How do I compel myself to walk in the evenings?
June 20, 2023 11:24 PM   Subscribe

My new job has intense irregular hours, and there's no set schedule to my life. I very very much want to establish an evening hour-long walk with my kid and dog (neither very keen on this, all happy once we go on the walk in the nearby park). I will happily ignore alarms, am not motivated at all by self-set rewards and by 7pm, will pay $100 to not have to go for a walk. How do I solve this? Playing on hard level of ADHD, autism and mild agrophobia for both kid and I.
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Reduce the scope of the task to lower the starting barrier. A ten minute walk is better than nothing. It will be easier to gradually increase duration after you’ve established a routine. Give yourself big kudos every time you complete a walk.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:45 PM on June 20, 2023 [34 favorites]

+1 to convincing yourselves to do "just 10 minutes" with the option to extend if you're finding it enjoyable in the moment.

Really excellent (stylish, comfortable) new walking shoes and/or a cool outfit that you're only allowed to use/wear on your walks

Find a friend or friends also interested in the same routine and commit in advance to meeting up with them at X time?
posted by btfreek at 11:53 PM on June 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

Walks with a destination are very different, psychologically, to walking-for-a-time. See how you go walking to a specific place and back, or on a specific loop.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:17 AM on June 21, 2023 [14 favorites]

Consider having a set routine where this walk happens immediately after dinner* (and after some/any dinner clean up chores). Inertia is a powerful force that needs to be harnessed. Instead of say, walking over to the couch after dinner (sitting back down is a trap) "walk over" to your home's door instead, put on shoes, collect dog & kid, then go.

*Doesn't have to be dinner per se, but the point is to chain the action of going for a walk to a preceding action that you already do each evening.

The next order of business is don't break the streak (with the exception of illness and severe weather). Mark off a calendar with a big X (or a fun sticker) for each day you go for a walk. Brainstorm with kiddo possible rewards for not breaking the streak at different intervals.

Gamification (e.g. Pokemon Go, Zombies Run, Fantasy Hike) might be fun.

Is there anything about the process of getting ready to go on a walk and/or going on a walk that adds friction? For instance, maybe your shoes are uncomfortable or there's something about the dog's leash that drives you batty. Address friction points to the greatest degree possible.
posted by oceano at 12:48 AM on June 21, 2023 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: ok, so I have done and tried all the ideas above and noooooone of them work, because a) adhd so habits just don't stick and b) i am a goblin and not motivated by rewards i can control.

Gamification done, walking outfit happy, yes, walking to specific place/route yes, audiobooks/podcasts yes, set routine - I have and cannot hold on to a regular routine because my work and home life are inherently chaotic, no one living near me can meet regularly.

We enjoy walking when we do it! It's literally that I have usually a hundred other things of higher immediate priority to do, and so it keeps getting pushed off, even though I know it would make the rest of my life easier.

I am looking for advanced level tricks/schemes.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:55 AM on June 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with previous poster and want to digest that the"just ten minutes" isn't the problem when you've got adhd+. I once tried to force myself to walk around the table just to prove i could, and i could not.
To the above poster i would add geo caching, both finding and hiding. Once you have a few of your own out on the wild, the walls can include visiting them for maintenance etc. But yeah, dinner table to door, no stops, sounds like a good chain. And just always. No excusing circumstances on the leaving part, kids feeling sick? Just walk around the block outer to the mailbox, or the kid can stay or whatever adjustment suits, but you leave the property unless you are bedridden
posted by Iteki at 1:03 AM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

On your update, you need to combine the non-optional and routine parts with a sense of control and"intermittent reward" or novelty aspect. You couldn't pay me to walk down the same road twice, makes me cry. Geocaching can give novelty, you don't know what you are getting till you get there, and also control because you can choose what one you are heading for. You can try, if everyday is going to make you feel locked down, doing it four work-evenings a week as a goal, three as a minimum, and then you get some choice as to "well, i really want to stay in this evening, but that means i have to do Friday weekend. Another, counter intuitive one is to do it as soon as you get out of bed. Clothes on, out the door, come home. I find that i am much more malleable in the mornings, i kinda do what i am told. I had an amazing workout streak like that for over a year.
posted by Iteki at 1:13 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Are you able to work on getting the habit established before involving your kid and dog? As in, get home, immediately put your stuff down (if you got stuff), go back outside, DO NOT SIT. Sitting is the inertia killer. I wouldn’t even bother with a fancy walk outfit at the start. Slip into slip-ons you can walk around outside in if needed. Is there mail to get physically outside your house/apartment? Go get the mail, but take a 10-minute detour, then get mail and go home.

It’s so hard to start habits with brains that kick and scream every step of the way, I’m sorry. I know how it is. Not allowing myself to sit when I get home is how I get some chores done at all.
posted by lesser weasel at 1:45 AM on June 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

no one living near me can meet regularly.

Any chance you could post somewhere looking for someone to walk with you? If you can afford it you could even pay them, maybe under the guise of dog-walking or something. But you're probably not the only one looking for something to get you walking.

I will happily ignore alarms, am not motivated at all by self-set rewards

You don't say how old your kid is or what they're like; would they be motivated by rewards to drag you both out of the house?

More than anything: I'm assuming you have a yard and that's why taking the dog out for a walk hasn't been more urgent, but do it for the dog's sake regardless - it's probably pretty bad for their physical and mental health to cover only the same smallish (I assume) area all the time. When you feel like nothing could drag you out, think of your poor dog, your poor puppy-eyed dog, whose well-being you are responsible for. (And maybe you and they will meet some regulars, whether dog or human, who also go to the park or wherever at the same hours, adding another layer of motivation, because how could you deny your dog the pleasure of their daily pats or sniffs from their new friends.)
posted by trig at 1:59 AM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: All the things that didn’t work for you — did they not work at all, or did they only work for a little while?

I’ve come to realize that for my ADHD brain, I’m not going to find individual solutions to most things that will stick. So I’m trying to embrace the novelty-seeking. This week, I’ll do don’t-break-the-chain. Next week, it’s new shoes. After it’s been long enough, some of my original motivators can become shiny and new again, so I can loop back around. The key for me is to not see this as failure of each method — it’s just the way my brain works.

(I have a new and unopened bullet journal waiting for me downstairs. It has been three years since I used my last one, so it’s been long enough and I’m excited again.)

Not that this is easy. I feel you so hard about craving and needing routine amidst a chaotic life (small child? Dog? Check), while not having a brain that sticks to things. Good luck, and I’ll be reading this thread too for any new ideas that I can use!
posted by wyzewoman at 2:23 AM on June 21, 2023 [12 favorites]

How many of the higher-priority things are internet connection dependent ?

Could scheduled phone-locking apps and / or scheduled connection disabled periods on a router and an alarm to notify you of the start of shutdown-time help ?

This makes me think that a geo-based phone-lock app (i.e. lock my phone until its GPS detects me in a certain place) is something that could / should exist, though a quick search didn't turn anything up.
posted by protorp at 2:44 AM on June 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

Can you make very simple sandwiches + carrot sticks and have a picnic in the park instead? That way you get a walk, a patio-type meal, and hardly any dishes.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:05 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

What about using an app like Beeminder that charges you money if you fail to complete a goal? It can import data from various tracking/pedometer apps so it knows how much you've walked in a day without you having to self-report.
posted by guessthis at 3:25 AM on June 21, 2023

This sounds impossible. Can you try doing it *because* it's impossible? Like, "I wonder what would happen if I did this completely impossible thing every day. What would that actually feel like?"
posted by unknowncommand at 3:48 AM on June 21, 2023 [8 favorites]

Promise your kid ice cream at the end of every walk and they will draaaag you out of the house and then you’ll do it because you won’t want to disappoint them.
posted by Jubey at 3:56 AM on June 21, 2023 [9 favorites]

Instead of walking in the park, can you walk toward a small treat (e.g. ice cream) and then walk home?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:15 AM on June 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

Set alarms to go off every five minutes for "walk time", for like an hour. Give yourself a bunch of opportunities to go for that walk, and be constantly interrupted and annoyed if you don't. If your ADHD is like mine, you'll never get around to turning them all off.

Bribe the child with something when you go for a walk, so they try to get you out the house.

Set yourself an even worse chore to do. I suddenly get motivation to do almost anything else when I'm avoiding, say, cleaning the oven.

Find a dog walking club or something that starts at a set time? Start a meetup group yourself for this?

Have a friend call you at a set time and talk you out the house.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:38 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

I can overcome this inertia partially by having a podcast (Critical Role, but tailor to your current interest of choice) that I solely listen to on walks.

Works as long as anything else has, tbh. Adhd, probably autism, did a mile a day minimum every day last year, mostly on one loop around my neighborhood. This year I'm doing 20min intentional movement per day instead though at least half the time that's still just walking a mile.
posted by miratime at 5:05 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

How about putting something in the oven/Instapot/crockpot that will take 30-60 minutes, so that you MUST delay the reward of dinner? And then you fill up that waiting period with a walk, maybe including a pick up of some dessert to enjoy after your dinner.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:07 AM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

I ended up needing to take more exercise from about a year ago. I got a fancy Garmin watch, but I would say that my motivation has varied all the same. The approach I took to getting out and about has had to evolve, what worked 3 months ago isn't what is working today. I started off from a position of need to go walking to get exercise (and not die), which got me so far, but was (perhaps surprisingly) underwhelming. I started doing some of the online challenges from Garmin, and that got me through a few months of regular walks. Then I bought my partner a fancy watch from the same family, which meant we could compare goals, etc. I set myself a goal of trying to catch up with her on points from the challenges (she is much fitter than me generally). That meant I did start gaming what exercise i took a bit, but I did keep taking exercise. I also play around with setting a target. I dropped my daily step target from 10k to 9k, and ended up walking more steps than before (basically i was less likely to give up on getting to the daily target, do ended up averaging more)

It helps that I am a bit of completionist (ie playstation trophy type thing). But some of this has having an idea of what might motivate me in the short term (1-2 months), and letting the longer term worry about itself.
posted by biffa at 5:12 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

So I am only motivated to go for a walk because I **have** to.

In my case, I **have** to pick my kid up from nursery.

Or I **have** to go to work and then can complete walk on the way back.

Schedules and planning in advance also work for me: I **have** to go out for a walk because it’s Wednesday and my schedule says so.

Alarms don’t work for me, I ignore it. I also ignore everyone telling me what to do. I ignore phone blockers. But if old me/ schedules something for me, then I gotta do it.

Tie yourself to a mast or two. You got to find something you no other choice but to do it. Like you say, self-motivation doesn’t work, so find an external motivation.
posted by moiraine at 5:24 AM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

How do you compel yourself to get work stuff done? Is it external deadlines? Pressure from coworkers?

If any of it's just a general sense that work *has* to get done while things that you do for yourself/your family have to fit in around the edges, is there any chance you can take a good hard look at where that's coming from and maybe even get mad about it? Don't let your work leave you with just scraps! Put yourself first! Work, life admin, other bullshit will take up any time you leave available for it. You have to be aggressive about prioritizing the stuff that's important to you.

(I'm not saying this is easy - I'm not great at it myself - but it's important!)
posted by mskyle at 5:25 AM on June 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

I know this is silly but I mention it as a possibility: Pokemon Go? It's a phone game where you "catch" cartoon animals and are incentivized to walk and visit locations, like the park. It has a built-in thing where you get in-game goodies if you maintain a streak of visiting the park every day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:31 AM on June 21, 2023 [5 favorites]

The creators of "Zombies, Run!" made a similar-ish exercise app/game called "The Walk" (available on Android/iOS for $6/month or $35/year), and I found it really enjoyable and motivating. You are basically a character in a (well-acted) apocalyptic spy story, and you unlock new audio chapters and discover stuff as you go. Also, if you finish the game, you will have walked the length of the UK, which is fun, conceptually. Here's a review.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:37 AM on June 21, 2023 [5 favorites]

Buy a small box that can be closed with a padlock.

Next time you're in the park, cache the key, whilst leaving the padlock open.

When you get home lock a walk reward (candy? dried fruit?) inside the box with the padlock.

I guess the principle could have its stakes raised by leaving the box unlocked and then the next day, when your walk-time alarm goes off, straight away lock your phone in the box. But I think the commitment needed to do this whilst not actually having a spare key stashed somewhere around the house just-in-case would be problematic in its own right.
posted by protorp at 6:00 AM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Do you work at home or elsewhere? It sounds brutal, but I've always found that once I get home its really hard to leave again. But if I just stay out, it's easier to get a second wind of energy and keep going. Could you finagle some way to pick up kiddo and dog without "being home" (keep shoes on? Don't enter the house but have dog come to you at the door/store dog walking stuff right by the door?) and then keep going to the walk destination. Only come home for reals when you've had the walk.

Btw I totally hear you on all of the usual motivations not working. None of this lasts more than a week for me either. Even with stuff I know I love doing once I'm doing it. e.g. I have to remind myself when I'm lying in bed all cosy and complaining about getting up that I actually do really enjoy playing tennis, despite all evidence to the contrary. I literally have to summon a memory of me being on the court being happy in the sun with the calm tonk tonk tonk sound. It doesn't register emotionally but it helps to remember cognitively that I will be happier if I get up and go.
posted by EllaEm at 6:03 AM on June 21, 2023 [6 favorites]

I also would not be motivated by walking just for exercise unless I had a specific fitness goal I was trying to reach.

However, my general dislike of driving means that I walk all the time in order to do things. I walk to pick up the kid from school, which is half an hour round trip, or an hour a day if I do drop-off as well. Kid and I walk for small errands like picking up milk, and we always walk to neighborhood parks. Not liking driving is a detriment in my life in general, but it sure helps with getting my 10k steps, haha.

But anyway, perhaps you can try some walkable errands yourself? How old is your kid? Are they young enough that playgrounds and playdates are still a thing, and are those venues walkable?
posted by redlines at 6:39 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Can you reframe it as something you're doing for your dog?

Whenever I am unmotivated to walk (... so all the time) I remind myself that the dogs see the same walls all the time and this is the only time they ever get to sniff and be outside and I'll letting them out of their little prison home into the world.
posted by whitetigereyes at 6:44 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Have you tried PokemonGo or Ingress?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:55 AM on June 21, 2023

It sounds to me that you’ve identified having lots of competing priorities as a blocker. Perhaps working regularly 1 on 1 with a neurodiverse friendly life coach can help you prioritize and manage your to do list (among other things). It may be easier to go on a walk when you can tell your brain… relax … this walk is high priority …there is a plan to handle everything else on the to do list.

Also consider brainstorming other ways to reduce the executive load on your brain. Admittedly while it helps to be able to throw money at the problem, not all solutions necessarily require more $$$. (E.g. set up auto bill pay). But the less your brain is struggling with the basics of survival, the more bandwidth it has to address higher order needs).
posted by oceano at 7:23 AM on June 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

The only way I can convince myself to do things is (a) break the thing into itty-bitty tasks and (b) tell myself I only have to do 3. For example laundry - a single pair of socks folded counts as one of those 3 tasks! If I want, I can stop after 3 and still feel like I've done something. But then it turns into a bit of a game... oh, I can do 2 more, no problem. But when I wanna stop, as long as I've done 3, I stop. Even if it's in the middle of a pair of socks.

So - the walking thing. Lets concentrate on just you, ignore the kid and dog. They're just tasks. Task 1: find walking shoes. Task 2: put on walking shoes. Task 3: leave the house. Thats it. If you're wearing your shoes and get out of the house, you win!

The next tasks are walk to the end of the driveway. Then the next driveway. Then the end of the block. etc, etc. At any point, you are done and free to go home. Chances are though, once you're out and about, you'll keep going. Maybe you don't make it a full hour, but thats totally 100% ok! You did what you set out to do, which was 3 tasks. You're done!

Once you've been successful yourself (still ignoring the kid and dog) for a while, then you can up the difficulty with additional steps. Put the leash on the dog counts as a task. Get the kid's shoes on counts as a task. Get the kid and dog out the door is a task. Maybe at this point you've set your min tasks to 5. But thats it. If you get you, your kid, the dog all to the end of the driveway, you're done. 5 tasks, check! Thats all you have to do. If you wanna keep going you can, and yay you! But you dont have to. You are a grown up and if you dont wanna, you dont have to!

I find that by truly allowing myself to stop anytime after that small first number of tasks, it's much easier to motivate myself to turn that into a bigger win! I did more than I had to! yay me! But even if I don't, thats totally fine - I was still productive and accomplished my goal.

YMMV, of course :D
posted by cgg at 7:50 AM on June 21, 2023 [5 favorites]

Stolen from a Facebook post. The post called this a Quest List, and used a 10-sided die, but you could call it whatever you like using any kind of dice you have access to.

Assuming you have a 6 sided die in a board game:

- Make a list of 6 evening activities (aka, quests). Examples: Walk to the park, read a book, play ball with doggo in backyard, eat popsicles on front porch, play a board game, silly walk around the block, have a dance party, etc.

- You and kiddo roll the die and do the activity that matches the number. Make a rule that if you've done that activity two days in a row (or if you did it yesterday, or whatever), reroll.

- Rolling the die/choosing a quest is mandatory. But the activity is random/novel/a surprise which should help some with motivation. You could update the list any time you or kiddo has a fun idea, or to adjust for holidays or weather.
posted by rakaidan at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2023

There's no One Right Way obviously or we'd all be out walking. You might like the ADHD Anti-Planner which is pretty much a list of procrastination- or blocker-breakers that you can keep pulling from for novelty.

In my own realm, I am aware that I don't do this task and those like it because I don't really enjoy it and have not come up with a meaningful way to make it important enough to do anyway. When I am in that state and I can't attach a dependency to another person strongly enough to cause motivation to occur, I can sometimes crack it (very imperfectly) by stripping away all dependencies and breaking it down to the smallest increment: today, just literally step outside, in any shoes and no podcast or anything. Just break the cycle of NOT doing that. Tomorrow, maybe try more. See if you can find something pleasant about it that would be worth enjoying more often. Doesn't have to be A Good Walk, just don't Not Walk. See if it'll build its own momentum.

I have no idea who I stole this from - I think it might be some IRL friends who've had a lot of challenges this past year, no idea if they stole it from someone else - but they refer to it as a "fucking mental health walk" as in "so I gave up and went for my fucking mental health walk and, would you believe it? then I felt better." I'm a big believer in internal narrative and sometimes this kind of framing - I've done it about physical therapy exercises - is a dread-buster. Like, you're probably talking to yourself about these walks as "They say you're supposed to walk" but man, fuck They. Bunch of busybodies telling me what to do. But if you change the script to make it your Bad Back Walk, or Dogs Need Walks Walk, or Operation: Spy On Neighbor's Landscaping Walk, I do believe you're telling your body and brain something new and more useful and maybe more compelling about this walk.

I would also suggest not so much gamifying going for walks but roll up something meaningful and compelling - and I mean dopamine-grade compelling - for you and your kid to do together as part of these walks. I'm not sure how old the kid is, so maybe this is "count all the blue things" or bring your phones and plant/bird identification apps, or pick a "scavenger hunt" theme each walk and compete to see who finds the best Toy Left In Yard or funniest license plate. Like, the point of the game is nothing to do with walking except that it's more fun if you're not in your living room. Just whatever can make for a good-feeling time and start to contextualize that time as special or bonding or some other thing that would give you a little FOMO if you were forced to quit. I myself am really allergic to feeling "made" to do something, to the point that I mostly loathe streaks or points or imaginary barters, but if I can trick myself into ownership (with mandatory imperfection) then I'll start to get all pissy at things that "make" me MISS my thing.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

Reframe - the goal is not the walk, the goal is happy family time. The goal is kid / dog having fun at the park. Can you layer in fun things like a new toy or game, catching fireflies, a phone app to identify plants / birdsong? A particular sculpture or tree you like to visit. You have to make the incentive much more concrete and immediate.
posted by momus_window at 8:31 AM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

You need to make it an obligation (we are all basically lazy-asses and won't do that kind of thing unless we will feel actively bad if we don't). It can be anything - promise an elderly neighbor that you will walk their dog, make a deal with a similarly situated friend that you will walk together or something similar. But it has to be something that you will feel bad about if you don't do it, and a more focused identifiable bad than "I should get more exercise."

I got a dog and she needs to walk and will look at me with sad eyes until I walk her. It works. I walk. That solution doesn't seem to work for you because I am guessing that you are not the primary walker of the dog But you need to find something specific (neighborhood watch program, volunteer food program deliverer) that you will feel immediately guilty about if you do not do it and, even better, you have to notify someone and hear their disappointment.
Your other issues are difficult to overcome so you have to set yourself up for even worse consequences or it will not work
posted by rtimmel at 9:09 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I still wonder if the problem isn't that you are trying to set too much of a habit. Not the hour part, the every day part. Your life is chaos. This walk is not going to happen every day even if you get the habit perfect. If you are going to subconsciously or consciously beat yourself up when you miss a day it would be no wonder you are reluctant to start the habit at all.

I know that this is a factor for me when setting habits, as someone with ADHD, I can get too stuck on my habits and it makes me not want to set them up if I know I can't keep them strictly. Over time I've realized that there is a huge value in giving myself a break and trying just to do things when I can. If that means you do it only one day some weeks and every day others, great. Once I relax that "every day" requirement, I am more likely to keep them long-term and return to them even when they are interrupted due to periods of chaos, travel, illness, or other disruptors.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:58 AM on June 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Speaking only for myself, a lot of the suggestions here are a total no-go for my ADHD self. “You only have to do it for 10 minutes” or “you only have to put on your shoes” is sort of the opposite of helpful for me, because for me the act of actually getting started—the task-switching—is 1000% the most difficult part. And like you, OP, I can’t trick or self-reward myself into doing things. I know the person who sets those rules (me), and that person is a pushover!

What does work for me, first and foremost, is medication and an ADHD-competent talk therapist. If those are options for you (including adding a small afternoon booster dose if you are already medicated during the day), please don’t count them out.

In terms of strategies, in your shoes I would need to identify the big, concrete, external rewards for these walks, find a way to make those rewards visible and memorable at the time I wanted to take the walk, and remove as many logistical barriers as possible to completing the walks (even if those barriers are things that my guilty and shame-filled brain thinks shouldn’t be barriers and I just need to suck it up).

For instance, it’s not actually clear to me in your post why exactly you want to do these walks, apart from creating a sense of routine. For me, that would be too amorphous. But if it is quality time with your kid, that seems strong! Is there a way to remind yourself how good that feels, in the moment when you might want to just stay home? Things like photos from good walks that pop up on you phone at walk time, or a collection of neat rocks you collect on walks that are visible wherever you are when the inertia strikes, could give you the dopamine boost you need to get you on your feet.

Are there any parts of the walks or the prep for the walks that is at all irritating or frustrating? Anything from small to big irritations might be able to mitigated, and smooth the transition process. Do you hate sunscreen or sneakers? Try a hat and flip flops instead. Are you legitimately too tired and burned out at the end of the day to do an hour walk? Try lowering the goal to 20 minutes, or reducing bigger energy sucks during the day. Do you feel guilty about the other things you could be doing instead? Try strategies to reassure yourself that you are making progress on those goals, and also more reminders of the importance of your Quality Kid Time Goal—maybe a memo in your notes app of good walk memories, or things you shared with each other on walks that you wouldn’t have otherwise? (It would be hard to look at a comparison between a chart of house chores progress and a note describing when kid told you about a tough time at school and pick the chores, I think—you just have to remind your ADHD brain WHY you want to do the walk, because ADHD brains don’t remember the good parts.)

The thing with ADHD is you don’t have a discipline problem: you have a dopamine deficiency and you can’t trick your way out of it. The only real path forward is figuring out ways to manage your dopamine to enable your executive function, either through noticeable reminders of real motivators (to create dopamine) and/or redistributing your available energy by reducing expenditure elsewhere. (And, if it works for you, supplementing with store bought dopamine is also fine!)

On preview: what ch1x0r says is also really important. For me, “habits” are an impossible hell and a recipe for self-loathing. Making an activity a really good option, to be done as often as possible but without the expectation of any kind of consistency, always results in both more activity and a happier me.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 10:20 AM on June 21, 2023 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I have the same exact goblin brain. I can't say I've solved the go-outside problem, but one thing that helps orchestrating reasons that I have to go out. For me that's primarily keeping very little food in the house so that I have to walk to the grocery store if I want to eat. You're doing this post-dinner, but if there's a walkable grocery store, maybe you could keep breakfast supplies very low? Or keep some evening necessity in your car so that you have to go outside to get it, then use the momentum to get the kids and dog. Or go full goblin and take any split second of motivation in the preceding hours to open the door and fling everyone's shoes outside so that you have to go get them eventually.
posted by umwelt at 11:41 AM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

This is a really really silly suggestion, but since you're asking for off-the-wall...

Can you put on one of your walking shoes just before sitting down to dinner? Just one, not the pair! And at the end of dinner you'll come to a decision point where you either have to take off the shoe and go back to house slippers or whatever, or you put the other walking shoe on and go for a walk.

I guess the question becomes, how do you even remember to put that one shoe on. And I don't know how to answer that!
posted by tinydancer at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

Point in the direction of the door. Say out loud, "I want to go for a walk and I will be disappointed in myself if I don't." Look in the direction of the door. Point your feet in the direction of the door. Etc.

With ADD sometimes you can't turn off your brain which is focusing on something else, like couch time or net surfing, or procrastinating on your taxes. But you can multi-process a little bit. So if you can't look away, point away. If you can't stop thinking about your doom scrolling and the urge to click, click, click, go ahead and click, click, click, on your own knee rather than a button.

If you stand up to go pee, or get up from the dinner table, look in the direction you need to go to take the walk. Mention what you need to do, out loud. "I have to pry the kid loose from his books, put on my shoes, find his shoes and put them on him. The dog will come as soon as I open the door...."

These baby steps can help with task initiation difficulties. If you can't even look in the direction of the door, start by blinking, shaking your head, or closing your eyes.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:53 PM on June 21, 2023

Ask someone to call you at seven PM and remind you to go for your walk. The social awkwardness resulting from ignoring their call, or answering it and not going, might be enough of a motivator.

Offer the kid an enormous reward if HE takes a walk with you three times this week. See if you can trigger, "Can we go for a walk again? Can we, huh? Can we?"
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:55 PM on June 21, 2023

My answer for myself is Beeminder (here's my Beeminder goal to force me to wear my fitness tracker every day). Beeminder is perfect for when daytime-me thinks "I want to finish my baby book!" ... And then evening me thinks "that's too hard I can do it tomorrow I'll just veg on my phone today" every day for the rest of my life. Set a goal to do 3 pages per week and it's done in a month.

However for me (and for a lot of people I think) Beeminder doesn't make *habits.* But it really is a big tool for busting my goals.
posted by muddgirl at 4:06 PM on June 21, 2023

I will note for the record that this is a horrible idea on many levels, but my partner (who hates walking, and has definitely ADHD and is autistic as well, cf. me who is only autistic) has managed to get himself addicted to tobacco. Smoked from a pipe. It is quite potent and the only way to not make the entire yard smell like toast and then almost immediately stale tobacco smoke and annoy both me and the neighbors... is to go for a walk while smoking. So he will quite happily walk a couple of kilometers a day.
I cannot actually recommend smoking but I'm told vapes can be quite pleasant, with or without nicotine, while also smelling potent enough to make 'go for a walk' the solution?
in other words - is there anything you like to do and can remember to do that can realistically be done while walking, and then only be done while walking?

Incidentally dogs can also be trained into remembering that 'after dinner we go for a walk', regardless of what hour dinner actually happens at.
posted by ngaiotonga at 4:19 PM on June 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

It makes you feel like you're 9, but a rewards chart is a good way to create a habit. Get a small gift bag, put in Hostess cupcakes or Little Debbie, nice gel pens, markers, small candy bars, travel bottles of nice liquor, etc. And get some glitter star stickers or similar. Put it up high.
On a paper calendar, not digital, you get a penciled star for a walk. During week 1, give yourself a small treat from the goodie bag for every 2 stars.
Week 2, every 2 penciled stars gets a sticker, 2 stickers gets a treat.
Tangible rewards work on the reward center of your brain and are very effective at changing behavior.

Every walk, give yourself, the kid, the dog, a sincere attaboy. Note how you enjoyed it, how good it felt, how it made you feel present as a Dad. Your kid will start saying C'mon, Let's go and so will your dog. You'll burn some calories, so a post-walk small ice cream cones is a nice thing. I am also a goblin, but tangible rewards have helped. sometimes I can do I'll pull the trigger on the fun amzn orcder when I get 5 stickers but small nice things work. Even if I have bourbon, a tiny bottle of flavored vodka or something feels like a prize.
posted by theora55 at 4:38 PM on June 21, 2023

For me, going immediately after work instead of after dinner would be easier because I'm still in "doing annoying stuff I don't want to" mode instead of "relaxing" mode. If that doesn't work great because you need to change clothes for it, consider putting on the walking clothes before leaving work.

Another possibility: do you find wearing shoes or a bra inside uncomfortable enough that if you leave them on, it will irritate you to the point that you will go for a walk because you get to take them off?
posted by metasarah at 6:22 PM on June 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: ahahahaah none of your ideas worked but I very much appreciated and marked as best answers the recognition for adhd exercise blindspots.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:28 AM on July 22, 2023

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