Can't sit still (don't want to)
Written with one leg bouncing like crazy. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
Hello, Understandably! Kate here today while Bill continues his well-deserved summer sojourn.
I have to admit, getting my brain together to write these intros is a challenge—I’m never quite sure whether to try to say what Bill might; go on my own tangent; or keep to the facts and just the facts.
This time, obviously, we’ve gone with Option #2. And as I’m writing, I’m noticing just how antsy that choice is making me. Which leads us to today’s topic, conveniently enough…
Had trouble focusing lately? You’re not alone. The stress of the pandemic, coupled with new routines and the shift to working from home, has led to a massive uptick in anxiety, depression, and other issues.
We’re all restless. What to do about it? It turns out intentionally being more restless might help—at least for some people.
Even though people who find themselves super-distracted in this time often don’t have clinical neurological differences, research on ADHD may hold one of the keys.
According to Harriet Dempsey-Jones, a clinical neuroscience researcher at Oxford, one of those tricks might be to fidget.
The idea is that using senses other than the primary one you need for a particular task can activate different parts of the brain, releasing additional neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. That, in turn, boosts the primary sense you need to accomplish whatever it is you’re working on.
Basically: use touch to improve listening comprehension, and so on.
The research here is still in preliminary phases, but don’t you just love that there is an entire cohort of researchers working on this?
In 2018, researchers from the University of Santa Cruz and New York University conducted a three-month study to figure out the fidgeting habits of grade school students. Among their findings: Everybody fidgets.
All of the children in our study were found to fidget. Even if one source (a parent or the child himself/herself) responded that a particular child did not fidget, we always heard from another that said child does indeed fidget, along with a description of when, why, and the properties inherent in the fidget items that said child uses.
For a more work-related study, consider this one from 2009 out of the University of Plymouth in the UK, which suggested doodling while on a telephone conference call helped participants remember more details from the call.
Researchers here asked 40 participants to listen in on a “monotonous mock telephone message” and to try to remember a series of names that were mentioned during the call.
Those who doodled remembered 29% more names afterward. (It’s a pre-pandemic study, so they were on a conference call; maybe some of you can try this for us on Zoom and let us know if it works.)
So, where does that leave us? Three words: fidgeting with intention.
Attention researcher Katherine Isbister of UC Santa Cruz says, “The fidget items most therapists recommend can be used without looking and don’t attract other people’s attention too much with motion or noise.”
In other words: fidget to improve your focus, but not in a way that breaks everyone else’s concentration on that boring Zoom call. A few practical ideas:
Tapping your toes inside your shoes
Walking or pacing (might be harder during Zoom, but turn off the camera)
Wearing a highly textured piece of jewelry and running a finger over it
Squeezing a rubber ball, Silly Putty, or stress clay
Looping a rubber band over two fingers and stretching them apart
Taking notes with multiple colors of pen or highlighter
Putting on a playlist designed to mimic ambient noise from a café, office, or elsewhere
Call for comments: Do you have any techniques you’ve used to stay focused when you just cannot anymore? Or a notebook full of doodles? Share in the comments!
7 other things worth your time
The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander. He discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said. (AP)
It’s official: Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon on Monday, handing over the reins to Andy Jassy, who has been running Amazon's cloud-computing business. (CBS News)
An NHL player was killed in a July 4 fireworks accident. Officials say Matiss Kivlenieks, 24, a goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who was from Latvia, died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast, which triggered major damage to his heart and lungs. (ESPN)
The governing body for competitive swimming has forbidden a British competitor from using a swim cap designed for natural Black hair because it “doesn’t conform to the natural shape of the head.” (Here’s what the caps look like.) (Guardian, SoulCaps)
Pandemic restrictions on travel between Canada and the U.S. began to loosen Monday for some Canadians, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said plans to totally reopen the border would be announced over the next few weeks. (AP)
Joey Chestnut wins yet another Nathan's hot dog eating championship. (HuffPost)
Art or eyesore? Owner and town come to a settlement over a very elaborate "Flintstones house" in California. (Guardian)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.