What Makes Us Happy… It Isn’t What You Think

By Linda Walker

It’s getting to be so difficult knowing what gifts to give to your loved ones at the holidays. We all have so much “stuff.” Do we need more “stuff” to be happy? That’s a big “No.” That’s when I began to imagine what affordable yet memorable gifts I could give. I had some interesting ideas, so I thought I’d share them with you here.

What Makes Us Happiest

Studies tell us that the money you earn over $75,000 in annual income doesn’t make you happier. Neither do the things more money buys. What does make us happier? “Experiences!” Here’s what I mean by that.

Remember a time you bought tickets to a concert, a play, or a trip you’d been anticipating. As soon as you buy the tickets, it could be months before the event, you begin enjoying the experience. Anticipation of the event is a big part of the experience! Your brain’s reward center floods with dopamine. This help the Creative Geniuses and adults with ADHD I work with who lack dopamine.

Then comes the big day! The real live experience happens! You enjoy it, you make memories, it’s amazing! More dopamine hits! If someone else gifted it to you, you’re reminded of their gift and are grateful; another dopamine hit! Months, even years later, you describe the experience to others. You relive it again and flood your brain with more dopamine. Experiences are the best gifts you can give and receive. They flood your brain in dopamine as you wait for the big day. A dopamine flood again during the experience. And they live in your memory, flooding your brain with dopamine again and again!

What Makes a 73-Year-Old Grandmother Jump Like a Teenage Girl at a Beatles Concert

A few years ago, I gave my mother tickets to a Fleetwood Mac concert. She is their Number ONE fan. She was so excited. I kid you not, my then 73-year-old mother jumped up, screaming like a one of those teenage girls at a Beatles concert. She was so excited! It was a great gift for her but also an amazing gift for me! I loved to see her so excited. Then, of course, going to the concert was a great experience we still talk about today.

My grandkids live very far away. I only see them twice a year. They have a huge extended family so the kids have almost every gift under the sun. It’s hard to get them something they’ll appreciate. So, what do you give them? I know my oldest grandson loves reading, so I got him a subscription to National Geographic for Kids. Several times a year, he gets something new to read from me. And it reminds I love him.

The Gift of Creativity

Of course, one of my most famous and successful “experience” gifts I gave to my husband. When we were struggling with his ADHD, life wasn’t much fun. He was under stress and felt guilty for not pulling his weight at home. He didn’t feel he deserved to treat himself to any downtime. I wanted him to have the chance to develop his amazing artistic talents. I enrolled him in an art course as a Christmas gift. The course forced him to take two and a half hours a week to do honor one of his gifts. He loved the course! It helped him relieve stress. He became so much calmer after attending the weekly classes it was a gift for the whole family! And it was a catalyst for his art career.

Many of my clients’ spouses register them to one of my group coaching or online programs. These courses help them improve their productivity. But more important, it helps them find time and energy to do what they want in life. I’m revamping my programs to be better than ever, so I’m not trying to sell you anything. They aren’t available right now. But consider the gift of a course that will improve your loved one’s life.

Memberships are also great gifts. The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) is an organization serving adults with ADHD. They offer webinars, virtual support groups and more great services minimal cost.

Giving Is Also a Gift

Another great gift is to give money to charity. You can also volunteer as a family during the holidays. Each year I’ve given to charity in the name of my loved ones instead of gifts. World Vision has a catalog of projects you can gift.

My mom is an advocate for school children, teaching to prevent abuse and bullying. Each year I give money to save child soldiers or young girls sold into prostitution on her behalf. My father-in-law is a retired farmer. I give a donation to equip poor families with what they need to start a farm to feed their families in his name.

My oldest daughter and her family adopt a struggling local family. They assemble a gift basket of all the fixings for Christmas dinner and toys for each of the family’s children. A local organization involves the whole family in the experience. Everyone gets those dopamine shots that make you happy when you help others. These types of gifts remind us to be grateful for all we have and to pay it forward.

Enjoy your holidays. Be the change you want to see in the world.

The ADDA Conference: Making Connections

Version française 

I just returned from the 13th ADDA Conference (http://www.add.org) called Adult ADHD: People, Purpose and Passion, and what a blast!

For adults with ADHD, this conference provides access to resource people (experts in numerous fields) and resources such as books, programs, and tools. Access to information through the numerous breakout sessions and motivation from the keynote speakers is unequalled anywhere, and it’s also a chance to see many different models for how to live with ADHD successfully.

At the same time, while the keynote speeches by Drs. Ned Hallowell, John Ratey and Sari Solden were definitely worth the investment and travel, they aren’t the most valuable treasures you get from attending such an event. As an adult with ADHD, you likely spend a lot of energy trying to meet “neuro-typicals” expectations. Trying not to ruffle feathers and dodging the proverbial bullet is stressful, exhausting and fraught with pitfalls.

Now imagine yourself with in a room 400 other ADHDers (hopefully more next year). They accept as you are, providing the opportunity to connect with others who deal with many of the same issues as you… most of them caused by trying to make the 90% of the population who don’t have ADHD happy! Even people who came to the conference alone left having forged connections with other ADHDers who accept and understand them. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of the ADDA conference experience: connecting with others who “get you.” Perfect strangers came together and shared their experiences as ADHDers without fear of ridicule or making a “faux pas.”

So often ADHDers avoid connecting with others fearing judgment (often with good reason). It’s simply too stressful to worry about doing something socially unacceptable. However, Dr. Hallowell (author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction among others) emphasized the importance of connecting with others who know you and love and accept you despite your “flaws.” It’s important for everyone, but absolutely for ADHDers to find someone in your life who can say:

“I know you and I love you anyway.”

If you haven’t found someone like that in your life, don’t give up! And I’ll see you next year at the ADDA conference!