption down to the minute and never exceed that limit. 

However, I would like to pose the following question to you:

Are you having enough fun?

Please take a moment to think about it. I’ll say it again:

Are you having enough fun? I mean, like, real fun?

Why We Sometimes Fail to Have Fun

I am of the firm belief that as ADHDers, this is something we don’t give enough thought to. The reasons for this are:

  1. Sometimes we’re behind on our to-do list, whether that’s for work, our home life, or whatever, and therefore we feel like we haven’t “earned” our fun. So we say, “no” to those weekend invitations, like in the story I told at the beginning of this episode. Or we get really tough with ourselves and say, “Unh-uh, today I MUST finish X,Y, and Z or ELSE! There will be no fun today.” 
  2. We might have this idea that adults don’t really need to have fun, or at least not that much of it. We might have gotten this idea from our families if we grew up in a home where fun wasn’t emphasized, or we might be doing that magical ADHD thing that we do where we think that all non-ADHD people are robots that get all their work done on time all the time while never procrastinating and living in a clean house with a perfectly balanced bank account and farts that smell like strawberries. You know what I mean. 
  3. We fail to prioritize fun. We see it as an afterthought, the first thing to be crossed off the list when things get overwhelming. 
  4. Similarly, we fail to plan for fun. We might think that it should just happen spontaneously. And it might, but sometimes there are a few steps required. Like, if I want to play guitar, I need to cut the nails on my left hand, tune the guitar, figure out if I want to try a new song and if so look up the chords, make sure I have a comfortable place to sit, and so on. I also need to have time do to this, and the mental bandwidth too. If I feel like there’s something else going on that needs my attention, it’s going to be harder for me to go through all these steps. Now notice I picked something that’s relatively simple, playing the guitar alone. When it’s something that involves other people, and more prep work, such as making reservations or traveling, it can definitely require more planning. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here, but I do think it’s worth thinking about. A lot of times it’s easy to fall into black-or-white thinking. We decide that we’re going to make an effort to get out more, for example, to have more fun with friends. We plan an event with a friend and she cancels on us and suddenly the world has come to an end and why did I even bother? Listen. Planning events with other people takes time and sometimes things go wrong. If you’re prepared for that, you will be more realistic with yourself and give yourself time in your schedule to reach out to others and get these things on your calendar, and can handle problems with more grace, although, of course, if someone is really flaky and cancels on you all the time, you probably don’t want to waste your energy on them.  

Okay, remind me again why you’re banging on about fun, lady. What’s the big deal?

The Benefits of Fun

Having fun has more benefits to it than, just, well, being fun! It serves to relax us and cut down on our stress levels, which you already know is critical for optimal health. 

It can improve our relationships, whether that’s our friendships, romantic relationships, relationships with family members, and even with coworkers. Having fun with someone else improves communication and builds trust.

Fun can make us smarter! Yup! It can help us improve our memory and concentration. This is due in part to the fact that it reduces our stress levels and you’ve probably already heard that stress can really f*ck up your memory and concentration. As ADHDers these can be some of our biggest pain points, so maybe reconsider the idea that fun is optional! (4)

Also, how many of us say we’d like to be happier? Quite a few, I would guess. But, really, how do you quantify happiness? How do you measure it? I suppose you could keep a mood journal and all that jazz, it’s not a bad idea, but fun can help make this sometimes seemingly nebulous goal of happiness a little more tangible. In theory, I guess you could schedule, “be happy” on your calendar, but I think it might be wiser to schedule something fun instead. (5)

Using Fun to Help Us Get Things Done

In addition, we can also use fun as a way to make difficult or unpleasant tasks for us a bit easier. While I definitely recommend having some activities in your life than are just 100% fun, it’s also a good idea to see if you can pair something fun with something that you need to do but might have trouble starting or finishing. 

I’ll give you a couple examples from my own life. I’m not the biggest fan of organizing my kitchen. It’s not something I miss doing when I’m on vacation. I love cooking, don’t get me wrong, but cleaning up afterwards? Oof, not really my thing. So I have a couple of tricks that I use to make it more fun. One is to make it into a bit of a game.

There’s a brilliant ADHD coach named Karen Johnson (Happy Brain Life Coach) who recommends seeing what you can do in just one minute. I was inspired by this, and decided to see how much of the kitchen I could clean while I waited for the coffee maker to do its thing. Surprisingly, I can get quite a bit done, like emptying the dishwasher or putting away a couple of things that are sitting on the counter. So one trick is to make it into this little sort of game, no pressure, just see how much can happen in that amount of time.

When I have more things to do in the kitchen, like serious scraping of pots and pans, then I put on music, a podcast or a few minutes of a Netflix series or YouTube video. 

There are other ways I sneak fun into my life too. Now, I love writing about ADHD, the ketogenic diet, and health and life in general, but even still I can sometimes psych myself out.

Even though I consider my ADHD symptoms to be greatly alleviated by my dietary changes, they still crop up every now and then. So for example, even though I love writing for my blog, and consider it fun, it’s still a somewhat complex task that requires organization and creativity and a bit of focus. So sometimes my old friend overwhelm still likes to show up and tell me that it’s just too hard and that I shouldn’t even open the laptop.

So one of my tricks to work around that is that I have a system of steps that are part of my writing process, and lots of them have nothing to do with writing. Step one is make something to drink (coffee, tea, water, usually coffee, let’s be honest). Step two is to turn on music. Step three is to sit somewhere where there’s some kind of sunlight, so either on my balcony or next to a window. I don’t always have to do these steps in order to write. Most of the time I just sit down and get to it, but if I’m having one of those days where I’m feeling a lot of resistance, I do those steps first. Those steps are all fun and don’t require a lot of my brain, so I can do them without feeling overwhelmed. The fun helps combat the overwhelm. 

Alright, so hopefully I’ve convinced you that if you don’t have a decent amount of fun in your life, it’s a good idea to try to get more in there. 

So, how do we do that? What are some ways to get more fun into our lives?

So I’ve already mentioned my little tricks about pairing fun with other things that you need to get done, but what about some ways to get that full-on, intentional fun into your life?

How to Have More Fun (Yay!)

Well one way is to reduce the amount of “fake fun” you’re having. (3) If you don’t already know how much time you spend on things like social media, surfing the web, watching TV, or anything that you would classify as this kind of “fake fun,” then it’s a good idea to find a way to track it. If your fake fun primarily takes place on your phone, you can use features like Screen Time on Apple devices or Digital Wellbeing on Android. If you see that you’re spending several hours on social media per day, for example, you can work on cutting that down and reclaiming that time for yourself.

If you can’t do that through sheer willpower alone, you can look into apps that can help you. There’s a Chrome extension I use on my computer called StayFocusd that I use that kicks me off of social media after a set number of minutes. It’s free.

There’s also an app I use on my phone called Freedom that I use to limit my time spent on social media and various websites on my phone. That one is paid, and the one thing I don’t like about it is that I have to consciously set up a session on my phone each time I want to limit my usage, so it’s not automatic like the StayFocusd extension. 

So, hopefully you can find a way to clear out a bit of the “fake fun” from your life so that you have more room for the real deal. 

If you’ve gotten out of the habit of having fun, it might even feel daunting to think about adding this back into your life. What should you even do?

Here are some ideas:

-You can join a class or a club that meets regularly. This is one of the easiest ways, in my opinion, because it has a regular schedule and has built-in accountability. Don’t get overwhelmed. Just pick something and try it and if you don’t like it you can do something else!

-Be open to trying new things. Remember, nothing is set in stone! 

-Consider brainstorming to see what ideas you come up with. Try to think of 10 things you can do in a large group, 10 things you can do with just one other person, 10 things you can do alone, 10 things that require a half day or more, 10 things that take about an hour to do, 10 things that take just a few minutes . . . however you want to work it. (2) You’ll be surprised with some of the things your beautiful brain invents. 

-If you’re still stuck for ideas, think about what you used to like to do when you were a kid, and see if that inspires you, or think back to a time when you felt like you were really enjoying yourself. What were you doing? Is there any way to replicate that? (3)

-And, of course, my number one tip for having fun, is my number one tip for most things in life . . . put it on your calendar! If it’s on the calendar, there’s a much bigger chance it will actually happen. But, but, but . . . I hear you saying . . . if I put it on the calendar, it won’t be fun! It won’t be spontaneous! Wahhhh!

Just try it. Can you get out your calendar right now and schedule a fun activity for sometime this week? Even if it’s just a few minutes? Here, I’ll do it with you.

I don’t have anything fun scheduled for Sunday. What can I do on that day? I’m going to play my guitar for an hour, right before lunch. So at 12 noon. Putting it in the calendar now. Yay!! 

Okay, your turn! What fun thing can you put on the calendar? 

Once you’ve done that, I have another challenge for you. Can you commit to adding one minute, just one minute, of something fun today? What would that be? I’m going to have the shortest dance party ever after I finish this. What about you?

Go Forth and Have Fun!

Alright, enough already. You get the point. If you don’t have enough fun in your life, now you know what to do. 

If you know anyone who could benefit from this information, please share it with them. 

Please email me if you would like more information about ADHD wellness coaching for women, or click here for more information. At the time of this post, I have availability for a few more one-on-one clients and would love to hear from you. 

Thanks so much for listening, and have a happy and healthy day.