As many school-age kids have headed back to the classroom – or to their laptops on the couch – anxiety for some has reached its peak. The many distractions that can and do occur while trying to focus on schoolwork can be super stressful on kids of all ages. This same can be said for adults. Whether working from home or in the office, daily stressors and life, in general, can take their toll. Recent research into anxiety and the ability to focus or concentrate on the task at hand has shown that distraction techniques can affect the brain’s level of stimulation. Cognitive research suggests that fidgeting is associated with how stimulated we are. This basically means that fidgeting is the body trying to help itself boost (or even lower) its stimulation levels, effectively either calming or energizing itself. Additionally, moving around frequently, can also bring our attention and energy to a level that allows our minds to better focus on the task at hand. Supporting this, one study found that people who were allowed to doodle while monitoring a phone conversation for details remembered more facts later than those who weren’t. We also know that people with ADHD do better on some cognitive tasks when they are engaged in greater spontaneous bodily activity.
Many researchers also believe that fidgeting helps with weight management. It’s the body’s response that helps us unconsciously maintain our weight. There may even be a genetic component – studies show that levels of spontaneous physical activity are more similar in families and between twins. Finally, some fidgeting behaviors (like repetitive hair pulling or scratching your skin) might be the body’s way to cope with stress.
Maybe five years ago, the thought of giving a kid a toy to use in the classroom might have seemed absurd. Today, scientific studies tell us that quiet, unconscious distraction techniques and tools can actually help children cope with stressors and concentrate better on the task at hand. In the same way, adults can benefit from using a distraction item to assist in the creative process during meetings and Zoom calls. I’ve been in many brainstorming meetings where the facilitator had everyone choose a toy or two to fidget with even before the session started to get the “creative juices flowing”. Keep these things in mind when planning giveaways or activities with your customers. Items like stress relievers, fidget cubes, worry stones, even chewing gum, can serve as great concentration tools for youngsters and older adults – and everyone in between.