Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

Try These Practical “Zen” Brain Hacks for Greater Peace and Productivity if you have ADHD

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This is a guest post by Alan Brown, creator of ADD Crusher™

Alan will pick one randomly drawn commenter on this post after 31 Aug 2013 to receive a FREE ADD Crusher™ Video I, Ways 1-5. ADD Crusher™ instructional videos are game-changing interactive tools used by individuals as well as by ADHD coaches around the world to help their clients live to their potential.

If everybody in the world could do with a little more Zen, then we ADDers could use a triple scoop, no?

Think about frustrations that drive us ADDers nuts daily:

  • I’m in a constant state of overwhelm!
  • I never have enough time…always feel it’s running out!
  • I can’t get motivated to start, let alone finish, projects!
  • My to-do list is a monster…and I can’t prioritize!

Let’s add to that the well-researched emotions of the ADDer. The emotional impulsiveness, impatience, being easily frustrated, overreacting, losing our temper, etc. These all have one thing in common: they’re driven in part by our mind’s – or inner voice’s – interpretation. And therefore, can be reduced by managing that voice.

Mindfulness strategies are among the most powerful in successfully managing my own ADHD. And I regularly use a toolbox of what I call “practical Zen brain hacks” —  fairly simple, super ADD-friendly tricks that can be put to work immediately for more peace of mind – and productivity. I’ll share a few of them, but first, some supporting science…

Did you know that negative thoughts/emotions…

…produce stress hormones and reduce the brain’s intake of oxygen?

…undermine the brain’s capacity to think broadly and find creative solutions?

…limit thought to a narrow field that obscures options?

And did you know that positive thoughts….

…produce serotonin and other positive neurotransmitters the ADDer thrives on?

…help you recover from negative emotions?

Importantly, you can flip from a negative mental stance to a positive one by simply mindfully throwing the correct switch in your brain. Thus changing your inner voice – along with your physiology. Here are five ways to do it…

1. Witness Your Thoughts

We hear our inner voice all the time…“I have no time right now”…”My to-do’s are ALL so important…Oh my goodness!”…and even, “Yeesh, look at those tacky shoes!”

But it’s rare that we actually LISTEN to it. Which is really too bad. Because when we listen, we have the chance to step “outside ourselves” to witness that cacophony for what it is: typically, a lot of ego-based chatter, pointless worry about past and future, negative self-talk, etc.

The very act of naming our internal dialogue and witnessing it is a form of higher consciousness, and the more you witness it, the more conscious you are, the more present you are, and the more powerfully you can employ these and other life-improving strategies. Indeed, witnessing it is STEP ONE in shutting it up…

2. Shut-Up-A-You-Mind!

Here’s a simple way to quiet your mind…and power it up. It takes as little as 10 seconds and results in a refreshed mindset with which to push forward into a demanding task.

I use this trick whenever my mind’s fatigued or just before sitting down in front of a tough engagement – a complicated memo, speech writing or business call. I just relax my mind for a couple minutes. Which means, I just stop listening to the chatter flying around in my head and listen instead to my breathing…or visualize a lake…or just stare out the window. Seriously, a minute or two of that and it’s almost like I’ve taken a power nap. I’m not talking about transcendental meditation here. Anyone can do this, though you do get better at it with practice.

3. Meditate in Motion

You don’t have to be sitting in the lotus position to quiet your mind and reap the benefits. Find daily routines that are opportunities for mental peace and/or creative problem-solving.

Be conscious when listening to music, taking a walk, working out, hanging out with the kids — these are times when you DON’T NEED TO BE STRESSING OVER PAST OR FUTURE. You can just be enjoying these things for what they are. THAT is a quieting of the mind just as formal meditative silence is!

4. Starting vs Finishing

Dr. Neil Fiore says, “Keep starting – finishing will take care of itself. If you must worry, worry about starting, never worry about finishing.”

What he means is, never look at a big project and say, “I have to finish that dang thing”. Because the thought of having to finish triggers all the psychology and physiology of continued procrastination. The more painful a given task is perceived to be, the more we try to avoid it and find something more pleasurable or easy. So don’t set out to “finish” anything. Just start it. Again. And again. You’ll be more likely to take action (and finish!) that way.

5. Have Tovs Will Do

A similar instance is when we feel we HAVE to do something. Quoting Fiore again, “The more you feel that endless work will deprive you of pleasure and leisure time, the more you will avoid starting to work.” And the simple act of addressing a task before us as something “I HAVE to do” throws that task into an unfavorable light, and throws our own mental stance into one of victimhood and powerlessness – inciting a negative physiological cascade, to boot.

On the other hand, the reframed, “I will do”, is an empowering launch pad, fueled by a positive emotional stance and resulting physiological cascade. When we talk to ourselves in the language of “I choose to….I will do”, we incite action by breaking out of feeling like a victim and instead taking responsibility. And all it takes is that reframing of an unpleasant task from something you “have to do” to something you “WILL DO because you CHOOSE to do it.” And there’s the key. Choose. When we decide that a task is OUR CHOICE, we are freed to act on a difficult task and to think creatively about it…not to mention, to be happier in our work.

Give these “practical Zen brain hacks” a try.

I bet they’ll click for you. Once we have an understanding of the power WE hold over outer circumstances by virtue of understanding and controlling our inner voice, we open the door to creativity, productivity and action.


About Alan Brown:

An executive, entrepreneur and coach, Alan created the acclaimed ADD Crusher™ video series. Undiagnosed until well into adulthood, his untreated ADHD manifested in all-too-familiar ways – underachievement, substance abuse and worse. Upon diagnosis, he found it difficult to learn coping strategies from books, so he developed his own unique strategies while building a successful advertising career. (The resulting 10 “Ways” comprise the curriculum in ADD Crusher™ Videos I and II.) Alan’s been a featured presenter at ADHD conferences, countless webinars, and at TEDx San Diego, and is co-author of the best-selling 365+1 Ways to Succeed with ADHD. He will be presenting on this and other topics in New York City in September, at the ADDISS Conference in Liverpool, England in October, and in several venues next spring. For more information, visit or send a note to

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