Learning to love having ADHD

Banner image with cartoon text saying 'THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT HAVING ADHD' with purple background, and pink, yellow and red squiggly border lines.

Learning to love the way your mind works when you have ADHD can sometimes be tough, particularly when there’s still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the condition.

This guide will help you to break through the stigma by reminding you of some of the reasons you can love your ADHD and appreciate how your mind works.

You don’t have to be ashamed of ADHD

There’s a variety of reasons why ADHD is so misunderstood in society, but much of it comes down to the stigma that’s attached to mental health conditions as a whole.

Much like depression and anxiety, a common misconception about ADHD is that it simply isn’t real. Another common misbelief is that having ADHD means you’re full of energy all the time or are unable to concentrate.

It’s important to remember that while society still retains stigma and misconceptions persist, living with ADHD isn’t something to be ashamed of.

By reframing the way you think about living with ADHD, and unlearning the stigma associated with it, you can begin to learn to love your ADHD and think of it as a positive and fulfilling part of your life.

Purple banner with illustration of a person with long dark curly hair holding a trophy that says 'DOING PRETTY GOOD' and yellow sparkles around them.

ADHD can be one of your greatest strengths

Living with a condition like ADHD does come with challenges, but there’s also a lot to celebrate and love, too.

Many people living with ADHD use management strategies to manage and utilise the unique way their brain functions so that it works to their advantage. This way, they can transform their ADHD into a personal strength.

Some of the commonly experienced markers of ADHD include creative thinking, hyperfocus and resilience: let’s take a deeper look at how these symptoms can be used in positive ways, so that you can learn to love and take pride in the way our ADHD brains work.

People with ADHD are often super-creative

People with ADHD can often think in very creative ways. This type of ‘outside-the-box’ thinking is commonly referred to as ‘divergent thinking’.

Many people with ADHD are creative, divergent thinkers and excel in creative subjects. Plenty of people with ADHD lean towards working in creative fields, because the way they think lends itself to creative work.

Studies have shown that people with ADHD are very good at divergent thinking tasks. For example, they find creative new ways to use everyday objects, think of new features or ideas for projects, or go about day-to-day, mundane tasks in a different or unconventional way that most people wouldn’t think of.

Purple banner with illustration of person with short brown hair and green t-shirt looking at art easel that says 'A TRICKY PROBLEM TO SOLVE' and paintbrushes and paint splatters around them.

Why does ADHD affect creativity?

There are plenty of theories about why the symptoms of ADHD are linked to creativity. Some studies suggest that it is linked to impulsivity and lower inner inhibition. Because people with ADHD tend to be impulsive ( a symptom that some find challenging and that needs management), this can mean they are less likely to have an ‘inner critic’ that puts a stop to a flow of ideas.

The positive aspect here is that, because ideas flow easily and aren’t interrupted or shut down as often’, this means that ideas have more opportunities to evolve in creative ways. How awesome is that!

Another theory that studies have looked into is that people with ADHD are easily distracted. While this can also be a challenging thing to manage, it can also have really excellent benefits. People with ADHD are prone to drifting off into their own thoughts. This tendency to daydream can lead to creative or divergent thinking processes that neurotypical people don’t experience as often.

The ADHD superpower of hyperfocus

The words ‘attention deficit’ in ‘ADHD’ often makes many people think those with ADHD can’t focus or pay attention at all. However, it simply means that their focus and concentration work differently from the way they work in neurotypical people.

People with ADHD can absolutely focus on things. In fact, many have a symptom called ‘hyperfocus’.

What is hyperfocus?

The term ‘hyperfocus’ describes a state of being extremely focused on a single task, to the point that you can lose track of everything else around you.

Hyperfocus can be an incredibly useful tool for study, work and learning. It has the potential to be a really beneficial study tool by helping you to get sizeable amounts of work done in a short period of time and to be impressively committed to achieving goals and completing projects. However, hyperfocus can be challenging to control and needs to be well managed to make sure your hyperfocus zeroes in on the right topic or project.

‘I landed with a bestselling book … You can’t do that if … your brain doesn’t work the way ours does.’

Author Peter Shankman on writing an entire book while on a flight to Tokyo, and his hyperfocus being a personal strength.

These bursts of intense focus can also be beneficial in terms of your personal interests and hobbies. Using a period of hyperfocus to concentrate your attention on a particular subject or activity that you’re interested in will help you to learn a lot of new information very quickly and can make learning a really enjoyable experience. This sort of total immersion in a topic or activity can lead to incredible discoveries and work being created, so hyperfocus can be a fantastic tool for learning, memory, innovation and personal projects.

Illustration of person with short black curly hair smiling. Game show text underneath that says 'Do you know the answer to this very obscure question?' and options 'A) Duh B) Of course C) Yes and D) mmhmm' underneath.

Here are some ideas to try for learning to work with your hyperfocus rather than against it:

  • Know what times of day you focus best and time your activities around these.

  • Use alarms or music to remind yourself the times of day when your focus is strongest.

  • Create deadlines for yourself, and break down big tasks into smaller ones.

  • Find creative ways to make uninteresting tasks more appealing. For example, if you’re struggling to focus on reading to research a topic for a school project, break it up by watching YouTube videos on the topic or listening to relevant podcasts instead.

  • Make sure you take breaks. It sounds counterintuitive to ‘break focus’, but usually a state of hyperfocus will be far more powerful and last longer if you take a break and go for a walk or have a snack.

  • Find background sounds or music that relax and help you get into focus mode. (There’s plenty of ‘ADHD sounds’ and white noise videos on YouTube to try.)

You can find more focus tips for ADHD here.

Having ADHD can make you really resilient

Sometimes having ADHD can feel like everyone around you is playing the game of life in easy mode, while you seem to be stuck in hard mode. People with ADHD overcome these barriers of ‘life on hard mode’ on a daily basis, which means that resilience is a common trait among the ADHD community and a strength that can be of benefit throughout life.

Why are people with ADHD so resilient?

Since ADHD minds have a disconnect between thinking ‘I should do [insert task]’ and then actually doing that task, it can make it difficult for them to consistently complete ‘basic’ daily routines that neurotypical people view as ‘simple’ (e.g. brushing your teeth or tidying their room). It takes a great deal of resilience to cope on a daily basis with the stress of managing these tasks while also managing ADHD.

Illustration of smiling person short yellow hair standing on dark green grass with bright blue sky and clouds behind them. They are holding a shield that says 'LIVED EXPERIENCE' on it, and has green and yellow arrows bouncing off of it.

Society is constructed around how neurotypical minds work, so navigating the world as someone with ADHD can be confusing and exhausting. If you’ve felt misunderstood, or like you’ve had to mask your ADHD, or you’ve been expected to work in ways that felt uncomfortable, you’re not alone in feeling this way! Reading stories from others in forums like the ReachOut Online Community can be helpful in learning about this common experience and the resilience within the ADHD community.

Life with undiagnosed ADHD can also present daily barriers that can be extremely tough. If you had some difficult experiences while trying to navigate day-to-day life before being diagnosed with ADHD, it shows undeniable resilience and determination that you climbed over those barriers and kept going. It's important to acknowledge that you got through, and that you have overcome a lot to get to where you are now.

Management makes it all easier

There’s much to love about life with ADHD, but the most important step in becoming comfortable with who you are and loving how your mind works is management. By recognising which of your ADHD symptoms makes life challenging, you can put certain strategies in place. By making the challenging points easier to cope with, it will free up more mental energy to give to your strengths!

Managing ADHD has a variety of different elements, including talking therapies with a psychologist, medication, and self-management techniques. You can read more about the types of ADHD treatments here.

Self-management is simply the regular habits you put in place that help to reduce the impacts that ADHD symptoms may have on your day-to-day life.

Some common self-management techniques include:

  • Use planning strategies – e.g. regularly write lists, bullet journaling, have an online calendar that opens automatically so you can always see it.

  • Time things around your ADHD – e.g. if you know that your brain struggles to wake up properly in the morning, avoid scheduling morning meetings; or if you know that you tend to hyperfocus at around 2 pm, set aside time to get schoolwork or projects done then.

  • Set alarms for things you tend to forget, e.g. medication or taking breaks.

  • Keep reminders around your home (e.g. on the fridge) of things that usually help if you’re having a tough day with concentration or fatigue, such as drinking some water or having a snack.

  • Plan ahead – e.g. make sure you pack your bag for school or work the night before so that you aren’t trying to find everything in a frantic rush in the morning.

  • Practise breathing exercises, mindfulness or meditation.

  • Avoid triggers and things that give you sensory issues.

What can I do now?

  • Need more info? Head here for everything you need to know about ADHD.

  • Wondering if you have ADHD? Check out this guide from clinical psychologist Dr Amy Burton.

  • ADHD can affect your life in ways that you might not expect – find out more here.