How Do Fidget Spinners Work?

Posted by Mai B on

The Real Science: How Do Fidget Spinners Work

They've appeared seemingly overnight, prompting many to be skeptical when people make claims.

They help improve focus for those with ADHD.

They can reduce anxiety symptoms.

They eliminate stress.

Oh, and they're a lot of fun.

How do fidget spinners work? will help us better distinguish between the facts and fiction.

Let's take a closer look at the science behind fidget spinners.


The Physics Behind The Fidget

The basis for the fidget spinner is inertia. We've all heard the saying "an object in motion stays in motion".

The mass (basically the weight) of an object and where that mass is positioned on the object affect how long an object can continue to move in the same direction after a force (you or me) has spun it.

Mass and the distribution of mass also determine the amount of force necessary to stop or change that rotational direction.

Shifting the position of fidget spinner in various vertical, horizontal and diagonal positions affects the relationship of one point of mass (e.i., one of the blades) to the other, impacting how the spinner reacts.

When someone does fidget tricks, they're using physics to adjust their movements and the fidgets -- even if they don't realize it.

The ability of a fidget spinner to spin for such a long time with minimal interaction is what makes them such great tools in helping those who are managing certain conditions.


The Neurology Behind How Fidgets Work

While fidgets may be annoying to others who just don't understand, there's some solid science that answers the question: how do fidget spinners work?

Fidgets fill a very basic need that humans have to constantly interact with the environment.

How boring is it to sit still for an hour or more listening to, or watching, something without any interaction? How common is this in many modern settings such as

  • The classroom
  • Meetings
  • Retail and Other Service Jobs (when it's slow)

When this need isn't met our brains wander into places like:

  • La la land
  • Daydream world
  • Thoughts about the past
  • Anticipation for the future

and even

  • Nap time

They can become:

  • Anxious
  • Fatigued
  • Stressed
  • Distracted

Before fidget spinners, we filled this need by fidgeting, activities we could do while still staying relatively still. Common fidgeting activities include:

  • Using stress balls
  • Pen-clicking
  • Humming
  • Doodling 
  • Leg-shaking

Along with the more harmful:

  • Pulling out hair
  • Nail biting
  • Picking at furniture or clothing

Regardless of how we perceive the above activities, research has shown that they help us pay attention.

Taking frequent breaks to get up and walk around, playing games on our phone or check our email can help also.  But these activities have two major flaws.

  1. They actually distract us from what we're doing
  2. They aren't always feasible

We need an activity that keeps us present focused without drawing all of our focus away from the reason we "need to sit still"

How do fidget spinners work any differently?

When used as a focus tool -- not as a toy, doing tricks -- the constant rhythm of the spinning the fidget feeds that human need to be doing something physical without distracting us from what we need to do.

The fidget may distract the part of your brain that wants to move around so that the rest of your brain can focus on the task at hand.

If you want to use a fidget spinner for focus, however, save the tricks for other settings.

We definitely recommend tricks, especially if we incorporate physical activity. But that is a different use for the device.


How Do Fidget Spinners Work Can Help Manage Specific Conditions

There are several conditions for which studies show that fidget spinners can be of aid.

It's important to realize that they aren't a cure for any disease. They can simply help in the management symptoms of certain conditions.

ADHD & Focus

Fidget spinners can help those who need to focus on filling that need to move as described above without distracting them from what they need to focus on.

Research shows that "fidget widgets" like fidget spinners can improve memory and focus by mindlessly "entertaining" the part of our brain that wants to move, leaving the rest of us to a task.


Fidget spinners may help those suffering from anxiety in the moment by giving them the comfort of ritual behaviors, allowing them to stay more present focused.

Anxiety is a build up of excess fear energy in the body caused by trauma. Those with anxiety often focus on bad past experiences or anticipate future troubles.

Or they may have negative internal scripts that make it difficult to do certain things of talking to certain people.

Ritual behaviors like using a fidget spinner take the focus outside of their heads, allowing them to focus on an external but relatively easy task.

This is not a long term fix for anxiety by any means. But can help with day to day management. 


When we're stressed, we just need to decompress and relax. But if we've been hyper-focused on a task for a long time, it can be hard to turn it off.

How do fidget spinners work to help people manage stress?


They bring people into the present moment as they focus on something other than work and life.

The repetitive motion is very soothing and meditative. Once the head is cleared from stress we can begin re-cooperating so we're ready to tackle the next task or day at work.

Nail-Biting/Bad Habits

For those of us who compulsively nail bite have other habits due to anxiety or other causes, fidgeting devices like fidget spinners have been shown to occupy the mind.

How do fidget spinners work to help with habits like nail-biting?

They refocus the energy that normally goes toward yucky habits like nail biting toward something less harmful.

Still Wondering: How do Fidget Spinners Work?

It's time to try out a fidget spinner for yourself. They can reduce anxiety and stress, help you beat bad habits, improve your focus and they're fun.

Don't wait. Check out our wide selection of fidget spinners today.