Stepping over dollars to pick up pennies: What works for optimal cognitive functioning

Hot news out of Israel (Bar Ilan University) and Los Angeles (UCLA):  There’s a way to increase cognitive functioning among children with ADHD that is FREE and leads to BIGGER change than other non-chemical interventions.

What is this magic they speak of? Exercise.

Researchers searched through studies published between 1980 and 2017 on various non-pharmacological interventions for cognitive functions among children with ADHD and narrowed these down to the most trustworthy studies. One of the requirements the researchers had was that the study included an objective measure of cognitive functions.

They examined the effects of several non-pharmacological interventions–neurofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapy, cognitive training, and physical exercises (aerobic)–and found all the interventions associated with desired changes. Physical exercise, however, rose to the top with the largest average effect size. Granted 18 studies across four interventions is small; however, the results are consistent with tons of research on the association between exercise and optimal physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.

The study.

So this is what my title is about…we often step over the dollars of optimal functioning and well-being to pick up pennies. The dollars are regular physical exercise (aerobic), enough sleep, and healthy eating. The pennies are the skills, strategies, games we may play with ourselves (fun or otherwise) that we often seek instead. The pennies matter; I’m just suggesting you pick up the dollars first.

My two cents. Or dollars. : )   

The Future and Finances

The “golden years.”

With ADHD, you’re likely to give up a bigger reward for a smaller one if the smaller one comes NOW and the bigger one LATER. NOW wins time after time. Why? Partly because our future selves are strangers to most of us, and we feel little for them. What do we owe this stranger? For many of us it turns out, “Nothing.” We see this when it comes to money. Specifically, saving it.

I know this can be a bleak subject, but part of the remedy is facing reality. Let’s start with the state of the union on this. I, for one, was blown away.

In the U. S., post-retirement we live 17-20 years on average, and over 50% of us have less than $25,000 saved for these years. This means, apart from social security, over half of us have less than $123/month to live out our “golden years.” More like copper years, right? See

Sure, for some, this is a continuation of pre-retirement poverty (it’s hard to save living hand to mouth), but for many this goes back to the present winning over the future. At a great cost.

With ADHD, the cost is likely to be higher. Recent research examining the financial status of adults with and without ADHD ( went beyond confirming prior research noting bad financial news, on average, for those with ADHD. The researchers looked at some of the reasons why this is the case. That is, why less income, less savings, and more debt?

Here’s what they found. Compared to adults without ADHD, adults with it reported more often buying on impulse and more often using “an avoidant or spontaneous decision-making style” (e.g., I will avoid looking at my bank account before buying). On top of this, adults with ADHD scored lower when given measures of financial competence and capacity (e.g., being able to evaluate financial problems and understand bank statements).

But there is good news is. If you struggle with money, things can be better.

Here are some antidotes to an impoverished future (

1) Episodic Future Thinking, or EFT (,

2) Focus on the “cool” versus the “hot” aspects of what you want NOW (e.g., on the color and shape of a cinnamon roll versus the anticipated taste),

3) Sinking your ships by giving yourself no way out (or in) by, for example, leaving money at home when you are out and about apart from what’s needed–no credit cards, Apple Pay, etc.–on hand)–see starting where Dan Ariely talks about self-control contracts for more–, and

4) Connect to your future self (

For more examples on the above antidotes, go to

Here’s a toast to your future self! And to your present one who cares.

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