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ADD expert: ‘Key to happiness is connection’

AYER — Dr. Edward Hallowell is used to the big leagues. He has appeared on 20/20, 60 Minutes, Oprah, CNN, Dr. Phil, the Today show and Dateline as an expert on attention-deficit disorder, strategies on handling your fast-paced life, and other family and health-related issues.

He’s also the author of the book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness.

Last month, Hallowell arrived at Ayer High School auditorium and found the room filled with attentive parents and friends and one small camera that was taping for Ayer Public Access Channel.

As part of their Annual Speaker Series, the Ayer Education Foundation, in partnership with the Ayer Public Schools, sponsored the event.

“We are thrilled and honored to have been able to bring someone of Dr. Hallowell’s caliber to our town. His books and work have helped countless children, adults, and families thrive,” said Sheila Kelly, AEF board member.

Hallowell’s presentation was titled “Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap.” Many adults and children filled the seats wondering how to tone down a life filled with cell phones, texting, tweeting, work demands and family life.

“Being too busy can become a habit so entrenched that it leads you to postpone or cut short what matters most to you, making you a slave to a lifestyle you don’t like but can’t escape,” Hallowell said.

When Hallowell began speaking to the more than 200 people, he polled the audience to see what they were interested in hearing about and the consensus was his book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, overwhelming scheduling, and ADD concerns.

“We are in love with speed,” Hallowell noted. “We have voicemail, texts, e-mail. We think we can do without relaxing, dinner with a friend, taking a nap, or reading a book. … We are always interrupted by the gadgets we carry — the gadgets that we think are making our life better and faster. ”

Hallowell challenged that thought by mentioning that when people are asked where they do their best thinking, they almost always say the shower. “Why is that?” he asked. “Because it is the last place you can go that your phone can’t come with you.”

How do you combat your face-paced life?

“Connections with the people around you are crucial. Family dinner is the best thing you can do for yourself,” said Hallowell. Many times he stressed the importance of connections.

“Connection is the single most powerful force for happiness. Being crazy busy does not make you happy and successful, but having solid relationships with the people around you does.” Hallowell added that studies have shown that one of the largest predictors of success in life is your attitude and how connected you are to others.

Hallowell switched to the topic of ADD and explained the disorder as people who have a “Ferrari engine and bicycle brakes.” Characteristics often associated with adults and children with this diagnosis include being creative, original, pioneering, sensitive and big-hearted. Hallowell, who has decades of experience working with children with ADD, urged parents and educators to take the time to unwrap those wonderful, surprising gifts of children with ADD, and to help those individuals embrace their talents and skills.

In a handout, Hallowell noted 10 key principles to managing modern life. They are:

1. Do what matters most to you and learn how to say “no thank you.”

2. Create a positive emotional environment wherever you are.

3. Find your rhythm — research has proven that this state of mind elevates all that you do to its highest level.

4. Invest your time wisely so as to get maximum return.

5. Don’t waste time screensucking (a modern addiction — the withdrawal of looking at a computer/Blackberry screen.)

6. Identify and control the sources of “gemmelsmerch” in your environment (“gemmelsmerch” is the force that distracts a person from what he or she wants to do or ought to be doing).

7. Delegate.

8. Slow down — your hurry is your enemy.

9. Avoid frazzing — give one task your full attention — you will do it better.

10. Play — this will bring out the best part of your mind, focus on your task, and make you more effective and efficient.

After Hallowell’s lecture, he took questions from the audience that focused mostly on how to “unplug” your life — how to put down your cell phone and step away from the computer. Some asked clarifying questions about his experience on ADD. One brave 11-year-old went to the microphone to comment on the topics of the lecture. Attendees of the night walked away with some tips on how to simplify life and also received a certificate of attendance.

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