January 20, 2012 | Barb Carr

Career Development: How to "Play" Attention

At a recent training, I was curious as to why there were a dozen colorful “fidget” toys strewn around the tables.  To me, they seemed like a distraction.  Later I learned that people focus better and absorb information faster if they have something to do with their hands.

If you are having a hard time focusing on a task at work, fidgeting with a desk toy may provide stimulation your mind is craving, calming your brain and helping you get the task finished.

Stress balls may also ease office stress.  The simple process of acute muscle tension and relaxation as you squeeze and release the ball flushes out muscle tension and, thus, helps you feel calmer.

According to Stressfocus.com:

There is stimulation of nerves in the hands. These nerves carry the signal to different areas in brain especially the limbic area which is linked with emotions. This mechanism is similar to the popular Chinese method of ‘Acu pressure’ for treating health problems. Moreover stimulation of brain also results in the production of endorphins which act as natural pain relievers and as sedatives.

Fidget toys may also be used to help when creative solutions are needed.  Office brainstorming sessions are typically very “left-brained” and creative solutions require using the whole brain and the whole person … so fidgeting with desk toys can invite the creative right brain into the solution.

You may notice you tap your finger, shuffle paperwork or doodle when you are talking on the phone at work or are in a meeting.  A fidget toy provides the same relief and may be less distracting to others.

Not all fidget toys work the same for all people.  People who enjoy tactile input will prefer a bumpy fidget, while others will prefer a smooth stress ball they can squeeze.   If you decide to try it, you may need to try various types to see which helps you play attention the best.

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