How to Focus

“The Fidgets That Engage My ADHD Brain”

ADDitude readers recently told us which fidgets they use to block out distractions, fight boredom, and increase productivity when their ADHD brains need more, more, more stimulation.

fidgeting, adult fidget toy

From phone pacing and leg shaking to hair twirling and ring twisting — there’s a common theme uniting many of ADDitude readers’ favorite fidgets: motion. “Mindless” movements and activities like these stimulate ADHD brains and help them block out distractions, fight boredom, and increase productivity.

Fidgeting even makes tedious chores and monotonous tasks tolerable, according to the ADDitude readers who recently shared their go-to fidget activities — from doodling (most mentioned) to counting letters in people’s words (most inventive) — and recommended their favorite fidget toys. Pop It, anyone?

Do you knit while watching TV? Chew gum while studying? What fidgeting technique helps you focus? Share your favorite ways to fidget in the Comments section below.

“I am a definite phone pacer! I am notorious for getting a few thousand steps in with a longer phone call.” — An ADDitude Reader

“Yes! I have a giant box of fidget toys. My favorites are Tangles and Pop Its. I am 27 and have no shame in needing fidget toys to focus and regulate my sensory processing issues.” — Kelly, New Jersey

[Free Guide: How Fidgets Improve ADHD Behavior]

“If I’m listening to a public lecture, I will often create acronyms of things I hear. Suppose I’m at home listening to a webinar. In that case, I may doodle, spin in my chair, bounce my knee, crochet, or rearrange nearby things. Being still is torture.” — Diane, Hawaii

“I have always had a strange habit of counting out the letters in people’s words. It helps me focus on what’s being said. I tap them out on the back of my hand!” — An ADDitude Reader

“Though I’ve been counseled to avoid multitasking, I feel this strong compulsion to play games on my phone. This has become my fidget when I’m in line, in the drive-through, during conversations, at traffic lights… I can hardly stand to do one thing at a time. ” — Val, Texas

“I’m 40 years old and have always needed to shake and bounce my right leg whenever I sit and do something. Now I realize it’s my fidget and way of keeping myself stimulated and focused while working.” — An ADDitude Reader

[Self-Test: Do I have ADHD?]

“I always doodle when taking notes. It keeps me interested enough in what is being discussed, but my mind can wander on the page via my drawings. Bonus, I can explain a concept to myself visually if needed.” — Nicole, Ohio

“I do an easy or moderately difficult Sudoku puzzle while talking on the phone, and I listen to the radio or a podcast while doing chores around the house, like ironing, loading the dishwasher, or when I take a shower.” — An ADDitude Reader

“It’s not preferred, but skin picking is what I end up doing most of the time. Sometimes I listen to instrumental music. No lyrics; that would be too distracting.” — An ADDitude Reader

I often mindlessly play with my hair, twirling it around my finger when reading, watching movies, or even while driving. Usually, I don’t realize I’m doing it. I also have magnetic fidget toys, but they can be loud. Again, I don’t realize how loud until someone nearby tells me. I also must have music on while in my office at work. I tell my boss (who also has ADHD) that if I didn’t give the monkey in my brain something to do while I’m working, we’d all be in trouble.” — Christina, Arizona

“Alcoholism is part of my story, and knitting is my preferred ‘fidget,’ especially when I’m in one of my AA meetings. I hear the speaker more clearly and can listen much more effectively if I knit. If I don’t, my mind goes off in a thousand other directions, or I get the urge to stand up, get coffee, go ‘breathe’ outside, or go to the bathroom (even if I don’t need to!). Knitting engages my mind just enough that I can only do one other thing i.e., listen to something really important!” — Susan, Australia

“Music. I use music to get through most activities that I either dislike or require concentration. Listening to music is how I’ve managed to get my university degrees. People say you can’t listen to music with lyrics and type an essay or revise an essay simultaneously. I wholeheartedly disagree. This alone should have probably indicated that I might have ADHD.” — An ADDitude Reader

“I love to doodle! Steno pads and Gelly Roll pens allow me to doodle and listen at the same time. I also really appreciate fidget rings or just rings in general. I can discreetly twist them or spin them without much disruption.” — An ADDitude Reader

“When I have no audience, I click pens, shred paper, make noises, talk to myself, or tap my fingers. When I’m holding my restlessness down (like at work) but still have energy, I swivel in my chair, itch my arms or legs, run my fingers through my hair (or put my hair up and down), munch on something crunchy, or twirl something around my finger.” — An ADDitude Reader

“I am a 41-year-old nurse and a single mom of two boys. I will be on the phone with patients and doodle on a notepad or color. Yes, I keep a mini coloring book in my office. I have always done things like this.” — Jami, Texas

Fidgeting for ADHD Focus: Next Steps

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