Body doubling has been something humans have been doing forever as a way to be more productive and to complete tasks efficiently. Psychology just made it sound pretty. It’s important to understand and utilize this method, particularly if you struggle with ADHD.
What is Body Doubling?
Body Doubling refers to partnering with another person (or a group) to complete a task that might be unpleasant or stressful. This is a common tool for people with ADHD, and it’s valuable. While body doubling is frequently done by adults, I think body doubling can be equally beneficial for children if used appropriately.
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This blog is for educational purposes only. This information is best case scenario, at least within the scope of my knowledge and experience at the time I write the post. Not only does everyone have different approaches to parenting and life- and my way may not be your cup of tea, but also- I am not perfect, nor do I want anyone to imagine that I am. Despite being a therapist and having a whole host of really cool techniques for all the mental health related things, I am constantly learning and trying to do better.
I’m hoping that this blog can help you. When we share what works for us, we can help others develop their own toolkit for improving their mental health.
Just keep in mind that what works for one person might not work for another- regardless of similar diagnoses. Therapy arms you with OPTIONS. You get to try those options and figure out what works for you!
Why Would You Want to Use Body Doubling?
Body doubling can be beneficial in a couple of ways.
For unpleasant tasks, body doubling can give you a time limit to complete the task and an accountability partner. If you setup consistent times to complete common tasks (i.e.. studying, cleaning, etc.) with a body doubling partner, you are less likely to get distracted by shiny things and other tasks.
In other cases, people find that they are more confident when others are watching or present. While the task may seem too big to tackle alone, having a person present to help or to at least hold you accountable can help you get started.
I find that I am far braver about trying new things when I have peers around or expecting me to do something.
I like to join body doubling groups vs. having a body doubling partner because one person being gone or busy can quickly derail the body doubling schedule. A group is more likely to have 2 or more people who are available on a given day so you can maintain a schedule and just not join on the days you absolutely cannot. It’s important to save that space for the body doubling sessions if possible though.
In-Person Body Doubling
Many of us have used body doubling in the past. For example, have you ever had a gym partner? You’d meet up every day at the same time to hit the gym? This helped you stay motivated because you didn’t want to let your friend down. While you worked out, you could socialize and it would be a more pleasant activity.
Alternatively, many people get together in college or high school to study in the park. They get a picnic blanket and snacks, and lay their study materials out on a nice day. They don’t chat, but the presence of others helps keep them motivated.
Virtual Body Doubling
Virtual body doubling is a newer thing. It’s a way to connect virtually to hold each other accountable WITHOUT necessarily requiring a lot of social interaction.
A group can get together on a video program such as Zoom or Google Meet, and they start the meeting by discussing their goals for the time period. I attend a business body doubling session each week for 2 hours. We set a timer for 1 hour, then check in at this time. We state how we are doing on our goal and how much we have left. We try to focus on what we have achieved. Then we state our intention for the second half. Once the second half is complete, we do a quick check in and go on our way. When we aren’t checking in, everyone is on mute and working within the camera frame.
I like virtual body doubling because I find I get distracted easily in-person. I like having a set time to work quietly and I LOVE that there’s no substantial required social piece. I get distracted if I have the video on my face so I tend to move the camera so it’s on my arm, not my face. Otherwise I feel like people are watching me and I also lose focus if I see the other people move. Having the camera on my arm keeps it out of my line of vision, takes the pressure off a bit, but not so much that I don’t feel that sense of accountability.
Focused vs. Social Body Doubling
Tasks that Require Focus
I find that tasks that require focus work better for virtual body doubling sessions. The mute function on the video is helpful and there isn’t a social pressure to talk to the other person.
This is good for:
- Making phone calls and scheduling appointments
- Writing for work
- Paying bills
- Going through emails
Tasks that Do Not Require Focus
Tasks that do not require you to focus can be utilized as a social time. This can be reinforcing which is helpful for many people… and I’m going to write a separate post on this at some point, but I was thinking the other day about how we often treat cleanup at events to be a social activity. Women, in particular, are likely to build a sense of community around the necessary tasks and I always get this warm fuzzy feeling when we all come together to chat and clean up. It’s slightly different than the less social aspect of everyone trying to speed through cleaning up to get to the next thing. Both result in the work getting done- and that’s great. But there’s a lot of reinforcement to social time IF you want social time. Sometimes I want to socialize and it’s reinforcing… and other times, I love the virtual, everyone on mute option.
This is good for:
- Editing Photos (depending on your skill level)
- Washing Dishes/Laundry
- Self Care
- Weeding/planting/landscaping (any silent tasks, anyways)
- Sewing (by hand)
- Weeding vinyl
- Horseback riding
- Pet care
I really like to use times when I’m forced to sit still at the computer to work on tasks like organizing and cleaning my desk (cough, PTA meetings). I’ve installed fencing and weeded my garden while on phone calls (via a headset). If you have virtual appointments with your therapist or other doctors, you may be able to clean up or declutter during the call. Sometimes I will do self care stuff while ‘body doubling.’ I.e. I’ll sit outside with the rabbits or guinea pigs to practice deep breathing while I’m on a stressful call.
You want to be mindful of any safety issues. I don’t cut wood while on the phone. I’m not going to climb up to do roofing on the phone. But I do enjoy doing tasks like roofing with a partner nearby to chat with… and to catch me if I fall (wink).
Again, remember that this isn’t for everyone. You need to be able to check in with yourself and figure out what works or doesn’t work. Be open to trying new things or tweaking your plans to work better for you. If you need social time, but also need to focus, body double with a friend and end the session with a 15 minute chat. It can reward the work done, and also allow you to do some scheduled self care!