I Got Rhythm, I Got Music…Who Could Ask for Anything More?
My whistling, singing, and humming get my family and me through the day on a happy, productive note – and help me cope with attention deficit by increasing my focus and concentration.
From the moment I wake up, until the time I go to bed, I hum, whistle, or sing. I am a creative, artistic soul who has always enjoyed music. I haven’t thought much about my humming or singing. It’s part of who I am. I never suspected that my brain was trying to keep me focused.
I first heard the term “verbal fidget” several months back when my daughter’s first-grade teacher told me that Nevie had difficulty staying quiet in class. She blurted out nonsense, rhyming words and (gasp!) humming during a lesson.
I thought about this, and it hit me! I hum a lot, too. I started to notice how much I do it while I work. I’m a Snow White, minus the forest friends. I realized that I’m a verbal fidgeter, just like my daughter.
My humming is my engine noise. If I’m humming or whistling, I know the machine is working. The soundtrack of my life is filled with all kinds of music: top 40, classic rock, musical and movie soundtracks, even children’s music. It all goes through my head, and, apparently, it helps me focus. I notice that I do it when I am busy. Mornings are especially musical: get the lunches made; prepare breakfast; wake up the kids; remind them to check folders and backpacks; get everyone out the door on time. My engine is humming, and my brain is focused.
I can be quiet, but it is easier for me to control that impulse than it is for my seven-year-old. I think, like most people with ADHD, I need help focusing when I am not motivated or interested in the task at hand. Therefore, most of my “fidgeting” happens when I am busy with physical or mundane tasks, like folding laundry or cleaning the toilet.
There are times when I need to turn off my own noise, my inner music. Why, you ask, does a person who hums to help herself focus – albeit subconsciously – have to turn off the music when it’s time to focus on certain work? My theory is that we need different levels of focus, depending on the tasks we take on. When I’m working and relying on my brain to produce clear thoughts, my own humming or whistling is too distracting. I need to hear my voice, and if that voice is already occupied with a song, that’s asking too much of my brain.
These are the times when some “outer music” saves the day. Classical music, although complex and beautiful, acts like “background noise” that takes the place of my fidget. It engages my brain like the fidget, but it feels “quiet” because the sound is not coming from me.
Classical music gives me a break from my internal noise. When I am not working and just relaxing, I listen to classical music-my brain doesn’t have to think about lyrics or melody. If I know the song, I will sing along, so classical music affords my brain a rest if I need it. I love that feeling.
My family doesn’t get too annoyed by my musical fidgets. My daughter will ask me to stop singing so she can hear a song on the radio. My mother has commented, “Do you even know that you’re humming right now?” I annoy myself sometimes, especially when I get a song stuck in my head and I can’t switch it off. I suppose my ADHD children are too busy making their own noises to be bothered by it. I asked my husband about it once and he replied, “I just thought you were happy.”
If my musical fidgets make everyone think I am happy, and I can share a little happy with my family, that’s good.
Music is important to our family. Upbeat popular music helps us speed-clean on a Saturday. We’ll dance to music to release a little energy. We’ll put on jazz or classical during dinner to relax. Music helps me crank out dinner faster and go farther on a run. Lullabies at bedtime help my little darlings fall asleep.
There are many studies suggesting that music helps the brain. One study showed that listening to music stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives and motivates us. Music is good for ADHDers, who usually need a little nudge to get started on a task.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put on some Mozart, so I can stop singing “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie.
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Updated on September 3, 2020