At some point in your life, have you ever: Tapped your foot? Spun your pencil? Flipped your hair? Bit your lip? These are all signs of what we call “fidgeting”. Fidgeting is defined as using toys or movements to help keep us focused on what we are seeing, hearing or reading. Especially those with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder), having an object that they can essentially “play with” can stimulate their brain and help them focus better. I am highly guilty of fidgeting and it may be linked to my excessive watching of Spongebob as a kid (a study had tried to prove that watching Spongebob increased ADD). Like I said, I have always fidgeted and there is no time like today to find out why this phenomenon occurs.
Reading a lecture, typing a blog, or listening to someone talk for more than 5 minutes can create feelings of boredom or anxiety. This is one of the most common reasons of why we choose to fidget–anxiety creates a high amount of stress hormones, which gear your muscles for immediate activity. You probably aren’t the guy with a Go Pro cliff jumping right next to a Great White, so all of that energy that you have will need to go somewhere else and jiggling your leg. for example, is a good way to subdue that.
The authors, Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright, of Fidget To Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies For Living With ADHD, give another reason of why we fidget. In their book, they explain that fidgeting is a way of diverting the “bored” part of your brain so that the other parts can focus on the task at hand. They called this “floating attention” which could be tied back with prehistoric times. This occurs when fixating on one thing is not sensible because this could result in the “person missing the large ravenous beast behind the bushes”, as the authors wrote.
According to WhyWeFidget, there was a study conducted in 2005 explaining that fidgeting improved performance on memory tests. According to the researchers, this is because it lowers the level of cortisol (a stress hormone that has been known to interfere with learning).
There are also studies on how fidgeting effects our productivity. According to the Studies On Fidget Benefits, kids who are allowed to fidget in class rapidly absorb more than those who are not. There has been research done on the fact that handwriting notes increases creativity and memory while typing does not have such benefits and makes very annoying sounds. I have always hand written my notes and when exam time comes, I feel that I absorbed the material so much that studying is not as important as rewriting what I was taught over and over. This may be getting a little off subject, but I highly recommend handwriting notes because all the information in this blog supports the idea that “doodling” (which always always happens when handwriting) can boost memory and attention span.
In summary, fidgeting does many things: keeps us focused, exerts our anxious energy and improves our productivity. It also helps us who have ADD/ADHD learn because we can distract our brain with a mechanism of our choosing (toy, movement) and enhance learning opportunities. HOWEVER, by no means necessary, am I saying it is OK to: flip you hair a million times, click a pen top a million times, hit your knee on the under part of the desk a million times…you see what I’m saying. Fidget in moderation and do your best to not distract others.
Keep Calm and Fidget.