Before the spinner, my ritual for coping with being nervous was peeling and picking at my cuticles, a painful but bizarrely comforting habit. Behavioral scientists Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton, writing in Scientific American in 2013, said that “even simple rituals can be extremely effective,” and “despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome . . . many everyday rituals make a lot of sense and are surprisingly effective.” I’ve just replaced my picking ritual with a fidget spinner.
I have also found that the spinner helps me focus. It helps me concentrate on the people I’m talking to, for example, not the wallpaper behind them or the mirror to their left. I can think more clearly and assess situations better when I’m twiddling one of the toys. I think ADHD gives me a tendency to lose my temper, and the fidget spinner helps me calm down, giving me a crucial second before I yell at my kids to clean up these toys or they are losing them to the Great Big Black Garbage Bag.