Having trouble focusing?
You're not the only one. Besides the people struggling with a legitimate ADHD diagnosis, lots of us simply have trouble sitting at our desk to stay focused. And with all the additional distractions, it's easy to see why.
Adderall and Ritalin are the most common medications prescribed to combat the symptoms of ADHD. And lots of people without an ADHD diagnosis also use these substances (illegally) to do better in school.
[See our tips on How to study with ADHD]
If you struggle with focus, you might be tempted to try them too. But you probably don't need them. There are a ton of Ritalin and Adderall alternatives that can be just as effective at supercharging your focus and extend your study.
Adderall alternatives: natural remedies for ADHD and increasing focus
We've written a huge, comprehensive guide on how to boost your focus and how to get motivated when you're tempted to procrastinate. In this article, we'll also give you some Adderall alternatives to try out when you're feeling like you need a focus kick or when your ADHD is getting the best of you.
Keep in mind that natural alternatives may not be as effective as a drug like Adderall to fully treat ADHD, but they can still help manage symptoms. And these will absolutely be enough if you don't suffer from ADHD and just need to concentrate for a few hours.
So skip out on the Adderall and Ritalin if you can. Here's our top 11 best Ritalin and Adderall alternatives for boosting focus and getting through your massive to-do list.
1. Transcendental meditation
Research has consistently found that meditation can significantly improve the management of ADHD treatment and increase focus.
In one study, participants who engaged in regular transcendental meditation for three months had greatly reduced symptoms of ADHD. They also reported feeling less stress, hyperactivity, and anxiety. The researchers suggest that meditation can increase activity in parts of the brain that are responsible for the same things you need to study: learning, focus, and memory.
The take-away: Consistently engaging in meditation can help you manage ADHD and simply focus more easily.
2. Aerobic exercise
Exercise has a ton of great learning benefits; it's one of the essential complements to an effective study schedule and to excelling in school.
It can also help you focus. Exercise has been used in several studies of children as a non-pharmacological way to manage symptoms of ADHD. The results are promising: it seems that exercise, and aerobic excercise in particular, could be an effective Adderall alternative for managing ADHD. In fact, a systematic review of its use suggests that exercise is a beneficial treatment for people who suffer from ADHD.
The take-away: build regular moderate to intense exercise into your routine.
3. Omega fatty acids
Symptoms of ADHD may be improved or made worse by diet. For instance, some research has found that individuals who take supplements for Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids observe improved control of ADHD symptoms. In the study, these were taken daily and symptoms only improved after a few months; still, this suggests that consistent supplementation of polyunsaturated fatty acids can help those with ADHD.
The take-away: consider trying Omega fatty acid supplements.
4. Reduce sugar
Sugar is getting a bad rap these days. And probably for good reason: there are absolutely a number of health conditions caused by high consumption of refined sugars. Eating a ton of sugar will also destroy your studying efficiency.
But is it linked to ADHD? Well, the research is a bit mixed. There is certainly a number of high-quality studies that link ADHD with higher sugar intake ... but that relationship may not be causal. (It could even be the other way around: people with ADHD may consume more sugar).
Whatever the relationship, there seems to be good reasons to suggest that a diet high in sugar could put a person at greater risk of developing ADHD, and a healthy, balanced (low sugar) diet could protect against it.
So reduce your sugar. It'll probably help manage your ADHD symptoms, it'll definitely help you focus, and you'll be doing your body a favor.
The take-away: Sugar isn't sexy. Tell her she can't sit with you.
The research here is a bit more tentative, but there still does seem to be some promise for caffeine to treat symptoms of ADHD. For example, in animal studies with animal models of ADHD, caffeine seems to improve spatial learning deficits and memory.
So in the caffeine vs. Adderall debate, caffeine may be the winner for many people. Just don't take it too late in the day—you don't want to mess up your sleep (in which case you'd need our guide to curing insomnia without drugs)!
The take-away: Enjoy that morning espresso.
6. Pycnogenol: French Maritime Pine bark extract
Don't ask us how scientists figured out that if you take an extract from the bark of the Maritime Pine tree, you would get a potential natural ADHD treatment; we couldn't tell you. Yet here we are.
Several studies in children have found that it indeed could be an effective treatment for ADHD (although the number of high-quality studies is still low, so real scientists are still hesitant to say anything other than "it looks promising but more research is needed"). Still, the studies that do exist suggest it can reduce hyperactivity, improve coordination, concentration, and attention.
Sounds pretty good to us!
7. Monoamine amino acid precursors
ADHD is posited to occur, or at least be affected by, the particular neurochemistry going on for someone. By properly balancing your neurotransmitters, you might be able to naturally control some of the symptoms from ADHD.
Since neurotransmitters are created in your body from amino acids, taking amino acid supplements may give your body what it needs to make the neurotransmitters that it's low on and balance out the brain chemistry.
Some studies suggest that supplements containing the following amino acids could be particularly useful:
This method is a little more complicated, though, so if you're going to go this route, it's probably best to involve a professional.
8. Zinc supplements
Zinc is another supplement that seems to play a role in concentration. Some studies have shown that it can be effective in managing ADHD symptoms. Most of us probably get enough zinc, but supplementing it could be particularly important for those who have a deficiency.
This option may not make much of a difference for you if you already get enough zinc. But for those who are not aware that they're deficient, it could make a really big difference.
9. Magnesium + Vitamin-B6 Supplementation
Magnesium is another mineral that's thought to be related to ADHD. And Vitamin B6 is a known brain-boosting substance. Put them together? And you've got yourself a potential natural ADHD alternative.
One study found some evidence for this: in 40 children with ADHD, Mg-B6 was found to reduce symptoms after two months of supplementation. Interestingly, when the supplementation was stopped, the symptoms returned. Like zinc, this could be a sign that those with ADHD are deficient in some of these essential vitamins and minerals.
10. Dopamine fasting
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in your brain that is connected to your reward or pleasure center. It gives you a positive feeling when you do things that are good for you and your survival: eat, exercise, have sex, talking with friends, and so on. But this center is also triggered by a bunch of other stuff that we do in our modern life: social media, gambling, some drugs, watching TV, and especially social media.
As a response to the feeling of being addicted to technology, some individuals have suggested "dopamine fasting". While it's probably not possible (or desirable) to actually fast your body from dopamine, think of it more as "stimulus control". Taking a vacation from modern technology, addictive behaviors, and the stressful demands on your life absolutely could be useful to improve focus and productivity. The idea is to avoid stimulation from outside sources.
That avoidance of distraction could be helpful as a way for people with ADHD to manage symptoms, or simply as a strategy to improve focus. Turn off your phone, don't watch TV, and stay away from TikTok. Your focus will improve.
But remember: you absolutely can (and should!) still eat, exercise, have sex, and talk with friends at least occasionally. It's all about self-moderation.
11. Lifestyle changes
ADHD (and, more generally, a sub-clinical inability to focus) has a genetic component, but it also has an environmental component. That means that there are lifestyle changes that you can make that can improve symptoms and support concentration and focus.
Another is diet. In addition to reducing sugar, ensure you're eating a balanced diet for learning: fresh foods, lots of whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and nutrient-rich foods.
Although lifestyle changes can be difficult to make, if you have a condition like ADHD, you may need to shape up the way you are living in order to successfully manage your symptoms.
Make small changes and develop habits
Managing ADHD, or simply improving focus, can absolutely be done without Adderall or other drugs. But it's going to take some work.
Check out our exercises for how to build your attention span like a muscle, and how to improve your self-discipline like a warrior.
Investing in good habits will make your ADHD manageable for the long term and help you thrive.
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