Some people are born fidgets. Fidgeting tends to be a family trait and, if parents move about a lot, their children are likely to inherit the same need for continual motion. Unfortunately, anyone who fidgets in situations where they are expected to remain still, (work meetings, concerts, plays, school lessons, church services), will appear to others as being bored, irritated or not paying attention; with those who do not experience a difficulty in keeping still, finding their peers’ constant movement annoying and distracting. 

Individuals can fidget quietly and without causing too much distraction by moving small items such as squishy, stress or koosh balls, a few smooth pebbles or coins, Play-Doh or Silly Putty about in their pockets or hand. Swivel chairs allow larger, but still discreet, body movement. Doodling, note taking or drawing can help with focus, as can seizing every opportunity for a movement break: distributing handouts, opening or closing a window, delivering messages and so on.

Alternatively, fidgeting could be elevated to a desirable trait; something to be encouraged among more sedentary members of a group. The reasons for a shift in attitude could include: – 

  1. Fidgeting helps to maintain circulatory health.

Foot tapping or leg movement while seated for a period of time will keep blood flowing around the body. Moving your legs for a minute, every four minutes, increases blood flow to the leg arteries.

2. Fidgeting helps with weight management.

Fidgeting burns calories and is considered to be nature’s way of helping us to maintain an appropriate weight. Fidgeting while sitting or standing increases the calories an individual burns, compared to when they remain sedentary: this increase can amount to between 100 to 800 calories  per day. As we only need to overeat by 100 to 200 calories a day to gain weight, the calories burnt off through fidgeting will correct any imbalance. 

3. Fidgeting supports focus and concentration.

Everyone’s concentration levels differ and we all have limits to our attention. When an individual reaches the end of their concentration span and is struggling to maintain focus, physical movement will occupy the areas of their brain distracted by random thoughts. Even small movements are enough to keep the mind from wandering without distracting from the work in hand. Fidgeting therefore, can be considered to be a self-regulation mechanism, providing just enough stimulation to bring an individual’s attention to the required level. 

4. Fidgeting will enable the individual to self-soothe.

Fidgeting can serve as a self-soothing strategy in situations where a person feels anxious. The individual can stroke their hair or face, massage their hands or neck, and swing or rock on their chair in order to self-calm. 

Perhaps a reasonable compromise to fidgeting issues would be, if the individual is not bothering anyone and their fidgeting is not impeding their functioning, just let them get on with it.

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