Foot shaking, pen tapping, finger drumming, or hair touching; welcome to the world of fidgeting! Fidgeting is a small, restless, physical action that seems to have no link to the primary task we're performing. Ask anyone who finds themselves stuck in a long meeting, class, or time of intense concentration, and they can probably tell you their favorite fidgeting behavior. In fact, fidgeting is so common that a wave of "fidgeting gadgets" are taking the consumer market by storm. Fidgeting spinners, cubes, and sensory balls are flying off the shelves, but do they work?
The Science of Fidgeting
While largely marketed to children, fidgeting gadgets are just as popular with adults. Fidgeting is something we all do, yet science is still trying to figure out its benefit.
Common theories include:
How Much Longer Do I Have to Sit Here?
From lounging on the couch to sitting at a desk, Americans are more sedentary than ever. Some scientists believe fidgeting is a response to long periods of inactivity. In fact, a recent study showed that fidgeting burns 350 extra calories a day. However, it's important to remember that no amount of fidgeting can replace consistent exercise.
The Focus Factor
At any given time, our brain is consumed with thoughts. Not all thoughts are created equal though. This is especially true when we're making important decisions or problem-solving. Some researchers believe fidgeting is a way to keep unnecessary thoughts at bay. The act of fidgeting distracts parts of the brain that aren't as useful in important situations.
Movement Makes Us Human
Remaining completely still is unnatural for human beings. Even in our sleep, a time of deep relaxation and rest, we continue to move. Movement is also good for our brains. Scientists link movement with improved thinking and expression. The fidgeting behavior of doodling may even improve our memory.
The Power of Ritual
As human beings, we find comfort in rituals. Rituals are familiar structured events that are predictable. Participating in rituals tend to calm us down and comfort us. Some scientists believe that fidgeting provides that same comfort through the ritual of repetitive motion.
Advocates of fidget gadgets say they reduce stress, improve concentration, and provide an outlet for excess energy. Many also claim fidget gadgets are useful for people with ADD, ADHD, autism, and PTSD. From a scientific standpoint, the verdict is still out since the exact science of fidgeting is unclear. Whatever your opinion, doctors do warn consumers to be aware of choke hazards and injuries that fidget gadgets can cause.
Whether it's a spinner, a cube, or old-fashioned foot tapping; fidgeting is here to stay. Fidget gadgets now offer you a new and improved way to fidget. Remember, no amount of fidgeting replaces the benefits of not sitting too long and taking regular breaks. In fact, we're off to do just that!
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