Feeling low on motivation to do stuff that you want to do? Go to your interests!

Hobbies and special interests have been really healing for me lately. I’d like to tell you why this is and how connecting with what absorbs you can be beneficial for you – especially if you’re ADHD.

A lot of the challenges people talk to me about come down to getting things done – either work or life admin. I always try to help but a simple hack, download of science or practicing a skill may not be at the heart of what’s going on.

In my own life, I was finding it hard to get things done that I wasn’t motivated for. Especially if the tasks were given to me by other people and weren’t interesting or full of information in and of themselves.

So why on earth did I double down on learning French and spend a couple of hours daily across the best part of a week playing a solo role playing game? Surely that’s counter-intuitive? Let me tell you why my strategy might make sense

The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to be involved in ADHD. Dopamine has several functions but it’s involved in being motivated enough to do things, and, as part of that, wanting things enough that you feel a swell of emotional force such that you take action.

If tasks are boring, repetitive or unenjoyable, you aren’t going to get that desire and wanting that turns into motivation. Your brain won’t serve up the chemicals that then send a signal to the parts of your brain that literally encourage you to physically move and take action.

Over time – and this is what I understand of the neuroscience literature – lower dopamine functioning means that the way that dopamine is used in the brain is affected. Your brain can actually change. This can be part of why people get depressed or burned out.

Anhedonia is what we call the severe loss of desire and motivation associated with those those states, and dopamine functioning is considered to be involved here. It is my view that a swift reset or boost of the brain pathways involved in reward, learning, desire and liking (so, dopamine functioning) can be really beneficial. So what could you do if you feel any of these things?

Try and learn something or play/play with something. Learning is linked with dopamine functioning. The emotions of interest and enthusiasm are linked with dopamine release. The reward systems of the brain are more activated when in a state of flow…which is exactly what I experience when playing a role playing game!

So although it seems odd, if you would like to be able to get things done…even the smallest things…the thing to do is…maybe not to try to do the actual things. The thing to do might be to spend some time on your own, really digging deep into your favourite topic or long-forgotten hobby. And I really would recommend that you consider going back into the past and re-awakening an interest here.

That’s because it’s easier to re-awaken an old habit than a new one. All the pathways are still there somewhere (although weaker) but it’s far easier to get interested in dinosaurs now if you used to be 15 years ago than if you’re picking up that interest from scratch.

Anyway, what I really want to say is that if you’re feeling unmotivated or undriven right now and you have freely recognised that and freely choose that you would like that situation to be different, you could maybe give your brain a boost through your favourite hobbies and interests.

As I tell many of my clients…what you think you need to work on may not be the thing you actually need to work on to get yourself to your desired state or goal. To do more practically, you may need to go the opposite direction and have some enjoyment and immersion initially. Sometimes, that boring work task needs you to play a game, and the game is the thing that actually make it possible.

All the stuff I’ve mentioned and more falls under the umbrella of developing your neurodivergent zest through guided coaching and self-coaching. If you have any questions about how to support yourself using these supports, ask away. I love it!

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