Engage - Claremont Lincoln University

Rethinking Fidgeting: Not Rude, But Productive and Healthy

This student post was written by M.A. Ethical Leadership alumni, Jessica Mize.
Please see author bio at the end of post.

Fidget. 

Chances are a specific behavior or gadget comes to mind when you think about this word. Other common synonyms include play, jiggle, and twitch.

Fidgeting in a work or school setting is often times considered distracting and is frowned upon. It tends to have a negative connotation.

Little research exists on why we fidget, but what does could be a game-changer to all those who have the habit.

Fidgeting at work and school is often considered a coping mechanism for those with ADD and ADHD.

Authors Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright suggest that, in Fidget to Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADHD, fidgeting dates back to prehistoric times. 

Another phrase they use is “floating attention.”

In the past, focusing 100% on a task was not desired because of the chance of missing something.

Rotz and Wright believe that when we fidget, we distract the bored part of our brain. This allows us to pay attention to the task at hand.

Other research correlates the activity with increased memory and creativity.

Children allowed to fidget at school learn quicker, concluded a 2005 study.

And there’s even more research to come in the activity of fidgeting. According to Mike Karlesky, a PhD student at NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering, he and his advisor are collecting more information about people and their fidgeting preferences. This includes their favored “doohickey” to fidget with and how this aids productivity.

In fact, one such example of a “doohickey” to fidget with that increases productivity, memory, and creativity is the Fidget Cube.

I’ll be the first to admit it: as an educator, I am guilty of getting on to students for fidgeting. As a parent, I am guilty of getting on to my children for doing the same. As a working professional, I am guilty of fidgeting.

But in spite of all this, the Fidget Cube intrigued me. It is a vinyl desk toy designed by Mathew and Mark McLachlan. They claim fidgeting with the device can actually improve focus at work, home, and school.

There are even other known benefits to fidgeting: health benefits. Some studies suggest that frequent fidgeting is a part of a healthy lifestyle.

So, how can we, as leaders, use this information for good or, even, for change?

In the past, when research has emerged that challenges paradigms, or in this case, health, it can take some time for people and institutions to adapt and change.

As leaders, it is our duty to talk about, model, and educate these findings.

It is not breaking news that our Western way of living is susceptible to chronic disease and premature death.

It is no secret that smoking is bad for our health. But how long did it take to ban that in public places?

It is no secret that fatty foods are bad for our health. But what ground breaking steps have been implemented to change this?

And now, it is no secret that fidgeting is good for us!

The takeaway? Spread the word. Next time you or someone tells you to stop fidgeting, keep on moving! Perhaps we should start a paradigm shift for this F word.

Over to you.

How do you fidget? Do you have a particular “doohickey” that helps you focus?

What are your thoughts on reframing our ideas of fidgeting? How can we as leaders shift the paradigm on fidgeting?

Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit: © Jonmkay | Dreamstime.com


About the Author

Jessica Mize is a recent graduate of Claremont Lincoln University’s Ethical Leadership Program. She works as the Director of the Academic Center for Excellence at the Brook Hill School. Brook Hill is a Christian, college prep, international boarding school with both day and boarding students representing over 20 countries. As the Director of the Academic Center for Excellence, Jessica uses and applies many elements of her Ethical Leadership degree. Jessica dialogues and collaborates with students and co-workers to meet the changing needs of students as well as creating proactive learning opportunities that allow students to lead in their learning. 

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2 comments

  • Thanks for sharing your information on the benefits of fidgeting, Jessica.
    I usually fidget with my fingers on both hands when I am a bit nervous about something in my thought process. So I try to remember to take a few deep breaths and other mindfulness ideas to be relaxed.

Student Contributor

We invite featured student contributors to write a submission for Engage. Learn about the featured student contributor at the end of each individual blog post.

Want to be a student contributor for Engage? We and our readers would love to read your submissions on driving positive social change. Contact us at info@claremontlincoln.edu.