Negative Thoughts Lead to Negative Performance

Negative thoughts can zap your performance. We have all experienced negative self-talk about our abilities, self-worth, future success, etc. This negative self-talk almost uniformly has a negative effect on performance. When we are engaged in goal focused activities we need adequate levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in order to reach our goals or desired outcomes. When we are in a positive space and feeling confident, we have a higher likelihood that our brains will have adequate levels of dopamine present. When we are in a negative space and not feeling confident, we tend to have less of this very important chemical present. For adults with ADHD this phenomenon can be even worse. The reason it can be so much worse, is that people with ADHD already have a diminished amount of dopamine, so any reduction makes things far worse.

So how to do we create the patterns of thinking that lead to optimal performance?

The first step is to increase awareness. Awareness is absolutely critical to creating any change in thinking. We often take our thoughts as they come, never naming them or trying to change them. When we are not fully aware of our thoughts and feelings, we are prone to fall victim to unchecked negative thinking.

The next step is to start replacing negative thoughts with more adaptive an positive thoughts. For example, “I’m going to fail.” could be replaced with “I’m going to succeed.” or “I’m prepared and will do my best.” This obviously takes practice and for the best results it helps to work with a therapist who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The changes that result from CBT can be profound and last a lifetime. This is especially true for adults with ADHD as they tend to have a long list of negative experiences that drive an ocean of negative thoughts. In the video series Learn to Thrive with Adult ADHD, there is an entire module on CBT that has been shown to be very effective for all people wanting to change their thoughts, not just those with adult ADHD.

This has been very rudimentary overview of how thoughts can help or hurt your performance. If you want to understand things more, I recommend contacting a trained therapist  in CBT. I utilize CBT methods with both my ADHD clients and those who just want to find optimal mental performance. After all, the Silicon Valley is performance pressure cooker, so any mental techniques to gain an edge are important.

Overcoming Adult ADHD with Positive Visualization

One very important technique for overcoming adult ADHD is Positive Visualization. For adults with ADHD years of negative outcomes and self-defeating thoughts build up to become giant roadblocks that lead to procrastination. When people with ADHD are confronted with negative or overwhelming thoughts about a project or task, it causes all other stimulus in the environment to become very distracting and even enticing. Often, people will find themselves doing things that they like even less than the task they need to be doing. For example, doing dishes or cleaning the bathroom, rather than sending a quick email to their boss.

One way to begin overcoming this, is to integrate Positive Visualization at the beginning or at the scheduled time to work on a given task or project. Positive Visualization involves thinking about the rewards that will come from completing the task. These may be things like material success, praise from others, or even intrinsic factors like the feeling of accomplishment. By doing this, it tends to excite the brain and bolster the production of dopamine,  making it more likely that you will engage and complete the task.

This is just a brief overview of a very powerful tool for managing procrastination. There are more complex techniques to practice with this and bring about real change in your life. However, by starting with this very simple application, you will likely start to find some success.

3 Easy Steps to Declutter Your Life

Clutter tends to plague people in ways they are not even aware of. If you are interested in 3 easy steps to declutter your life then please read on. If you are under the belief that clutter is your friend, then definitely READ ON!

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? -Albert Einstein

Many creative types, adults with ADHD, and eccentrics alike, tend to take pride in having a cluttered, messy, or a seemingly disorganized space. Unfortunately, the science behind clutter shows that it actually hinders the ability to focus and process information due to competing stimulus in the visual field.  This means that the 3 foot high pile of art books, science articles, bills, and magazine clippings strewn about, are actually dragging you down. In fairness, I am an artist, a writer, therapist, and researcher who dabbles in clutter. However, by following these three steps I have been able to slay the clutter dragon and increase performance.

1. Give it a home and expect it to live there. When we make a clear effort to assign a place for things to be kept we are more likely to keep them their when not in use. This step is also the back bone of the next 2 steps. This will also help adults with ADHD avoid heated arguments with family and roommates.

2. Don’t shove! If you are opening your desk drawer to put your notebook away and find that it doesn’t fit easily and with mindful placement, then pause and decide what can be thrown away, donated, or recycled to make room. Do it right then. Use this acronym to help you do it then and there: Only Handle It Once (O.H.I.O.)

3. Put one thing away a day. Although your Type-A parter may nearly have a coronary thinking about “chipping away” at things, or having to look at your piles for one more minute, it will help. One of the reasons that things don’t ever get put away and contribute to the massive piles on your desk, is that the act of cleaning up or putting things away seems daunting. Well, make it small and before you know it, you will be free of clutter.

Unleash your true mental performance by breaking the chains of clutter for good.

Done is better than perfect! -Phil Boissiere, MFT


Success and Focus for Entrepreneurs with ADHD

What makes an adult with ADHD like Richard Branson so successful? Why do some adults with ADHD struggle to succeed in their career? There are many factors to this complex question. However, there is one overriding principal that allows entrepreneurs with ADHD to find success, and it is called focus. Focus is a big word for adults battling ADHD. The good news is that focus can be greatly improved through treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), skills coaching, exercise, and medication management.

CBT specifically, is focused on treating ADHD by teaching skills that improve executive functioning, decrease anxiety, and help provide direction. For many entrepreneurs it can mean the difference between an office full of half finished projects and a handful of very successful ventures. The process and techniques work to activate the brain in a way that helps boost an individuals ability to focus and execute their innovative ideas. San Francisco and the Silicon Valley are full of incredible people doing amazing things. Unfortunately, there are many standing on sidelines struggling to break through due to their Adult ADHD. With the right help, most of these people can make the changes they need to treat their ADHD and find the success they deserve. If this article resonates with you, then reach out, find support, and take control of your Adult ADHD and your career.


5 Steps to Manage Your Diet

Tired of being a slave to your cravings? Tired of using food to manage your stress? Want to tune up your physique and mental health? Follow these 5 steps to manage your diet (with your MDs permission of course):

1. Understand your brain: The best way to understand why your brain is pushes you to eat things you want to is to look at at adults with ADHD. People with ADHD have an underproduction of dopamine in their brains, making it hard to control impulses. Food, especially carbohydrates, provide a rush of dopamine making binging immediately gratifying. You may not have ADHD, but when you are stressed, tired, or down,  your brain is craving dopamine and a slough of other neurotransmitters.

2. Don’t skip meals: It’s simple, if food provides a release of dopamine, skipping meals will certainly create a deficiency and subsequent craving.

3. Eat multiple small meals: Eating small meals every 3 hours helps regulate blood sugar, neurotransmitters, and stimulates the metabolism.

4. Exercise: Exercise increases the baseline level of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. If your baseline production of dopamine is higher, you are less likely to crave the rush of dopamine following a plate of carbs. This is especially important for adults with ADHD.

5. Stay motivated: Staying motivated is a bit more complex. There are many variables that go into the reasons why we start and maintain changes to our diet. For some it is cosmetic, for some it is mental, for some it is physical, whatever the reason, the motivation lies in our thoughts and feelings. By becoming aware of our thoughts and their relation to our feelings, we can ultimately change our behaviors. This is the basis of the powerful therapeutic approach Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Sometimes our thoughts don’t serve us well and prevent us from making the changes in our lives we want.

Stress, Your Brain, and Exercise

At the center of the crossroads of stress, your brain, and exercise, lies something very important. What is it? What could it be? In a word, CHOICE. Why choice you ask? Well, every choice we make causes stress. What do I eat for dinner? What business school do I go to? How many ice cubes in my water? Yes, all choices cause stress. Stress is our response to demands and changes and it is inevitable. However, there is also an important choice we make around how we manage or fight stress. Choosing to use exercise to combat stress vs using food or alcohol, may be the difference between living a long life and living a short one. The actual decision to exercise or not can be VERY stressful for many people. The reason it is so stressful, is that people are choosing between a perceived short-cut that they know is bad for them (food, booze, etc.) and the longer road which they know is good for them (exercise). Exercise is natures way of putting our mind and body into repair mode. We need to enter into this repair mode often. Why? Because, stress happens often. It happens daily to varying degrees. Exercise too can vary from day to day, but should never be passed up for drink or a snack. When we are stressed our bodies are flooded with destructive hormones that break down our bodies over time. When we exercise, we not only rid the body of these hormones, we also turn on other processes that rebuild us at a cellular level.

Additionally, the effect of exercise lasts. Think about it, people often go back for a second cookie or second cocktail. You rarely, if ever, see someone going back for a second run or second trip to the gym. This isn’t a coincidence. Exercise puts us on a path of resiliency that builds us up. Short-cuts like food and substances, only mask issue and in fact layer on new stressors to the body.

Don’t put yourself in this anxious trap of decisions. Develop a plan that works for you to get regular exercise and thrive in the face of stress, don’t sink into the cookie isle or the corner store. If you are feeling stuck around developing a plan, try reaching out to a friend or a family member for support. It’s a lot easier to exercise with others than alone. Find the support you need to change your relationship to stress and exercise for better.

3 Reasons Exercise Helps Treat Anxiety

Anxiety by itself is not a disorder, but too much anxiety often is. Here are 3 reasons exercise helps treat anxiety:

1. Exercise boosts anxiety fighting neurotransmitters. Exercise naturally raises levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. This boost happens immediately and lasts over time, making exercise the natural “anti-anxiety prescription.” Additionally, exercise increases GABA which calms the brain making it easier to take advantage of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other thought changing techniques.

2. Exercise reduces anxiety based tension in the muscles. When we are stressed or anxious our muscles react by holding tension. Exercise reduces that tension in the same way that the popular drug class beta-blockers do.

3. Exercise treats anxiety by breaking the chains or fear. When people are anxious, they typically get stuck in a loop of worry, fear, and apprehension that breeds more and more anxiety. By breaking this cycle with exercise, the brain is freed up to learn new thought patterns that can be strengthened with practices like CBT.

Exercise does not need to be overly strenuous or complex to have these powerful benefits in treating anxiety. Put on  your sneakers, go for a walk, and break the cycle of anxiety.

Lisa Ling Diagnosed with ADHD

The journalist Lisa Ling has been diagnosed with ADHD. Lisa was working on a story showcasing the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and found that she met many of the typical symptoms of ADHD. Upon proper assessment, it turned out she does have adult ADHD. Her willingness to be open about her recent diagnosis is important for many reasons. First, she is 40 years old, which showcases how an adult can go undiagnosed until well into their career. Second, she is successful, which shows that ADHD does not necessarily dominate an individuals life. Like any disorder, the severity can very. Third, Lisa Ling is a woman, which is important for increasing the awareness that ADHD effects women also.

Lisa Ling found that unless she was working and actively engaged in interesting pursuits, she would struggle. This is often the case for many adults. Escaping into work or other stimulating behaviors to manage untreated adult ADHD. Hopefully Lisa’s story will inspire and empower others to take charge of their adult ADHD.


2 Reasons to Treat ADHD with Exercise

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD for short, or casually called ADD) can be partially relieved by simply exercising. Most people know that exercise is good for their bodies and can make you feel good, but few people know that exercise actually activates the same pathways in the brain as stimulant medications.

Stimulant medications for ADHD target dopamine and norepinephrine, two very important chemicals in the brain for regulating attention. Fortunately, exercise naturally increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, making it a very important part of treatment for adults and children with ADHD. The effect that exercise has on increasing dopamine and norepinephrine is immediate, but must happen regularly to provide maximum benefit.

The second reason is that exercise, especially complex movements like Karate or Soccer, increases activity in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is paramount in controlling the flow of information in the brain. Adults and children with ADHD tend to have smaller cerebellums, which compound attention struggles. In other words, by exercising regularly individuals with ADHD are providing themselves with a double whammy of positive neurological and physiological benefit.

This brief article is not a call to stop taking ADHD medications, rather it is a call for doctors and patients to take an active role in doing everything possible to treat ADHD. The body of evidence supporting the combination of medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of ADHD is extensive and widely accepted. It’s time we give the same credence to the value of exercise in the treatment of ADHD.


Phil Boissiere, MFT specializes in the treatment of ADHD in adults and couples in San Francisco, Menlo Park, and the Silicon Valley. He is available for interviews and article contributions on the topics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Adult ADHD, Group Psychotherapy, or Teen Drug Prevention.