When I was a teen, my mother insisted I be home by midnight. Why? Because after midnight, there was nothing open and nothing to do but get into trouble.
In short, there was nothing to entertain my brain. I think the idea was, if there was nothing to entertain my brain, then my brain was going to find a way to entertain itself even if it had to do so at the expense of getting into trouble.
Let me illustrate. After hearing my presentation about boredom at an ADHD conference, a principal shared one of his experiences. He said he had asked a first-grader who had ADHD why he had been sent to the principal’s office. The kid said, “Because I was bored. My presentation helped the principal realize that mooning the class was just the boy’s brain entertaining itself!
Boredom can be problematic for those with ADHD. An adult I had coached once realized the annual Thanksgiving Day family fight manifested from his brain’s desire to entertain itself. He would poke the bear (uncle, aunt, cousin, sibling) until he hit a nerve and that was how the fight started.
Reminds me of long family trips in the back seat of our car when I was a child. Is there anything more fun to do than use a younger brother as a punching bag? Especially when the punch meter is set at 100 pounds and you keep taking cracks at it till you set off the cry alarm. .
For those who can quietly occupy their minds in the silence of themselves for hours or even days on end, congratulations. For the rest of us, it is about self-regulation.
In short, there are a few basic strategies. One, don’t put yourself in a position where all the brain has to entertain itself is itself.
Next, keep something with you that you can pull out to entertain your brain if nothing else is around.
For crossword puzzle or book readers out there this is pretty easy. For the rest of us and especially those with ADHD it can be a bit more difficult. Certainly digital things on electronic devices can be useful… course they can also be problematic. The key is be mindful for things that entertain your mind.
Now the hard part! Especially for those with AHD. What do you do when the brain isn’t being entertained? It can’t not be entertained. How do you not poke the bear, moon the class, or punch your brother?
See option 1, or 2 would be better, but you can’t play Clash of Clans (a game on an app) at the Thanksgiving table or in class, and it didn’t exist when I was a child on those long drives. The answer is mindfulness… yep, mindfulness. Of course, if mindfulness were that easy you wouldn’t be reading this. Still, awareness is the key. Be aware and mindful to be in before midnight, carry something that can entertain your brain, and if all else fails, drop back 15 and punt. Seriously! Ever hear the tale of the scorpion and the frog?
The moral of all this is to know your brain is going to entertain itself if nothing entertains it. Don’t put yourself in that position if at all possible!
Jeff Copper, Attention and ADHD Coach