Exercising your ADHD brain keeps it young and fit, much as exercising your body keeps your body fit. Of course, you can overdo mental exercise, just as you can overdo physical exercise; this leads to exhaustion, either mental or physical. But as a general principle of mental hygiene, stretching your brain every day is an excellent way to stave off the mental ravages of aging.
Mental exercise can be quite specific. The following exercises, from my book Delivered from Distraction, were designed to improve attention and organizational abilities. They were developed by experts on physical training in Russia and given to me by Simon Zaltsman, a physical trainer I worked with. These exercises will challenge you Don’t be surprised if you get angry or frustrated and don’t complete them the first time. But as Simon told me, “You can do them. Just persist.” If you try these exercises once a day, you should soon find that your attention span is lengthening and your ability to stay on task is growing stronger. Also, the quality of your focus should sharpen.
- Position one blank sheet of paper to your right and another to your left; then take a pencil in each hand. Simultaneously, draw a vertical line on the right sheet and a circle on the left sheet. Repeat three times, alternating figures on the right and left sheets.
- Draw a triangle on one sheet while drawing a square on the other. Then switch: draw the square on the first sheet and the triangle on the other.
- Draw a circle on one sheet while drawing a triangle on the other. Switch figures and do it again.
- Draw two circles on one sheet while drawing one square on the other. Then switch.
- Draw two squares on one sheet while drawing one triangle on the other. Then switch.
- Draw a triangle on one sheet while drawing a square on the other and also tracing a circle on the floor with one leg. Then switch hands (and switch to the other leg.)
- Draw a circle with one hand and a triangle with the other while tracing a square on the floor with one leg. Then switch all.
- Draw a triangle with one hand and two squares with the other while tracing a circle on the floor with one leg. Then switch all.
- Draw a triangle with one hand and a square with the other while tracing a circle on the floor with one leg and nodding your head twice forward and twice backward.
- Draw a triangle with one hand and a square with the other while tracing a vertical line with the eg on the same side as the hand that is drawing the triangle, and a horizontal line with leg on the same side as the hand that is drawing the square. Then switch all.
Yes, these are extremely difficult, aren’t they? But don’t despair. Keep Simon’s words in mind, and do as many as you can in 10 to 15 minutes. Just like when you go the gym, the key is to keep at it. Gradually you will see results. Your attention will improve. In addition, it is likely that your organization ability will improve as well as your ability to control your impulses. You may also see marked improvement in your coordination.
You can find more of my tips on boosting your ADHD brain in this ADDitude article on 25 Everyday Brain Boosts from our ADHD Experts.
Another way to exercise your mind is through Mindfulness.