A friend of mine, also diagnosed with ADHD, described a curious phenomenon to me recently. She said it was the act of adjusting settings on a device, for an extended period of time, either after the original adjustment had been made, or when no alteration was needed. It is the act of changing the many settings on the device, tweak after tweak, with no clear purpose. After hearing her description, I dubbed this behavior “confidgeting”, a combination of configuring and fidgeting.
I’ve discovered another way that I, personally, confidget. This version has a much broader and more intellectual theme to it, however. It manifests like this: I have a problem and while working on solving it, I run across a solution that involves a lot of effort. Let’s use sleep as an example. I can use all the apps in the world, but if my attitude toward sleep doesn’t change, then my behavior will not change. It is nearly effortless to download an app. It is difficult to change one’s own attitude and behavior.
It has become clear to me that, along with the apps, if I change my attitude (“I need a lot of sleep and it is a very high priority.”) my problem will lessen. And what do I do? I attempt to work on the attitude change, and the behavior change, and find it is a lot of hard work. Then I go searching for an app, or advice in an article, or a technique, or any other kind of solution other than the difficult one I know will really help.
This behavior, avoiding the solution that is hard work in favor of a hypothetical easier one, could be labeled as laziness. I have called myself lazy in the past when I’ve noticed this pattern going on. The important thing that I need to remember has four letters: ADHD.
Because we do not experience the same rewards (the same type and amount of positive neurotransmitters) as we expect, difficult work has very little appeal to those of us with ADHD. Scrolling the app store looking at an endless list of shiny new phone applications carries exactly the reward my brain is looking for. Actively pausing to make a deliberate change to my thought pattern and thereby change my behavior and the outcome of the problem, just doesn’t.
I’m fairly certain I will do this many, many more times in my life, even now that I’ve clarified for myself that this isn’t a productive behavior. It isn’t something that can just vanish because I’ve discovered it. Because it is literally a matter of my brain feeling good or feeling bad. How many people, neurotypical or neurodivergent, would actively choose to feel bad, for no reason?
What I am going to do is when I notice myself engaging in this mental type of confidgeting is remind myself that the problem I’m seeking to solve has a solution. I will acknowledge the fact that it is challenging, and not fun, and I will figure out a way to put a new spin on it.
The only thing that the ADHD brain hates more than something that will get boring quickly, is something that is already boring. I could create a wallpaper with a phrase superimposed on a picture of a balloon to remind me of the attitude I am seeking to change. I could turn it into a game, and see how many times in a day I actively work on the problem, without confidgeting. I could ask a friend to check in with me about how I’m doing with this hard work. The point is to make sure it is new, shinier, and different from before.
This is obviously easier said than done. I know, however, that it has a much, much higher chance of improving my life than endlessly searching for a lower-effort alternative.