With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), people often have trouble starting and following through with activities like school assignments, chores, and paperwork. This is not due to laziness and is instead a result of symptoms that aren't within a person's control. Thankfully, there are tips and tricks to use to address it. Body doubling is one of them.
Body doubling is a helpful tool for many people with ADHD. It allows individuals to break through the "blocked" feeling they experience when they set out to get things done. It is a common practice that has gained popularity in and outside of the community throughout the years as a productivity strategy. So, what exactly is body doubling? How does it work, and is it effective?
In this article, we'll give a complete overview of body doubling, how it works, and the potential benefits and drawbacks. Then, we'll discuss efficacy, how to find a body double, and alternatives to body doubling for ADHD.
What Is Body Doubling?
Body doubling refers to the simple act of having another person present while you complete tasks. It is not quite the same as ADHD mirroring, though they may sound like similar concepts initially. With body doubling, the other person does not help you with the task directly, nor do you need to work on the same thing. In fact, that is not the idea or goal of body doubling at all. To body double, all you need to do is be in the same room as another person while you both work on something independently. The idea is that, with another person physically present, the distracted person feels responsible and is more apt to be productive. A body double serves as an anchor, helping you focus on and complete tasks. A person may use a body double to help them clean, read, finish homework, or do something else.
How Does ADHD Body Doubling Work?
Often, people with ADHD who use body doubling report that it aids their executive functioning and motivation. It is common to say that body doubling helps a person break out of "ADHD paralysis," which is when an individual with ADHD wants to start a task but executive dysfunction gets in the way. The extra stimulation from another person's presence helps you get going and get things done while shutting out potential distractions. People with ADHD may use body doubling to help with potentially frustrating tasks, boring tasks, and other tasks they have trouble with.
Some benefits of body doubling can be seen just by understanding how body doubling works. Other potential benefits of ADHD body doubling can include but aren't limited to the following.
- A body double may model and promote on-task behavior.
- Often promotes a sense of comfort and calm.
- It can relieve feelings of isolation.
- Many people find it effective.
- It provides accountability.
- Free of cost.
Not everyone will experience drawbacks when they body double, but of course, no two people are alike. Possible drawbacks of body doubling include:
- Potential for distracting social behavior (e.g., chatting instead of working quietly as intended).
- Feelings of embarrassment (e.g., feeling embarrassed about having trouble with a task, or if the task is something like cleaning and the other person present sees the mess beforehand).
- Not always possible.
Is It Effective?
Body doubling itself has not yet been researched. That said, there's a ton of anecdotal evidence, and research does show that social encounters have an effect on dopamine levels in the brain. With this in mind, it makes sense that body doubling would benefit people with ADHD. Additionally, it is hypothesized that parts of the brain involved in time management and planning experience a spike in activity when another person is watching. Just knowing that another person is there can increase an unmotivated person's motivation naturally.
All in all, body doubling is a great tool to add to your box of coping strategies if it works for you. It isn't a treatment, and it doesn't replace medication or other interventions, but for many people with ADHD, personal experience is enough.
Finding A Body Double
A body double might be a family member, friend, or another person in your life. However, a good body double should be able to maintain certain traits. Body doubling works best with someone who:
- Is also working on a task or project.
- Will not distract you.
Your body double doesn't have to work on the same task as you. Body doubles might knit, make art, or write while in the same room, even if you're doing something entirely different. What should you do when you need help and can't find a body double, though? There are other tools that can help you stay focused.
How do I ask someone to body double?
To ask someone to body double with you, explain how body doubling works first. Make sure to tell the other person that the basic idea of body doubling is that you should both work on separate tasks on your own. You might say to family members or friends, "I have some paperwork to get done. Do you have a project you're working on?" Then, ask if they want to sit down and get it done together.
Try Joon As A Way To Manage ADHD Symptoms
If your child has trouble focusing on or following through with tasks, try Joon.
Joon is a to-do app for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and their parents that doubles as a game. Joon aids motivation, focus, and self-esteem while helping kids with ADHD and related disorders finish important tasks.
Here's how it works:
Parents install the Joon Parent App first and make a real-life task list for their children. Task lists are fully customizable and can include activities such as doing homework, bathing, or household chores. You can add as many tasks, also called quests, as you want. Kids use a separate app called Joon Pet Game. When children finish tasks in real life, they get rewards in the Joon Pet Game app that let them take care of a cute virtual pet of their choice.
90% of kids who use Joon finish all of the tasks their parents assign. Joon is rated an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the App Store, with over 3.9k reviews from parents like you. Even better, it's backed by professionals such as teachers, child psychologists, and occupational therapists. Joon is suitable for kids aged 6-12+, regardless of reading level.
Alternatives To Body Doubling
You do not need to body double with the same person every time. Still, you may not realistically always be able to find another person to be your body double. You can still use what you know to support executive function and help yourself get things done. When that's the case, here are some body-doubling alternatives to try:
Body double online
Sometimes, body doubling in person isn't possible. In that case, you can have a virtual body doubling session online or over the phone. Video chat sessions and audio calls both work, but some people may prefer one over the other.
Work in a populated space
Working in a populated space, such as a library, can be grounding and similarly helpful to body doubling. When you work in a populated space, you can experience the presence of another person or other people without finding a specific person to body double with you. The key here is to ensure you pick a place where you'll be able to work distraction-free; a coffee shop, for example, could work for some, but others might find it too loud or distracting.
Use other external tools or stimuli
Other external motivators and stimuli can be helpful for a person with ADHD. Some studies on people with ADHD show that certain noises, like white noise, can promote focus in those with the condition. When it comes to tasks like cleaning, some people find it helpful to listen to podcasts or music. Some approaches might differ based on the specific task you want to finish.
Try other executive function tips
Explore other ways to promote executive function. Outside of body doubling, ADHD-friendly tips like breaking large tasks down into smaller pieces, making a game out of daunting tasks, or using to-do apps to aid self-control and focus can all be valuable.
ADHD symptoms such as trouble focusing and hyperactive behavior can affect a person's ability to start or follow through with tasks. Body doubling is a unique tool a distracted individual might use to help themselves "lock into" and complete tasks. A body double works by serving as a physical anchor and silently motivating a person to follow through on chores, work, school assignments, and other activities. It can also relieve loneliness and provide other benefits. While it hasn't been researched directly, many people with ADHD have found body doubling helpful based on personal experience, and studies show that social interactions can affect dopamine. Some people might face downsides, such as having trouble finding a person to body double with at times. In that instance, a person may use ADHD body doubling alternatives, such as working in a public space or using other executive functioning tips for people with ADHD.