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Why fidget spinners are suddenly everywhere


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Photo: Flickr/fidgetcircle.com

While some high achievers are turning to supplements to help them focus and de-stress, there’s another productivity tool that’s creeping into desk drawers across the country: the fidget spinner.

In a time when tech is absorbing every minute of our time and sanity, this low-tech gadget (that looks like it’s pulled from a Hitchcock film) is hypnotizing us back into calm.

And whether you’ve seen one online or IRL, these palm-sized devices are also shaping up to be the selfie sticks of summer 2017—equally as ubiquitous and polarizing. (Start asking friends and co-workers how they feel about these propeller-like objects that you hold between two fingers, flicking the circular “blades” to make them twirl, and prepare for all the feels.)

Video: YouTube/Best Compilations

So where exactly does this obsession for spinners stem from? They started as a concentration tool for attention-deficit disorders, but evolved into a serious playground craze earlier this year. And now adults, too, are giving them a spin when in the grips of overwhelm, boredom, or deep thought. (Think of them as slightly higher-tech version of a stress ball or a Rubik’s Cube.)

And they’re evoking strong reactions: A quick poll of Team W+G, for instance, garnered everything from extreme excitement to eye rolls—with one editor swearing just the sight of one in motion gives her a headache and another noting that getting the hang, er, spin of things is way harder than it looks.

“People diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety often have an uncontrollable need to move about,” explains therapist Kaity Rodriguez, MSW, LCSW. “This can present major problems, especially for adults who are required to sit for periods of time at work.” If a walking meditation around your office isn’t an option, these tools can satisfy this need for movement. “Adults are using [them] to minimize their bodily fidgeting, help them focus, and be more productive throughout the day,” says psychologist Joe Taravella, PhD.

“When you’re feeling overwhelmed and your brain is too frazzled to keep working, you could use the spinner for a minute as a brain-clearing exercise.”

But do they work? There hasn’t been any research on the effectiveness of spinners, specifically. But studies do indicate fidgeting in general my help increase neurotransmitters that promote focus—if you’ve ever found yourself tapping your foot or repeatedly clicking a pen when in the midst of a big project, that’ll probably sound familiar.

And say your problem isn’t a lack of attention but the opposite. The gadgets can also be used to take a mental time-out between tasks. “When you’re feeling overwhelmed and your brain is too frazzled to keep working, you could use the spinner for a minute as a brain-clearing exercise,” says psychologist and mindfulness expert Erin Olivo, PhD. “It’s repetitive and requires no thinking, so it’s a good [way] to settle back into work.” Hey, if it can help me tackle my post-holiday to-do list, I’m willing to give it a whirl.

For more ways to chill out on the job, you could always try one of these 3 subtle tricks for de-stressing at work in under a minute or, of course: think about vacation.