Heather Fishel ’11 was never a fidgeter in her Denison English and creative writing classes. “I’m very Type A,” says Fishel. “I’m super organized, and I sit very still.”
But when her younger brother started college and found his ADHD getting in the way of focusing in his classes, she became interested in the reasons why. This past January, what started as a senior manuscript at Denison became a book published by Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Fidget! 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Your Stress is the culmination of a deep dive into the science behind squirming—and, perhaps surprisingly, shows how a little fidgeting can lead to major productivity benefits.
The advantages of fidgeting
There are so many benefits! Even little things that people find annoying—like chewing on pens or pencils, tapping during tests, or scribbling or doodling—gives your brain an outlet. Your brain wants excitement, and when it’s not stimulated enough, you start fidgeting. Fidgeting can help your brain be more active and inspires better creative thinking, which makes you more productive.
Fidgeting and unique learning styles
A lot of the research on why we fidget was originally started in the special needs community, where students like my brother were constantly getting up in the middle of class and doing laps around the teachers’ desks. I used to work as a college counselor in a high school and would have students who would never sit still. And now, looking at all the research about how beneficial this is in the classroom environment, I had no idea fidgeting was such a significant factor in how people learn.
For the non-fidgeters
It has to be a conscious effort if you’re not a fidgeter. What I have learned is that trying something new—whether it be swapping your desk chair for an exercise ball or getting out and walking—will help you reap those same benefits. I started using a standup desk every other hour, and while I’m standing, I find myself starting to walk and fidget, which keeps the creative thoughts flowing.
Give yourself a visual break
One of my favorite fidgets is giving yourself a visual break. We can get lost staring at a computer screen. I recommend getting a picture, a plant, or a game—something that lets you consciously turn away from the screen, do something different, and move your hands.
Take that social media time-out
If you spend 15 minutes online looking at cute cat pictures or funny memes, that’s better for your brain than to power through another hour of work. The research definitely reaffirms taking social media breaks throughout the day!