Do you remember the fidget spinner craze? It was the pop culture phenomenon that brought fidgeting into the spotlight. But fidgeting has been around forever. Before, we clicked our pens, played with stress balls, were constantly chewing gum, or biting our nails.
While some fidgeting is a response to anxiety, fear, or boredom, others find that they fidget when intently focusing on a project or trying to solve a problem. Excessive fidgeting may be a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but according to science, it may also help you think harder. But how?
Fidgeting and the Human Brain
Some experts believe that fidgeting, whether it be twirling your hair, bouncing your foot, or tapping your fingers, can improve mental function.
The basis is that movement is associated with neurons in the part of the brain responsible for focus. When those neurotransmitters aren’t stimulated enough, our memory gets worse, and we lose the ability to pay attention. By fidgeting, neurons in the brain receive the stimulation they need to prompt better thinking.
Most fidgeting is done subconsciously. We do it as a way to self-regulate our brains, calming ourselves down when we need to and stimulating our minds when we’re feeling low on motivation.
Fidgeting and Stress
If you’re working on an intense project at work, studying for a big test, or writing a long paper, you’re likely experiencing a higher level of stress than usual. Fidgeting can serve as a subconscious mechanism that helps calm your nerves, enabling you to think harder.
One study found that men who began fidgeting when intentionally placed in a stressful situation for research purposes reported the situation to be less stressful than the men who did not fidget under the same circumstances.
When we are less stressed, we can think more deliberately. Tapping your pen while you stare at that project on your screen may help you to focus on it more clearly, yielding better performance and results.
Fidgeting and Productivity
There is much research on fidgeting and the role it plays in helping those with ADHD to remain focused, but the science applies to everyone. Experts state that it can help block out distractions and increase productivity.
Fidgeting can help you block out the noise going on around you, in a busy office, for example. Just as listening to music can help you work harder, so does subconscious fidgeting. This is because as your mind focuses on two tasks simultaneously, even though one is subconscious, there is less room for other distractions to interrupt your thought process.
How to Fidget the Right Way
There’s a right way to fidget that helps improve your focus and productivity. If you’re using time management to set goals at work or school and start feeling pressured while working on a project, try taking a moment to step back. Pick up a pen, even if you aren’t writing, or grab anything that can occupy your hands for a few minutes.
Take the time to “play” with something that can stimulate your brain and get your mental juices flowing. Don’t pick something that’s time-consuming or requires complete attention, like a puzzle.
You may also notice that you’re doing this already. You may be chewing gum, tapping your keyboard lightly, or biting your lip while you stare at the screen. These are all types of fidgeting that the part of your brain responsible for focus needs to remain stimulated.
Fidgeting and Time Management
It’s important to note that fidgeting is not a substitute for effective time management. It won’t make you super speedy, and if you’re on deadline, you need a plan to reach your goals. Fidgeting may help you get there when you’re already on course.
If you’re looking for the best time management tips for working on projects, check out:
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