Time & Productivity

A New Year’s Resolutions Re-Start Guide for ADHD Brains

Hit a roadblock? Fell off the wagon? Many people start off a new year with positive intentions, but quickly lose their resolve. Use this smart game plan to get back on track and achieve your goals.

You were determined to choose your New Year’s resolutions with care and to keep them this time. You had a plan, you had the motivation, you were off to a great start. So why did you lose momentum within weeks or months?

If it’s any comfort, you’re not the only one struggling to stick to new habits in the new year. According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, a mere 8% of people who were sampled two years after setting New Year’s resolutions said they’d successfully kept them.

The odds are especially stacked against people with ADHD for a variety of reasons. First, ADHD brings weak executive function skills—the very skills that allow us to stick to a routine or to achieve a goal by planning ahead, exercising self-control, and maintaining and regaining focus, even when we’ve been interrupted or distracted, says Terry Edelstein, Ph.D., an executive function coach in New York.

[Sign Up: Free Re-Start Class from ADDitude]

Another reason why people with ADHD are particularly likely to slip: “The ADHD brain loves novelty, and when something is not new and exciting anymore, we veer off course,” says Brandon Slade, an ADHD coach who has spent years learning to manage his own ADHD. Since most goals take time to achieve, the rush of dopamine people get from a new routine drops off quickly as the goal remains a slow work in progress.

Follow this smart game plan to return to, and stick with, your New Year’s resolutions.

Renew Your Resolve

  1. Take small steps. Break your primary objective into a series of small, achievable goals and build in intermediate check-ins.
  2. Visualize success. Think about how your life will improve if you keep your resolution. What will you be able to do that you wouldn’t otherwise? For instance, sticking to an exercise routine now could help you improve flexibility and balance for a better quality of life later.

[Read: 6 ADD-Friendly Tips for Starting and Maintaining an Exercise Program]

  1. Use tools and rewards. Some experts say it takes at least 21 days (or many more for ADHD brains) for a new practice to become a habit. Use reminder apps to help you stay on track and reward yourself for following through.
  2. Banish restrictions. Be honest about what you need to stay motivated and satisfied. Harsh restrictions are almost never successful. Start by making one small adjustment that will push you toward your goal and pave the way for more changes. For example, instead of banning dessert from your diet to lose weight, allow yourself a square of dark chocolate after dinner to satisfy a craving.
  3. Derail distractions. Anticipate the interruptions that are most likely to interfere with your routine and do what you can to eliminate them. And, because there will inevitably be distractions that throw you off track, make a plan to help you return to your goal.
  4. Buddy up. Link up with others who share your goal to provide accountability and motivation. Arrange to meet a friend at the gym a few mornings a week, or search for like-minded groups in your community. You may even make a few new friends along the way.

New Year’s Resolutions for ADHD Brains: Next Steps

Beth Guadagni, M.A., is a learning specialist with expertise in dyslexia and ADHD.

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