“Is fidgeting really that bad?”

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When you search “define; fidget” on google, the answer is to “make small movements, especially of the hands and feet, through nervousness or impatience.”

Fidgeting generally has a bad connotation and is usually discouraged by those around you.  An example of a personal experience is biting my nails. As soon as I start someone usually pulls my hand away, or immediately tells me to stop doing so. If I ask ‘why?’ they don’t usually have a great answer – “its gross” “it’s annoying” “it’s bad for you”

So I ask the question, “Is fidgeting really that bad?”

Steven Connor states “Fidgeting has a rather different reputation. It suggests a kind of restlessness, a vague, source less unease” (Steven Connor 2010) supporting the idea that fidgeting can be seen as rude and undertaken when the person is not paying attention or concentrating. However, product designer Grace Hancock has developed a range of objects that “promote fidgeting as a therapeutic activity” (Grace Hancock 2013). Hancock further explains on her website that the objects are designed in particular to relieve the symptoms of mental health issues and reduce anxiety, improving overall mental wellness of those individuals suffering. Her range Fidgets, is composed of 5 variations of handheld objects that involve all aspects of fidgeting – press, rub, squeeze, scratch and spin.  The item I find most interesting in her range is the object ‘scratch’. The object works by scratching a layer of latex paint off the form, revealing the layers of resin beneath. I believe this is more interactive and satisfying than the typical stress balls out there. The organic form is also unique and poetic, the concept behind it being architecture, linking to the idea that home is a comforting, safe place.

fidgets-scratch-grace-hancock-1
“Scratch” – Fidgeting 2013
fidgets-scratch-grace-hancock-3
|Before|During|After|  ‘Fidgeting 2013’

Another work by Hancock is Repelling and attracting magnetic rings (Grace Hancock 2013). These rings are designed as an alternative to destructive fidgeting such as nail biting and pulling out hair. Each ring is designed with a red spot, a focal point of interest to distract the wearer from their stress and anxiety. Poetically, this red spot is reminiscent to a stop sign, “reminding the user to stop and relax” (Grace Hancock 2013). The purpose of the ring is to reduce anxiety improve one’s state of mental wellbeing.

Magnetic Rings 2013
Magnetic Rings 2013

Similarly to the works of Hancock, designer Megan Dattoria has developed a range of fidget jewellery (Megan Dattoria 2012). Dattoria’s aim was to redefine the meaning of fidgeting and benefit the user into undertaking positive fidgeting. The collection consists of 12 rings with different mechanisms including push, slide, roll, pivot and tilt. The purpose of the collection Fidget is to ‘increase the focus of individuals with ADHD, as well as the average person.”(Megan Dattoria 2012) I think this body of work is great as of the subtlety of the design as well as its small size, having the ability to be portable and used discreetly.

Slide 2 - Megan Dattoria 2012
Slide 2 – Megan Dattoria 2012

Furthermore, adult colouring books have recently soared in popularity. In particular, the book Secret Garden: An inky treasure hunt and colouring book created by illustrator Johanna Basford has sold 1.4 million copies, in 22 languages since its release in 2013 (SMH 2015). Like the works of Hancock and Dattoria, it aims to reduce levels of anxiety and stress in adults. The adult colouring in books are also being dubbed as the “perfect digital detox” for those staring at screens all day in their work environment (SMH 2015).

A page from
A page from “Secret Garden: An inky treasure hunt and colouring book”
(Amazon 2013)

As the products mentioned above promote positive fidgeting, the stigma associated with fidgeting needs to be removed. Reducing and improving on anxiety, stress and ADHD through the small task of playing with an object is definitely not a negative task to be undertaking on a day to day basis. So at the end of a stressful day…keep on fidgeting!

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