At the kids’ school there are hopscotch courts permanently painted on the sidewalks that all of the kids trodden over daily. Today I noticed as they passed over the courts, a lot of kids never even looked down. Some looked down, but then glanced back up, continuing to walk. SOME, however looked down, and without missing a beat, hopped and jumped through the court, always keeping pace to those that were simply walking. I bet we were those hopscotchers.
Monthly Archives: August 2011
“Think of exercise as medication,” says John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”
While most of us focus on exercise as a way to trim our waistlines, the better news is that routine physical activity firms up the brain — making it a simple, alternative ADHD treatment. “Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,” says Ratey, author of the forthcoming Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Little, Brown). “On a practical level, it causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”
The latest news about exercise is that it helps kids push through past failures and attack things they didn’t succeed at before. “The refrain of many ADHD kids is, ‘No matter what I do, I’m going to fail,’” says Ratey. “Rat studies show that exercise reduces learned helplessness. In fact, if you’re aerobically fit, the less likely you are to learn helplessness.”
So how, exactly, does exercise deliver these benefits to the ADHD brain? When you walk, run, or do a set of jumping jacks or pushups, your brain releases several important chemicals.
Endorphins, for one, hormone-like compounds that regulate mood, pleasure, and pain. That same burst of activity also elevates the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. These brain chemicals affect focus and attention, which are in short supply in those with ADHD. “When you increase dopamine levels, you increase the attention system’s ability to be regular and consistent, which has many good effects,” explains Ratey, like reducing the craving for new stimuli and increasing alertness.
You don’t have to be a marathoner, or even a runner, to derive benefits from exercise. Walking for 30 minutes, four times a week, will do the trick. “Get your child involved in something that he finds fun, so he will stick with it,” suggests Ratey. Team activities or exercise with a social component are especially beneficial.
Studies have also found that tae kwon do, ballet, and gymnastics, in which you have to pay close attention to body movements, tax the attention system. “A very good thing for kids and adolescents with ADHD,” says Ratey.
More schools are including exercise in their curricula to help kids do better in the classroom. A school in Colorado starts off students’ days with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise to increase alertness. If they act up in class, they aren’t given time-outs but time-ins — 10 minutes of activity on a stationary bike or an elliptical trainer. “The result is that kids realize they can regulate their mood and attention through exercise,” says Ratey. “That’s empowering.”
This article is excerpted from a Special Report: Beyond Meds, about five popular complementary approaches for ADHD, which appeared in the December/January 2008 issue of ADDitude.
Our bodies are so in tune with the color spectrum, we gain beneficial (or negative) physiological effects just by looking at a painted wall. Want to keep your blood pressure down? Paint that wall blue instead of red!
Red raises a room’s energy level. It’s a good choice when you want to stir up excitement, particularly at night. In the living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression. Red has been shown to raise blood pressure, speed respiration and heart rate. It is usually considered too stimulating for bedrooms, but if you’re only in the room after dark, you’ll be seeing it mostly by lamplight, when the color will appear muted, rich, and elegant. Red, the most intense, pumps the adrenaline like no other hue.
Crimson can make some people feel irritable. With red invoking feels of rage and hostility is a color that should be avoided as the main color of a room. Sitting for long periods of time in a room this color will likely breakdown any peace and harmony you are striving to create in your home. Ancient cultures used the color red to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness. It’s perfect for kitchens, dining rooms, and bathrooms, where happy color is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries, and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming.Yellow although is a cheery color is not a good choice in main color schemes of a room. People are more likely to lose their tempers in a yellow room. Babies also seem to cry more in a yellow room. This color tends to create feeling of frustration and anger in people. This color is the most fatiguing on the eyes. In chromotherapy yellow was believed to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
Blue brings down blood pressure and slows respiration and heart rate. That’s why it’s considered calming, relaxing, and serene, and is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms. Be careful, however: A pastel blue that looks pretty on the paint chip can come across as unpleasantly chilly when it’s on the walls and furnishings, especially in a room that receives little natural light. If you opt for a light blue as the primary color in a room, balance it with warm hues in the furnishings and fabrics.
To encourage relaxation in the rooms where people gather family rooms, living rooms, large kitchens consider warmer blues, such as periwinkle, or bright blues, such as cerulean or turquoise. Blue is known to have a calming effect when used as the main color of a room. When going with blue go for softer shades of blue. Dark blue has the opposite effect. Dark blue evokes feels of sadness. So refrain from using darker blues in your main color scheme. Stay with the lighter shades of blue to give you and your loved ones a calm effect.
Green is considered the most restful color for the eye. Combining the refreshing quality of blue and the cheerfulness of yellow, green is suited to almost any room in the house. In a kitchen, a sage or medium green cools things down; in a family room or living room, it encourages unwinding but has enough warmth to promote comfort and togetherness. In a bedroom, it’s relaxing and pleasant.Green also has a calming effect when used as a main color for decorating. It is believed to relieve stress by helping people relax. Also believed to help with fertility this is a great choice for the bedroom.
Purple in its darkest values (eggplant, for example) is rich, dramatic, and sophisticated. It’s associated with luxury as well as creativity, and as an accent or secondary color, it gives a scheme depth. Lighter versions of purple, such as lavender and lilac, bring the same restful quality to bedrooms as blue does, but without the risk of feeling chilly.
Orange evokes excitement, enthusiasm and is an energetic color. While not a good idea for a living room or for bedrooms this color is great for an exercise room. It will bring all the emotions out that you need when jumping into your fitness routine.In ancient cultures orange was used to heal the lungs and increase energy levels.
Perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis -– one often leads to the next, in a vicious cycle, especially on large, long-term projects with no clear deadlines. Let’s look at each part of this cycle, and explore some concrete STEPS that you can take to DISRUPT the cycle.
Perfectionism can be defined as striving towards IMPOSSIBLY high goals. Perfectionists are caught in a TRAP -– they can never be good enough. They engage in rigid, black or white thinking about their own performance -– if it isn’t perfect, it’s horrible.
Ironically, perfectionists often achieve a product that is far less than perfect. At times, their performance is mediocre. In contrast, those who aim at more REALISTIC goals can outperform the perfectionists. How can this be? The procrastination and paralysis that results from overly high standards causes the perfectionist to WAIT until it’s too late, then rush to do something; anything. The more relaxed realist, in the meantime, is able to put an effort in earlier, over a more prolonged period of time, with more chance to let time and subsequent changes or editing improve the final product.
When you believe that your next project should set the world on fire, you are setting yourself up for failure. At some level you know that this LEVEL of achievement is UNLIKELY. You lose your energy and excitement for your project.
On a football field, when the coach yells at the team that they are a bunch of @$#% for playing so poorly, the players may play better. That is because they are enraged at being humiliated and they can use the rage to batter their opponents. This doesn’t not work in other spheres! CRITICISM, whether from your boss or your own inner critical audience slows you down, and INTERFERES with your thinking process.
It is so easy to put off the next step of your project when thinking about it makes you experience UNPLEASANT feelings. So you procrastinate. “I’ll get started tomorrow, and work twice as hard.” But it’s hard for you to ignore the fact that you are not living up to your own high EXPECTATIONS for yourself. “I’m lazy.” “ I have no will power.” As time goes on, you start to grind to a halt. That leads to the third “P.”
You do absolutely NOTHING on the very project that is most important to you. This is devastating for your self-esteem, and very DISCOURAGING. It’s hard to plan your next project when you failed to complete your last one.
There are steps that you can take to avoid falling into the vicious cycle of the 3 ”P’s. Start by becoming AWARE of the perfectionistic audience voices in your head (no, you’re not crazy.) You can’t learn to ignore them if you don’t know that they’re talking to you. Then learn how to ANSWER them back (don’t do it out loud or people will think you’re crazy.) An example would be, “OK it’s not my best work but at least I’m finishing it.
Look for role models who are SATISFIED with “good enough.” Note how they get things done and are not looked down on by others. And you have to set up realistic goals. One way to tell if a goal is realistic is if you can ACTUALLY do it. For example, “Read two articles and write for 15 minutes before 5:00 tonight” is a realistic goal. “Read two articles and write for 6 hours and write 10 pages before 5:00 tonight” is not a realistic goal.
If you have reached the third “P,” drastic steps are needed. Talk to a trusted FRIEND, find a “project buddy,” or seek coaching. Do not give up –- it is very possible to get yourself OUT of the paralyzed state and back to productivity with just a little help.
PRODUCTIVITY starts with baby steps. Do a little every day. As you observe your own productivity, however small it may be, you will start to feel better about yourself. You were capable all along -– it’s just that your unrealistic expectations stopped you from functioning optimally. Eventually your productivity will start to look like PROGRESS. And that’s the last “P” for today
Gina Hiatt, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, tenure and dissertation coach who helps faculty and graduate students realize their dreams. With her encouragement, support and expertise, grad students, professors and writers are all able to complete research and writing projects and publish, while maintaining high teaching standards and other commitments. Her web site is chock full of self-assessments, articles, resources, polls and newsletter archives. Check out her site and get help with time management, procrastination, writing, creative thinking, career decisions, choosing research topics, teaching and more. Sign up for her newsletter at AcademicLadder.com and get the free and unique “Academic Writer’s Block Wizard.”
Do YOU have a NON-LINEAR mind?
For centuries, a relatively small portion of society has been made up of a number of people that often don’t seem to “fit in” with those around them. They seem to march to a different drummer; while the rest of the world is moving in 2/2 or 4/4 time, those who think non-linearly are running a Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich drum solo! The highly creative, highly distractible mind that craves activity and stimulation, even to the point of being driven to these things by forces unknown and irresistible, also invites ridicule and criticism, or even envy. In fact, some people may even display fear or hatred for those who do not think as they do, who do not seem to fit into the convenient mold that such people invent for themselves, and expect others to fit into.
No, for the non-linear minded individual, it’s not enough to graduate high school, maybe even getting a college degree or going to some trade school, then to go work for some company somewhere for 45 years, and then retire on Social Security. Such a boring and mundane and un-creative and SECURE life is so appalling, so repulsive to the non-linear minded person that they constantly seek some kind of escape from the prison of such a lifestyle. And, a prison it is, to be tied to TIME, each day a copy of the one before, day after day after day after horrid repetitious day.
Do YOU have a non-linear mind? You might, if you:
- hear music running in your head
- can manage multiple projects at the same time
- constantly ‘scan’ your environment, responding to the slightest change
- can’t sit still for more than a short time
- are a chronic ‘thrill seeker’
- would rather walk around a store for 30 minutes than wait in line for 5
- always find yourself ‘a little bit late’, and NEVER early.
- are highly creative, always coming up with unique solutions
- are a musician or artist at heart, but have a ‘day job’ to pay the bills
- typically find yourself working at hours that most people use for sleeping
- frequently turn 5 minute tasks into ‘all nighters’
- can’t put something down until it’s finished
- can’t seem to finish anything (a negative side-effect of having too many projects)
- never ‘look at someone when they’re talking to you’ for more than 2 seconds without looking around the room [and are often falsely accused of 'not listening'].
- look around the room when talking to other people
- find solutions to problems faster whenever you talk to yourself, out loud
- usually ‘diddle with your fingers’ or chew pencils or tap your toes or do something similar
- doodle during lectures instead of taking notes to keep your brain occupied
- work or study with the radio or T.V. on because it actually helps you think
- are always ‘putting off until tomorrow’
- stay up all night browsing the internet instead of doing work
- ‘tune out’ to the rest of the world when you’re concentrating (hyper-focus)
- at times, think ‘in parallel’ where linear logic is suddenly replaced with a simultaneous ‘self-evidence’, and solutions become more intuitive than deductive.
- can never seem to explain your logic to anyone else, but it always seems to work.
- people often accuse you of acting without thinking, simply because you act and think at the same time (after all, it’s more efficient that way, isn’t it?)
- when people try to teach you things, you can’t seem to learn unless you know ‘why’
- you absolutely hate ‘rote memorization’ (for a list of better techniques, go HERE).
So, what is it that drives the non-linear person, then, to break out of the mold and invent, create, compose, and explore? Some would call this inner drive a “disorder”, and tell Johnny’s mother that Johnny has ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’, or ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’, as though not being able to sit through a BORING lecture without doodling, or playing with his pencil, or kicking his legs, or moving around in his seat, or scratching his nose, or SOMETHING to keep his highly active mind from going INSANE, is somehow a “deficiency” or a “disorder” or something that must be FIXED because somehow, there’s something WRONG with Johnny. Or, maybe Johnny can’t learn to read at school because his school uses the highly ineffective ‘Look/Say’ reading method (instead of phonics), which requires ROTE memorization, a method that so HORRIFIES the non-linear minded person as to prevent him from even attempting it. So, instead of being a GIFTED and CREATIVE child, Johnny is treated as though he is ‘slow’, or ‘learning disabled’, or ‘Attention Deficit’.
AND, if you don’t think that ‘gummint’ is interfering too much in this arena, well, just check out THIS (a news story from May 2000 – the original link has broken, though it is also broken on the main ‘breggin.com’ web site. A nearly identical page can also be found HERE), and also THIS, and if these cases don’t anger you, or even motivate you to action, they SHOULD…
I hope, by my examples, I am evoking an emotional response to the way in which the hypothetical ‘Johnny’ has been treated, categorized, and clinically labeled as “deficient” by people who are completely ignorant of how his brain works. Yet, some of you reading this may say ‘I know just what it’s like’. Others of you may be curious as to why I am writing these things. Well, read on, ladies and gentlemen. It gets much better from here.
According to Thom Hartmann, author and editor of books like “Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception” and “Think Fast! The ADD Experience”,would instead say that those whom I would qualify as the ‘non-linear thinkers’ are the ‘hunters’ in our society, and those whom I would qualify as the ‘linear thinkers’ are the ‘farmers’ in our society, based upon social growth from the 2 basic primitive society types: The ‘hunter/gatherers’and the ‘farmers’.
The ‘hunter/gatherer’ societies lived their lives constantly roaming and searching for food, and they must be very aware of their surroundings at all times, eyes constantly looking about, and always ready to jump and go after their prey, or avoid some predator that may make lunch out of them. They must be able to find things that are normally well-hidden, notice even slight changes in their peripheral vision, and react to them almost instinctively. They must also be ‘on the spot creative’, able to adapt quickly to unpredictable and rapidly changing conditions. Their children inherited the genetic pre-disposition to this sort of behavior, which successfully sustained their society.
The ‘farmer’ societies, however, lived by time and seasons, storing things for the future, and doing the same things, day after day, year after year, century after century. Such societies were made up of people whose minds worked in a linear fashion, as tilling precedes sowing, and sowing precedes weeding and watering and caring for the crops, which preceded harvesting, followed by canning and preserving, before winter weather forced them mostly indoors, to wait until spring again. Their children inherited the genetic predisposition to this sort of behavior, which successfully sustained their society as well. However, farming is more a efficient way of getting food than is hunting and gathering, so farming societies eventually prevailed.
Putting a ‘hunter’ in a ‘farmer’s’ job, though, could be disastrous. The ‘hunter’ mindset would never be satisfied with merely planting and waiting for the seeds to grow. No, he’d probably pull up a few plants to see if they were “doing ok”, or go crazy waiting for sprouts to appear. Or, he’d find some other project to work on that was more ‘interesting’, and the field would begin to suffer from habitual neglect. No, the ‘hunter’ wouldn’t fit in the farmer society very well, would he? Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening to the non-linear mined people of our modern society. They are being expected to behave like the other 90% of the population with linear minds, but cannot because their brains just don’t work that way.
So, the non-linear minded people, living in a linear world, generally learn some form of ‘coping skills’ to deal with abstract issues like time, or communicate with people who cannot understand the non-linear tendency to say “A, B, ALPHABET” instead of “A,B,C,D,E,F….Z” (Even I ‘skipped the middle’ to avoid boredom). The linear minded person expects to get all of the steps in between, which are often so intuitively obvious to the non-linear minded person that he sees absolutely no point in mentioning them, and is thus labeled ‘irrational’ or disregarded completely by his peers. As such, non-linear minded people tend to seek one another out, and choose careers that are compatible with non-linearity of thought, or even TAYLOR MADE for it.
Typical careers that are ideal for non-linear minds could be (but are not limited to):
- Actor or stand-up comic
- Engineer (including software)
- Research Scientist
- Trial Lawyer
- Trauma Surgeon or E.M.T.
- Sailor or commercial fisherman
- Automotive or Appliance Repair
The skills that make a person a good ‘hunter’, high creativity and adaptation to new situations, as well as the ability to notice things that are ‘out of the ordinary’, and think VERY QUICKLY, make the non-linear minded person IDEAL for such careers. As well, jobs such as these contain enough variety to remain ‘interesting’ to someone whose mind constantly seeks out stimulation of one form or another.
Natural Selection and Our Modern Society
Until very recently, the linear-minded people dominated society, for agriculture was the primary means of generating food. ‘Farmer’ families were typically larger, and more successful. With some obvious exceptions of aboriginal people and migratory societies, the world favored the farmer. The resulting ‘natural selection’ process brought out more ‘farmer friendly’ genes within the normal distribution in the human population. As a result, post-industrial-revolution society continued in its time-based thinking, with employees willing to do menial jobs for decades, until that magical ‘retirement age.’ Security in their positions was more important than creativity. And the natural (slow) progress of advancement over time, and everything in its season, continued. At least, it continued for a while.
Now that we have entered the age of robotics and rapid world-wide information exchange, those who are most successful in our society are now the non-linear thinkers! The linear-minded people in modern industrial societies are having a tough time keeping up, and find themselves in ‘service’ kinds of roles. Regardless of the importance of a ‘service economy’ (which keeps the cash flowing, and is important within its own right) it is now the non-linear minded individual who earns more money and is therefore more likely to pass along his genetic material to the next generation. The makeup of society is slowly changing, in favor of the non-linear mind.
With some careful analysis, it seems that most of the famous musical composers, artists, inventors, scientists, and so on fall into this category of ‘non-linear minded’. And, the same analysis would reveal that these people were often misunderstood, mistreated, and (had they been in our ‘modern’ society) may even be considered to be somehow ‘deficient’ or to have some kind of ‘disorder’ and need some kind of ‘treatment’. Frankly, I think their success and fame ought to be a self-evident argument against such nonsense. There’s no ‘disorder’ here. These people are merely different than most of those around them, and their difference allowed them to EXCEL in ways that were unique and highly acclaimed.
The linearity or non-linearity of a person’s mind IS genetically predetermined, but is not ‘black and white’. There tends to be various degrees of linearity or non-linearity. Some whose minds are TOO non-linear can actually end up being non-functional in a linear society, and it is for these people that ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ applies. Often these people respond well to various medications (usually stimulants), which tend to stimulate only the ‘linear’ portions of their minds, in order to bring them up to speed with the rapidly moving non-linear cognitive part of their minds. It is no wonder, then, that the most of the highly creative people in our societies often crave caffeine, sugar, and even nicotine, to try to ‘straighten out’ their thinking enough to cope in a linear society, or stay focused on what they’re trying to do. Some people refer to this as ‘self-medication’, and this behavior may also explain why the abuse of drugs and alcohol is also common among those with non-linear minds. It is a potentially dangerous tendency that’s worth recognizing, and avoiding, if you believe yourself to have a non-linear mind.
Nearly all ‘pre-modern’ societies rose out of a class-based (or even a caste) system, for feudalism is often a part of the natural progression in social evolution. In countries like Japan, where the ‘Samurai’ was respected, the warrior class typically kept the non-linear gene pool alive. Similarly in Europe, the merchant class and the ‘knights’ also favored the non-linear minded person. But in the U.S.A., pioneering and the concept of ‘rugged individualism’ were all non-linear minded traits, and as European settlers moved west, and intermarried with native people (especially those who were migratory or hunter/gatherers), the gene pool became well-seeded with non-linear traits. It was the foreshadow of things to come.
So, is it no wonder that so many children are being ‘diagnosed’ nowadays as having AD[H]D when in fact they are simply “a different kind of ‘normal’”? That is, there is a significantly higher percentage of successful non-linear-minded people nowadays, and a resulting higher percentage of children with non-linear traits. Yet our linear-mind schools are based on a predominance of children who learn by rote, who are not bored sitting still, who think more slowly and must be taught the A to B to C to D instead of A…Z . Linear-minded children can’t rapidly see the connections that the nonlinear-minded child can easily comprehend, because their minds just don’t work the same way. Similarly, non-linear-minded children don’t easily comprehend the time-based curriculum that linear-minded children have no trouble with. So without parents spending time teaching their non-linear-minded children the necessary coping skills, to deal with the linear world, to learn the ‘better method’ that the teacher doesn’t tell them about, they end up bored or frustrated in school, and are labeled “learning disabled” instead of ‘different.’ The schools have often latched on to the ‘drug the child’ policy, using government programs to pay for it, and in some cases, heavy-handed tactics to force parents into complying.
But the motivation behind this sort of treatment of the non-linear minded person by our society may simply be the reaction to a change in the genetic makeup. Perhaps the linear-minded people ‘feel’ as though they are losing the control that they have always had. Perhaps they ‘feel’ threatened. And, quite possibly, they are viewing the non-linear minded children (whom they do not understand) as a ‘problem’ instead of ‘a natural part of the genetic makeup of human existence’. And so they seek to ‘cure’ a perceived problem, using the only means they can conceive of: Drugs. It may simply be a struggle for dominance. Let us hope that in the future, if non-linear-minded people dominate those that are linear-minded, that they are not treated so badly.
As a musician, and a software engineer and consultant, I take advantage of the ability to juggle several things at the same time, to think “in parallel”, to visualize projects before I actually build them, to ‘play music’ in my head before I compose it, and to redeem every second of my day, if I can. Sure, I hate distractions, those things that break my concentration, but I’m somewhat used to it. Maybe it just makes things more interesting in the long run. Still, I’m often misunderstood, or treated as though I’m un-intelligent, by those linear-minded people in our society that just don’t understand. It seems that some things just never change.
And with a final gratuitous ‘Harry Potter’ reference, might I add that the concept of ‘muggles’ fits nicely into how I often see “linear-minded” people.
©1996-2011 by R. E. Frazier – all rights reserved
I’ve been asked more than once, if I had it to do all over and it was an option, would I choose a “normal” brain to live my life. My response is always…Are you kidding me? I see more, feel more, taste more, smell more, think more, hear more, know more…what an amazing, colorful, layered world I live in that “normal” brains will never see. That’s like asking a meat-eater if he would want to give up his steak for a lifetime of Spam. A weird analogy for a vegetarian, but hey, I’ve been know to be weird.