A secret to happiness: Life is a marathon, not a sprint

Psssttt… want to know the secret to happiness?

Most of us want to be happy, but true happiness remains elusive. What’s the big secret? I don’t think there’s a single secret. There are many things that can add to our happiness. I don’t mean making millions of dollars, having the latest model cell phone or having the cutest prom date. Those can bring temporary happiness, but they miss on true happiness. Sometimes they actually can make us unhappy.

Have you heard the title quote before?

Live is a marathon, not a sprint. ~Unknown

I think it holds some of the best ideas about true happiness. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s break down what that means. I’ll start with a bit about what goes into running a marathon. Then I’ll give several examples of how we’re sprinting along and how this can lead to burnout. I’ll end with tips on how to turn this into a marathon. Pace yourself. You’ve got a long life ahead!

The Marathon

Running a marathon isn’t easy.

People must train for long periods of time. It takes dedication and consistency.

There is a big time commitment – and it’s not all running. It’s coming up with the time to run regularly. And eating enough healthy calories to sustain your body.

Not to mention preparing yourself mentally.

Only after months of hard training can you actually run the marathon.

Sometimes injuries delay things unexpectedly.

Excitement builds as the date approaches.

During the marathon, you might feel on top of things as you run past others, but then there will be some who pass you. There are moments a runner may feel like there’s no way to go on because you have nothing left to give. It takes grit and resilience to keep going.

After finishing, you might even spend time wondering what you could have done differently to shave off time.

And you need to take time to rest so your body can recover.

Then maybe you start the cycle all over again.

Pace yourself to help attain happiness. #adhdkcteen #gratitude #happiness #mindfulness #resilience @adhdkcteen

Society of here and now.

We’ve become a society that has access to everything right here. Right now. While it seems like this is a good thing on the surface, this can lead to impatience, anxiety, and entitlement. All of these lead directly to unhappiness.

It’s not uncommon to hear how busy people are. They complain, yet they often seem to be bragging of all the things they have to do. Being busy isn’t something to brag about.

It is seen as a negative thing when we take time to relax. We’ve become a society that doesn’t value balance, despite everyone talking about finding work-life balance.

Being constantly busy and expecting everything when we want it has become our general expectation. We don’t learn resilience when we’re able to get what we want when we want it. Resilience is when someone is able to pick up and move on when something doesn’t go their way. If we never learn resilience, we’ll be unhappy in life.

The good news is you can learn resilience at any age!

Instant access to friends and family

When I was growing up, we had no cell phones. (I’m a dinosaur, I know.)

I didn’t even get voice mail or caller ID until my mid to late teens. If a friend called and no one was home, we didn’t even know they called. Sometimes that caused frustrations because we had to keep calling to find someone to answer if it was important, but it also was a lot more freeing in many ways than being constantly attached to a cell phone.

We looked forward to talking at school and activities. There were fewer distractions when we were with people because it was rare that someone had to take a call. It took planning to arrange to meet friends, but that itself helped us learn an important skill!

In today’s world if want to tell a friend something, I text them. This is impersonal and doesn’t build communication.

Sadly, we often impatiently wait for an answer. Some people even start to worry when the text remains unanswered for a few minutes.

~ Did I do something to make them upset?

~ Are they having fun with someone else and ignoring me?

The facts can be very different.

Maybe the text is delayed. Their ringer could be off. If they’re driving they shouldn’t answer. Maybe they’re practicing self regulation and it’s not a time they are using their phone – they’re doing something else. The phone can be in another room – or taken away by parents.

So many things can interfere with a quick response, yet we often get upset when the reply isn’t instantaneous.

Isolation of online

There are so many things to do online. Some of these are required for school or work. Sometimes we simply want to relax and check up on things or watch a video.

For many people, following social media sites is a way to catch up on what’s going on. This can be fine in the short term, but the more time you spend on these sites, the more likely you’ll be depressed. It shouldn’t consume hours of your day.

That keeps you away from actually living life and self care.

Set limits for yourself. You will find that you have more time to do other things that bring more joy. Less time online also means less time to get upset with what others post.

Set limits for yourself with time online. #adhdkcteen #gratitude #happiness #mindfulness #resilience @adhdkcteen

Instant shopping

If we are in need of things, we can order online and Amazon will deliver it tomorrow. There are even food delivery services that will deliver from any restaurant in the area, so we can order online and never leave the house.

While this seems convenient, there’s something to the action of going shopping or out to eat. Planning a day and time to be able to shop (or eat out). Actually looking through the store and possibly running into someone you know or having a simple conversation with the store clerk are becoming lost skills. We are isolating ourselves by taking the convenient road.

Fear of the great outdoors

In years past kids would play outside until it got dark outside. They’d walk to school and back unsupervised. A great memory is shared in The Summer of No TV.

Today parents are afraid that kids will get hurt or abducted, so they won’t allow them to roam alone.

Parents of today tend to schedule kids in sports, music lessons, dance classes, scouts, and more.

They structure a child’s time so much that kids of today don’t learn how to fill their time with fun things to do. They don’t learn to work through problems and differences with friends on their own. The fear of injury and abduction overshadows the real dangers of kids not learning how to become independent and resilient.

This over-structured lifestyle leads to teens who don’t know how to find things to do other than screen time or scheduled activities. Kids don’t learn to use boredom as a door to discovery. They don’t discover their own interests and talents. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy and sadness.

Our society is growing adults who have no idea how to organize their own time and succeed in life.

If you’re a teen reading this, talk to your parents about how you can gain independence and be accountable for yourself. If you’re a parent, think about ways you can let go and let your kids figure things out themselves.

Want to know the secret to happiness?

Discover the secret to happiness - it's not impossible! #adhdkcteen #gratitude #happiness #mindfulness #resilience @adhdkcteen

Make it a marathon

You can’t get away from many of the busy activities in life.

The key is to use balance. Balance can lead to the secret to happiness.

Spend time with others

Find ways to be with friends and family on a regular basis in real life.

Go beyond your regular practice and game time and schedule unstructured time. When we are in class or at practice, we have rules to follow and things to do. Unstructured time is when we’re able to be creative with our time, find new interests, and learn more about one another.

Make time for yourself.

Yes, I know I just said to be with other people, and that is still important. When we’re alone too much, we start to feel self doubts. Anxiety grows. Depression can set in.

What I mean by making time for yourself is that we all need to practice self cares.

Get sufficient sleep.

This one also goes along with self care.

Many teens don’t get the sleep they need. Sleep is more important than many realize. Without it we don’t focus well, we’re more likely to be injured, we get irritable, illness is more common, and more. If you have trouble sleeping, check out these tips.

Exercise.

Here’s another self care necessity. I know you hear this all the time, but it’s important.

It’s easy to spend most of the day sitting. Failure to get daily exercise can lead to lifelong problems.

Find something you enjoy doing, such as a sport or dance. If it’s nice outside, invite a friend to take a walk or bike ride. Walk a dog. Play frisbee. Have fun! This directly and indirectly can increase your lifetime happiness.

Expand your horizon

We tend to get stuck in our daily routines, which can get boring and doesn’t allow us to find our true passions.

Explore other cultures.

Learn about other people and cultures through books, movies, music and cultural events. Visit a museum or historical site.

Talk to people outside your social circle. I know that can be intimidating for some and difficult if you’re in a small town, but it can be very rewarding to learn about other people and their culture.

If you don’t have time to read, or just don’t like reading, try an audiobook. You can listen while exercising or doing chores around the house.

Take up a new hobby

When we’re young our parents sign us up for things to do or buy our toys and games.

As we get older, we need to explore other interests to help find ourselves. There are many things out there that you might not even know about. Think about what characters in books and movies have done. Does any of that interest you?

You can try new things at school by taking an elective that you know nothing about.

Take an art class or learn to rock climb. If you think you can’t dance, sign up for lessons. If competitive sports aren’t your thing, check out a non-competitive league or an individual sport.

Join a new club at school.

Give to others

Community service is becoming required for many teens, but it should be something we do with a giving heart.

Doing things for others is one of the biggest secrets to happiness.

Don’t simply sign up for a service project because you need the hours. Find something that suits your personality and interests.

If you love the great outdoors, find ways to help others outside.

Love animals? Check out the animal shelters.

If you’re good in a subject and see a friend struggling, offer to tutor. (Be careful how you propose this… you don’t want to offend them or come off as a know – it- all.)

Is your neighbor aging? Offer to help with yard work or house work without charging. Leave a pot of flowers on their porch just because.

Do you love kids? See if you can volunteer at a summer camp or respite care.

If you’re interested in healthcare, look at hospitals and other healthcare settings to see if they offer volunteer opportunities.

Develop spirituality

We often associate spirituality with religion, but they are not the same. We can learn about our own spirituality through meditation and prayer. Spirituality involves a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. It is about loving yourself, others, and our planet.

Spirituality also involves mindfulness, philosophy, and more. Learn from books and other people to develop a deeper understanding of love and life. Attend a conference or retreat. Continue this learning life long.

Certainly religion is important to many people, and exploring your faith can be very rewarding towards overall happiness. Teen years are a common time to question, so it’s a great time to reflect, read, and learn. Learn about your own religion and others. This isn’t to change your belief, but it often reinforces it. If you do find that another religion is appealing to you, find people from that faith to talk to so you can continue learning.

Enrich your spiritual life by taking time each day for reflection. Keep a gratitude journal. Help others.

Check out your senses

Sights, sounds, touch, and taste are all important senses, but smell is especially helpful in our emotions and memory.

Certain smells can bring me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Smells have a way of solidifying memories and then bringing them back. Some, like my grandmother’s kitchen are very positive, happy memories. Others can bring negative emotion. We can use this powerful sense to help us bring happy feelings or a sense of calm and peace.

Certain smells tend to lead to happiness. Citrus smells, such as lemon and orange, and peppermint can serve to pick up your mood. This doesn’t make you find happiness for life, but it can be a pick me up when needed.

Learn to be aware of all 5 senses. This is part of mindfulness and helps us in our awareness. There are many ways to learn mindfulness. Take some time and try some out.

Find true happiness - it's not impossible! #adhdkcteen #gratitude #happiness #mindfulness #resilience @adhdkcteen

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 4: The Big 3!

Eat right, exercise, and sleep to keep up a healthy body and mind! I call these “The Big 3” things we all need to do to be healthy in mind and body. When we do The Big 3 properly, our self confidence and self esteem are improved.

What are The Big 3?

Eating right, exercise, and sleep.

Eat a nutritionally well balanced diet.

Malnutrition and hunger are not good for our focus. As if people with ADHD need any more problems with focus!

Many of the medicines used to treat the problems from ADHD affect our appetite, so we must be careful to make the most of what we eat.

Start with a good breakfast. I know many teens aren’t into breakfast or just don’t have time for it, but make the time. Find foods that you can eat while getting ready or on the way to school. Examples are smoothies with yogurt, leftovers from dinner, a sandwich and a quesadilla.

Eat some protein and a fruit or vegetable every time you eat. Snack on baby carrots, bell peppers, or cucumbers with hummus after school. Or apples with peanut butter. Grapes and cheese. Strawberries with yogurt. You get the picture? A plant and a protein!

Exercise.

Many people feel that exercise helps their focus. Studies show that they’re right!

After sitting all day at school, do something active before you sit down to do homework. Your body needs the exercise and it will help make study time more efficient.

If you’re not into competitive sports, try other types of exercise. Go for a bike ride. Run. Dance. Swim. Just move!

Whatever you do, make it fun. Put it on your calendar and in your planner so it happens daily.

Sleep.

Sleep is under-appreciated in our society. It is not a time that you’re doing nothing. Your body and mind work hard while you’re sleeping to keep themselves healthy.

Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep each day. Even if you’ve reached your full height, your brain is growing until your mid-twenties. That means it still needs extra sleep compared to adults.

If you’re still growing, you might need 10-11 hours of sleep.

That’s hard when you also have activities, work, and homework. And when your circadian rhythm keeps you up until at least 11 pm but school starts at 7:30am. Not to mention the baseline problems people with ADHD tend to have falling asleep due to minds racing with amazing thoughts.

But here’s what happens when teens are sleep deprived..

My favorite sleep tips:

Exercise.

Exercise itself is one of The Big 3, but it also helps us sleep. Try to get your exercise in early in the day. Exercise can help tire your body so it can sleep well.

Avoid too much exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. This is not possible with some activities, I know. But exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to wind down.

Avoid caffeine and stimulants too close to bedtime.

Caffeine is one of the most commonly used substances to help us stay awake and focused, but it’s not always safe. It is habit forming. It’s also a stimulant, so can be especially problematic if you take a stimulant medicine. The additive effects of the two together can cause problems in some people.

Stimulants like adderall and ritalin are commonly used to treat ADHD, but should be used under the supervision of your physician.

If you use caffeine to help your focus or to stay awake, be sure to talk about the use with your doctor. This is especially true if you use a stimulant medicine, but even if you’re not. Relying on caffeine can be an indicator that you are self medicating something that could be better controlled with proper sleep or a prescription medication.

If you take a stimulant medicine, don’t take it too late in the day. Long acting medicines can last 8-16 hours. Short acting medicines last 3-4 hours. Know what you’re taking and when they tend to wear off. It’s unique to each person, but you can usually feel the effects wear off. If you take it too close to bedtime, it can cause sleep problems. For many teens, they can’t take a long acting medicine after 10 am or a short acting medicine after 6 pm, but how your medicine works in your body will be unique to you. Pay attention to when you feel the medicine wears off each day to learn how long it lasts for you.

Turn down lights.

Turn down lights 2 hours before bedtime. Your body needs darkness to make melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep. Artificial lights keep the melatonin level from increasing, so you feel less tired.

Fluorescent lights, televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets and all other lighted things can affect your melatonin level.

Check out f.lux, a free program for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and androids that changes the screen lighting prior to bedtime to allow natural melatonin to rise if you must be on a screen close to bedtime. Must means you have to finish homework that you couldn’t do earlier. It does not mean checking social media or texting friends. It also doesn’t mean putting off homework until later because you just don’t want to do it after school. Work and scheduled activities are a good excuse. Procrastination isn’t.

If you want to take a supplement of melatonin, talk to your doctor.

Watch out for late night munchies.

Avoid eating (especially large meals) before bedtime. Again, I know this can be hard, especially if you have after school activities that keep you busy and make you hungry.

This is even more difficult if your daytime medicine makes you not hungry at lunchtime. Of course try to eat at least something with good calories mid day, but if you don’t eat a typical lunch, you’ll need to make up the lost calories after the medicine wears off. Be sure to not eat foods that bother your stomach while laying down too close to bedtime.

Relax!

Do relaxing activities as part of your bedtime routine. These can include reading, taking a shower, coloring or listening to soothing music.

If thoughts keep you up, journal before climbing into bed. Journaling can help focus thoughts and allow your brain to stop thinking about them.

Relaxation exercises or deep breathing can help. Put a hand on your heart and on your abdomen. Try to keep your heart hand still while you take in a slow, deep breath. While you inhale count 4 counts and while you exhale count 8 counts. The deep breaths can make you feel tired, and the counting slowly helps keep your brain from racing thoughts.

Practice meditation every day. There are many mindfulness apps to try – and most are free. Once you’re used to using the technique (it’s great before doing homework) you can also use mindfulness at bedtime.

Set the stage.

Make your bed a place for sleep. Avoid doing homework on it. Let your body associate your bed with sleeping.

Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use a fan to keep it cool and as a white noise.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. They tend to keep you up or wake you too early.

Ideally you’ll charge your phone in another room overnight to avoid late night distractions. If you must have your phone in your room, make sure no notifications will wake you. Resist checking it “one more time” as you go to bed because you know it will be several minutes of scrolling through things…

Stick to a schedule.

Keep your bedtime consistent.

Even if you can sleep in on weekends, try to go to bed within an hour of your usual bedtime. This schedule is important!

Still not sleeping?

For more on sleep, check out I Just Want To Go To Sleep! How to Sleep Better (According to Science) by “Hey Sigmund.”

Talk to your doctor if you’re not sleeping. Sleep deprivation can mimic ADHD symptoms, and you don’t need that additional problem!

Don't underestimate the power of sleep
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep!

Coming up next:

This is part 4 of a 5 part series.

Be sure to check back next week for one of my favorite ways to boost your self confidence: Help others.

Also look back at ways to boost your self confidence through:

 

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 1: Stop Negativity

Do you feel like you’re the bad kid? Are you always getting in trouble for speaking out of turn or forgetting to turn in homework? Do you feel stupid because you make careless mistakes on tests? How can you boost your self-confidence? Negativity can get us down and hold us back, so stopping it is the first of the many ways we can boost our self-confidence and self-esteem.

Top 5 Self Confidence Boosters:

1. Stop Negativity
2. Be Positive
3. Finish Tasks
4. Self Care (The Big 3: Eat well, exercise, and sleep)
5. Help Others

Today is Part 1 of a 5 part series of how to build confidence. I hope you check back next week for more!

I’m starting with what many will find to be the hardest of the 5 ways to boost confidence. I like to get the hard stuff out of the way first. But I also think that negativity is one of the biggest problems for people with ADHD – and people in general.

Stop the Negativity.

Everyone says it, so it must be true?

When we hear over and over again that we’re not good because we forgot to do something or that we’re not doing a good job at whatever we’re supposed to be doing (like sitting quiet and still) we start to feel bad.

We assume everyone’s right that we’re not good enough or we’re stupid.

That’s human nature – we take on the beliefs of what we hear over and over again. People with ADHD are especially sensitive when it comes to things like this. Maybe it’s because it’s just the way they are. Or maybe it’s because after time and time of being told something, they just break down and start to believe it. It’s what everyone else thinks, so it must be right, right?

Wrong.

ADHD comes with many challenges, but most people with it are not bad or stupid. Some ADHDers try really, really hard… but it’s just too hard to stay focused, organized, still, and everything else that we’re supposed to do.

Stop the negative self talk.

When you start to believe in the negatives, you need to really consider if it’s true or not. Stop the negative self talk.

Pretend you’re talking to a friend instead of talking to yourself. We tend to be nicer and more forgiving towards others. We’re our own harshest critics. What would you tell a friend if you were trying to reassure him or her?

If you think ~
  • I’ll never finish this assignment on time.
  • I can’t write well.
  • Math isn’t my thing. I am never going to understand it.
  • Those kids will never like me. They won’t understand me.
Stop.

Stop thinking those thoughts that you’ve probably had over and over in your mind. They aren’t facts. Think of the facts and what you can to about them.

Be careful. Feelings are much louder than facts. You really have to focus on what is factual and not just how you interpret things. This can sound really difficult, but try the exercise described in Don’t Think of Pink Elephants.

Practice.

It takes time, but it’s so worth the effort!

Try using this powerful trick.

Stop bringing yourself down.

There are things that many of us tend to do that make us feel sad.

Being alone…

If we stay alone in our room, we tend to feel worse about things. I read this great analogy with a creaky house that helps to explain the issue. Read the whole thing from the hyperlink if you have time.

An excerpt from THE OLD CREAKY HOUSE: ONE WAY TO FIGHT DEPRESSION:

Depression is like a creaky house.  It will creak and creak, no matter what you do.  You’ll notice the noise more sitting quietly in your room.  You’ll notice it less if you throw a party.  Depression is similar – the feelings of sadness/guilt/apathy are likely going to keep on creaking (you can’t just “stop being depressed.”)  However, you’ll notice them less if you keep yourself busy.  And, sitting quietly in your room can make you feel even more sad/guilty – in this way, depression can be a vicious cycle.  It can control your life, it can be a bully.

Instead of going to your room and closing the door, sit in the family room. Stay at the dinner table a little longer before jumping up to be alone. Make real conversations with people instead of texting. Connect with your friends and family.

Complaining.

When we complain about all the bad things (homework, that annoying kid in math class, how much work there is to do) we feel worse. Our brain is focusing on the negative, which just brings us down.

It also makes others not want to be around us. That adds to our low self-esteem.

Thinking and Rethinking what you did wrong.

We’ve all messed up. We do embarrassing things. Sometimes we fully intend to finish something, but then we’re distracted away and forget to return.

Use whatever the problems you’ve had as learning experiences. Stop blaming yourself. Don’t keep thinking on what you did wrong. Change the thinking into what you could have done instead to have things turn out better. Try that improvement next time.

Turning to negative habits.

Sometimes we feel so low that we want to try unhealthy ways to feel better. Some people try alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. Others try cutting or other harmful behaviors.

Unfortunately people with ADHD are more likely to have problem behaviors with drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors. The impulsivity, low self-esteem and risk taking behaviors that are common among people with ADHD put them at risk.

If you find yourself struggling with these issues, please talk to a trusted adult. Once these habits start, they’re really hard to break. Don’t try to handle it alone! Help is out there.

If you ever feel like you’d be better off dead or want to harm yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7, free and confidential help. 1-800-273-8255

Tune in next week…

Next week will not be so much of a down topic! It’s all about being positive.

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Negative self talk can make everything seem worse. Learn to stop the negativity!
Negative self talk can make everything seem worse. Learn to stop the negativity!

Also recommended…

Anger and ADHD: How to Build up Your Brakes: Jessica at How To ADHD has some great tips on learning to control your anger and emotions. From her summary: Impulsivity is one of the main characteristics of ADHD, and building up our brakes is one of the most important things we can do. Here’s the science behind it and 5 things that help.