You hear a lot about the challenges of living with ADHD. What you don't hear discussed as often is the positive side of the condition. Yet the beneficial aspects of ADHD—energy, spontaneity, creativity, flexibility—are just as real as the negative ones.
If you have the hyperactive form of ADHD, you know what it's like to have too much of a good thing. You've got energy to burn, but it isn't easy to channel productively. With treatment, you may be able to dial down hyperactivity to healthy activity.
One way to put all that energy to good use is with exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. That includes activities such as brisk walking, water aerobics, moderate cycling, or doubles tennis. Alternately, you can do 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging, lap swimming, fast cycling, or singles tennis. Workouts sound like ... well, work. But they can feel like play when you've got the energy to make them a pleasure rather than a chore.
Sometimes, you might be impulsive. Other times, you might be unfocused. But one thing you will never be is boring. People with ADHD tend to be spontaneous and enthusiastic, and those are qualities that other people respond to.
Give other people a chance to know the fun side of your personality. That might mean choosing situations where spontaneity is valued or shared, such as interactive games, outdoor activities, or traveling. That might also mean practicing social skills that help you control behaviors that put people off, such as being a poor listener, forgetting to show up, or blurting out things best left unsaid. When you work on those behaviors, your best qualities come to the forefront.
One of the lesser-known perks of ADHD is an association with creativity. One study that compared college students with and without ADHD found that those with the disorder generally did better on a test of divergent thinking. This is the type of outside-the-box thinking that helps people come up with creative ideas.
Look for ways to foster your creativity and imagination. Share your innovative ideas with the boss at work, take up art or writing as a hobby, or join a cooking or storytelling class. To keep your batteries charged, make time for relaxation and recreation. Research has also shown that getting plenty of REM sleep—the stage of sleep associated with rapid eye movements and dreaming—is another way to boost creativity.
You're probably used to juggling lots of different thoughts at once. As a result, you may not get set on one course of action too soon. Instead, you may have a natural inclination toward staying open to fresh ideas and trying new things.
Taken too far, that tendency can be overwhelming. But with treatment, you may be able to harness it to your advantage. Trying new things—foods, music, sports, or just interesting ways to spend a Saturday—can enrich your life. And adapting quickly to new information can be a plus in a fast-paced work environment. Combine that with energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, and you are a force to be reckoned with.