9 Strategies for Symptom Control

“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.” ― George Eliot

ADHD brains crave structure. Planners, timers, and reward systems are common and effective (if boring) tools for creating the scaffolding we need to get focused, motivated, and in control of ADHD symptoms. But there’s another hack that, frankly, doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: music!

In my clinical experience with adults with ADHD, I’ve seen first-hand how music helps reduce many of ADHD’s daily complications. Here are just some of the most refreshing and innovative ways to harness music for better symptom control.

ADHD Music Methods I Love

#1. Lower anxiety and calm a ruminating mind. Research has shown that a combination of exercise and music can effectively reduce anxiety and ADHD symptoms in individuals. So, when you’re taking your short breaks during the day, why not incorporate music while you stretch, walk the dog, or eat lunch? This can increase your efficiency when you return to your work.

#2. Get a better night’s sleep. Slow, repetitive rhythms produce feelings of safety and prompt the brain’s sleep response. Incorporate slow, relaxing music into your calming evening routine to set the tone for a good night’s sleep while also blocking out the distracting noises or thoughts that keep you awake.

[Read: “Mozart Helped Me Focus My ADHD Brain.”]

#3. Focus on challenging tasks. Individuals with ADHD are easily distracted by external noise; research shows that repetitive music and sounds have been found to block other random noises and lead to better attention on tasks. Background music also increases focus by decreasing mind-wandering. So, if you’re having trouble remembering what you just read, try playing familiar music softly through headphones to improve focus, understanding, and recollection.

#4. Complete tasks more quickly. Play a song and challenge yourself to finish the task before the song (or album) ends. This can help you avoid distractions and get through routines in a timely fashion.

#5. Signal transitions. Music helps with organization and time management; use it to signal to the brain that a transition is about to take place (finishing work, starting assignments, etc.). Setting an alarm to a favorite song or a soothing melody will help you shift tasks in a pleasant way.

#6. Fill waiting time. Listening to classical music was found to decrease negative moods in adults with ADHD while they were in waiting rooms. So, if you dread waiting for meetings to start, try listening to some music to improve your mood. This helps you feel more positive about your work and avoid distraction while you wait.

[Click to Read: Music Therapy – Sound Medicine for ADHD]

#7. Increase alertness. Research shows that music with strong beats helps people feel more awake and alert. If you find yourself daydreaming more in the middle of the afternoon, for example, check out some Bob Marley, Graceland, or electronica music and notice that you are more alert and energized for the rest of the day.

#8. Ease restlessness. Sometimes you’ve just got to move! Research shows that rhythmic movements can improve your concentration, decrease restlessness, and decrease impulsivity. So find some good rhythms and dance.

#9. Improve memory. Can’t remember what you need at the store or what tasks top your to-do list? If you’re forgetful, rhythmic singing can improve memory and concentration. Try putting your daily schedule to a favorite tune and sing it to help you remember the order of events in your day.

Music for ADHD: Next Steps

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Updated on November 24, 2020

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