Headphones love – How music can ease ADHD symptoms

Since the invention of wearable music devices, there has not been a single occasion of me leaving my room or later my house, without any headphones to cover my ears. I have owned over 100 headphones, connected to whatever device was available at that time. I went from walkman to discman, to multiple mp3 players until the internet became big enough to spread to our phones and all the music ever recorded was available, anywhere and always.

Wherever I go, my headphones go with me. Even when I’m going out to throw my trash, just 30 meters aways from my living room. Whenever I have proven to be clumsy enough to break my beloved headphones, I will not leave the house until new ones have arrived. Often the image of a person with headphones glued to his or her ears is associated with autism, especially if you have seen Atypical. But my ADHD brain thrives on headphones as well and I want to share all the benefits I experience from my life with never ending background music.

Headphones function as a filter

My ADHD brain is distracted by everything that happens in my surroundings. I can not filter, I don’t even own any filters, and this is why I am just not able to not notice all the sounds in my environment. Besides, my hypersensitivity is able to explode the incoming sounds inside my brain, making me extremely distracted or even angry or frustrated about every sound that surrounds me.

Headphones function as the filters I desperately need to be able to stay focussed and to not get overwhelmed. They cancel out the background noise or the conversations around me. My headphones make sure I don’t receive too much auditory stimulation, they cancel out the things I don’t need or want to hear and in this way my headphones prevent me from over stimulation.

Headphones keep people at a distance

I live in a big city with streets that are always crowded and filled with too many possible unwanted conversations. Tourists asking for directions, homeless people begging for money or too enthusiastic salespersons trying to trick you into buying newspapers and electricity on every corner of the street. The worst kind of conversations you want to end as quickly as possible but in which the other person just won’t accept a no.

Whenever I see a person like this on the street, I make sure my headphones are extremely visible and often this allows me to walk passed them without any questions from their side. My headphones shows that I want to be left alone. The very few times they try to bother me, I simply just don’t hear them and I can continue my walk without getting annoyed or spending my money on something I really did not want to buy.

Headphones prevent distractions

Wearing headphones does not only prevent me from awkward conversations with complete strangers, they also work their magic when it comes to conversations you don’t really need to have but just happen, mostly at the office. Once I did a little research on my own. I spend one day working while wearing my headphones the whole day, and one day without them. On both days I counted the amount of questions I was asked by my colleagues and the result was shocking. On my days without headphones I was disrupted by my colleagues 67 times, while the amount of questions was only 19 on the day I was wearing my headphones.

You could say that I leave my team with lots of unanswered questions when I wear my headphones but this is not true. On my headphone-less day I could answer almost every questions with a simple “what doe you think? “, my colleagues where able to answer most of their questions by themselves. They did not need my help, they saw my availability as a chance to get confirmation, to feel a bit more safe about their work.

But I can not provide them with safety, not the entire day. When I am working, I enter my hyperfocus, my intense state of concentration. What for my colleagues seems like just 30 seconds of confirmation, actually means 30 minutes of not working for me, because after their safety is guaranteed, I can not just enter my hyperfocus again and continue, I need time to get there.

So I wear headphones whenever I am working, sometimes even without music, just so I won’t be disturbed from my own work ever couple of minutes for questions that do not need to be asked. Some people I work with see me as weird, as mean even, but luckily most of them know that whenever they truly need my help, I will be there, I will take my headphones off and I will help them. I a way my headphones are teaching my team to become a bit more responsible, a little more creative and a little more confident.

Headphones make you notice more

I believe that is I had to choose between turning blind or deaf, I would definitely prefer to keep my sight and loose my hearing. No matter how much great music I will miss. I would prefer to sit in a bright but silent room instead of a dark but noisy one, not because the darkness scares me, but because does. And unfortunately our world is filled with noise.

Cars passing, children screaming, people talking, doors slamming, machines working, airplanes flying over … there is so much noise in our world. To be honest, I have not often seen the beauty in any of the sounds we produce with just living our lives. I can go on a walk, on a beautiful day, but the sounds I will encounter during this walk never make my experience better. A squeaking tram or the acceleration of a car can only make the moment less beautiful. The same counts for a romantic night with my boyfriend, once the neighbor slams her door or when a kid starts crying outside, the moment becomes less enjoyable.

I notice the beauty of the world through my vision, by images. Sounds too often decrease the beauty of the images. When I wear my headphones, I can focus on the beauty that surround me without getting distracted. And without the background noise of the city, places become more beautiful and I will feel more joy.

Headphones set the mood

I am super sensitive for moods. My sensory input reflects itself instantly into the way I feel. Where most people only experience this when watching a sad movie, my mood depends on almost everything that surrounds me, for more explanation on this you can read: ADHD means: Hypersensitivity.

I am extremely sensitive for my auditory input and with my headphones I am able to turn this into a major benefit. When I want to feel happy, I listen to a happy song, when I want to cry, I pick a sad one and when I’m tires I choose a song full of energy and the tiredness will disappear. I have made a long list of playlists that all represent a kind of mood,

) for happy
( for sad
! for energy
. for focus
+ to feel slightly better

12, 14, 18, \, ?, >>, <>, (), ~, |, +-, ==, :
and so many more,
I’m afraid I am the only one able to understand the logic of my playlists.

Whenever I want to feel a certain way, I just start the playlist that fits the mood and the music will work its magic. My headphones are able to make me feel happy when I’m sad or calm me down when I’m anxious. They help me to control the intense emotions that my ADHD devil creates inside of me, they help me to change my mood when my feelings get too extreme.

Headphones allow you to dance anywhere

Dancing provides a physical and mental refreshment, when you dance you get a little relaxed and you feel some enjoyment. Dancing makes you laugh. Whenever I have a hard day in the office, I take my headphones into the toilet and do a little dance. When I’m waiting at the station and my train gets cancelled, I dance around the platform for a little while. And when I enter my home after a long day, I pick up my bunny and together we dance through the whole house.

On an average day I dance when I’m in the shower, when I’m about to leave the house, when I finish my lunch, when I get dressed to go to the gym and when I finally get home. Little dances, that give me a little moment that has a huge impact on how I experience my days. Without my headphones, without my music, I wouldn’t start dancing, and I would miss out on so many little moments of happiness.

Headphones ease phone calls

Wherever I am, and whatever I do, my headphones help me when I need to call someone. I don’t have to hold my phone to my ear and I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to stressfully look for the phone once it starts ringing. With my headphones I can just press the little button besides my right ear (sometimes left, but it’s not a time consuming things to find them), and I can start talking, while I just keep doing what I was doing.

Before the times of internet and music on phones I always experienced a lot of stress when my phone started ringing. I couldn’t find it, I had to search all around the room or inside a messy bag with the knowledge I would just have about 30 seconds to do so. Super stressful. And whenever I would miss a call because of my phone disappearing in my mess, the stress of not forgetting to call back was even greater. It is a relieve that I can just call with the thing that’s always on my head now, it saves me from a lot of stress.

Headphones might teach you something

Today I was listening to a song I had heard many times before but never truly listened to. This time, I did listen and I discovered the healing power of the lyrics I was listening to. It was a dutch song, but the words in the song hit me, here are a couple of them:

Cherish your secret heart till the end
Do not seek what will never be back
Just wait until things gets brighter

Fight with everything you have.
Lose it well.
You have the time

Travel far, drink wine, think
Laugh hard, dive deep
Come back

Beautiful lyrics, at least they are in Dutch, but more importantly they really gave me an idea about what I’m going through right now. The lyrics told me that it is ok to loose yourself and it is ok to do the craziest things in order to find yourself back. The song describes how we have to cherish our secrets and wounds, how we have to remain honest to ourself and do whatever we need to do in order to deal with all the fucked up things that happen as long as we come back in the end.

More often I am surprised with how many lessons are hidden within the songs I listen to. Whenever I’m going through a hard time I just have to wear my headphones and press play and when I listen really well to the right song, I will discover so many things about myself.

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