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How to do the thing (part 2): Harnessing Music's Influence Throughout Your Day

Welcome to the ADHD grind! In our everyday chaos, this blog is your guide to understanding how music can be a game-changer; tackling attention struggles, boosting productivity, and adding a dose of stimulation to your daily adulting. Let's dive in.

1. Managing Energy and Stimulation Levels Through Music at Work: Adulting often demands a delicate balance of energy. Music can be used as a personalized energy dial during the workday. Upbeat, energetic songs or songs with a more chaotic rhythm can inject momentum into a sluggish moment and increase attention. Softer melodies or songs with an even beat facilitate a gradual wind-down and, for my fellow ultra-sensitive ADHDers, can help us regulate when overstimulated.

Try crafting personalized playlists tailored to different energy demands.

Whats on Anishia’s playlist?: As a lover of electronic music, my go to genre for understimulation or low energy is drum and bass or house music. These days you’ll catch me listening to this Camo & Krooked set on repeat to give my energy a boost.

My fav music to calm are the low-fi “focus music” options on the Headspace app, or these low-fi playlists on youtube. Every once in a while when I feel strong emotions (like stress, anger or frustration) building inside, I do the total opposite and rely on heavier songs with a consistent beat to calm - both options are useful tools to have in my toolbox!

2. Revitalizing Mundane Work Tasks: Mundane tasks in the workplace can be draining, but not when paired with the right soundtrack. Try incorporating music into routine work activities to inject interest and make the mundane more enjoyable. This will increase stimulation using a form of sensory input that does not compete with the task at hand. It's a straightforward yet effective method for ADHD adults to elevate the experience of daily monotonous work tasks. It is best to use music without lyrics but if you’re doing writing tasks or deep thinking work, it is especially important.

Whats on Anishia’s playlist?: This one changes frequently for me, but I will typically have at least one song that I want to play on repeat 10000000x until I wring out all the dopamine from it. Heres a few that I am currently burning through:

3. Creating Mental Cues with Music for Work Mode: Repetition and routine are powerful allies. Consider using specific songs or playlists as cues to get you into work mode. Consistently listening to a particular song before diving into work responsibilities creates a mental association, acting as a signal to the ADHD brain to shift into a focused and productive state.

The Science Behind it

Listening to pleasurable music releases dopamine in various brain regions that are associated with the reward system and emotional arousal. Dopamine, which is present in lower levels in ADHD brains, is responsible for regulating movement, motivation, cognition, reward, reinforcement, and addiction. Although research specific to using music to improve ADHD symptoms shows mixed results, it is suspected that music affects ADHD symptoms through this increase in dopamine.

In the realm of adulting with our ADHD brains, the integration of practical tools is essential. By strategically incorporating music into our days, ADHDers can overcome common challenges related to attention and productivity.

Get curious and experiment, as everyone has a different ideal level of stimulation needed to do their best. Find the songs that resonate with your unique needs, and witness the powerful transformation that music can bring you.


Abikoff, H., Courtney, M., Szeibel, P., & Koplewicz, H. (1996). The Effects of Auditory Stimulation on the Arithmetic Performance of Children with ADHD and Nondisabled Children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 238 - 246.

Gold, B. P., Frank, M. J., Bogert, B., & Brattico, E. (2013). Pleasurable music affects reinforcement learning according to the listener. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.

Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7, S137 - S158.

Menon, V., & Levitin, D. (2005). The rewards of music listening: Response and physiological connectivity of the mesolimbic system. NeuroImage, 28, 175-184.

Salimpoor, V., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, R. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience, 14, 257-262.

Wise, R. (2004). Dopamine, learning and motivation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5, 483-494.

Zatorre, R. (2015). Musical pleasure and reward: mechanisms and dysfunction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1337.

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