How Fidget Spinner Toys Can Help Distracted Adults

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People have been bemoaning the latest craze — fidget spinner toys — on social media. Honestly, while my feed has been peppered with cries for help from friends with kids and teachers, I'd never heard of these things. But, it turns out that fidget spinner toys can help distracted adults, so here's what you need to know about them. The fidget spinner is a new handheld toy that you can spin and use to do tricks. Well that sounds cool, right? Why would people hate on that?

The gadgets were made to help people relieve stress, anxiety, ADD, and ADHD, but Time magazine reported that teachers are banning the spinners from classrooms for doing just the opposite. To highlight this, Live Science published a tweet from Kansas Spanish teacher Amanda Dickey that read: "I will call you 'Annoying Spinny Thing' and you will live in my desk drawer."

While the jury is still out on whether the spinners actually help children more than they distract those around them, research published on The Conversation reported that the gadgets do help fidgety adults focus. Researchers claim that fidgety people have long had practices they use to alleviate their restlessness, like clicking a ballpoint pen for example. To illustrate this they polled people to find out what they did when they became fidgety.

Why Fidget Spinners Are Helpful

"One thing people often report is that fidgeting with an object in the hand helps them to stay focused when doing a long task or sitting still and attentive in a long meeting," The Conversation reported. "Many examples people have told us about are ready-to-hand objects like paper clips, USB thumb drives, headphone earbuds, and sticky tape. But people also buy specialized items like a fidget spinner or a Fidget Cube for this purpose."

"Another common thread involves people using some fidget objects – like a favorite smooth stone – to calm themselves down, helping them achieve a more relaxed, contemplative, even mindful state."

Humans are not biologically programmed to sit still all day, so it makes sense that at a certain point you're going to start to feel fidgety. This is where the fidget spinner can help.

"A person who can’t get up and walk around to wake up a bit, or go have a nice cup of tea to calm down, may find it helpful to use a fidget item to get in the right frame of mind to stay focused and calm while staying put," The Conversation reported.

Because some fidget spinners require the user to pay more attention to the spinner than to a teacher, or someone speaking in a meeting, many people are getting frustrated with the gadgets, and there is even a forum on Reddit completely dedicated to the spinners. While no one is arguing that many children and adults have a difficult time focusing their attention for long periods of time, many want a less distracting way for these people to alleviate their stress. Perhaps instead of attacking the spinners it might be useful explore the possibility that we're not having the right conversation.

It's Human Nature To Get Distracted

Human beings are not meant to pay attention for long periods of time, which could be why you need so much coffee to get through the day.

"One of the reasons it’s so difficult to stay focused is that humans are naturally prone to interruption," Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, said in an article in Forbes by Allison Van Dusen. "We jump to react to new information as a built-in survival instinct, e.g., stop what you’re doing since there’s a hungry saber-toothed tiger 20 feet away. The problem is that, in today’s world, this same preprogrammed reaction kicks in and takes us away from our work to tune in to breaking news about O.J. Simpson or Paris Hilton — not exactly the sort of thing our survival depends on."

While some degree of how you are raised can determine your ability to concentrate, the bottom line is that sustained sitting and focusing is simply not natural. And, since society is likely not going to revert back to the days when you had to be worried about being attached by a saber-toothed tiger, things like meditation and fidget spinners can help you cope.

"Fidget items do seem to serve a valuable purpose. There’s still science to be done, but they’re not just a fad," The Conversation reported. "They embody an enduring phenomenon that nearly everyone uses at some point – just watch your own behavior when doing desk work or sitting in meetings."

If your worried about your spinner flying out of your hand during a meeting and taking someone's eye out, you can use a stress ball instead. However, the main take away seems to be: spin on my friends. Spin on.