Recently I had surgery on my right hand, leaving me essentially left-handed for these past few weeks. I have been taking it on as a challenge and I have been working on my dexterity and strength on my once weaker side. Besides improving my strength and dexterity on my left side, I have also found that there are other benefits that you get from using your non- dominant hand and I thought I would share those with you.
Regardless of which hand you prefer, your preferred hand is hooked up to the opposite side of your brain. Your right hand is connected to your left brain, the side responsible for language, judgment and intellect. The left side is connected to your right brain, the source of creativity, perception and empathy.
Since our hands are connected to our brains, we can stimulate our brains by stimulating our hands. The process utilizes brain plasticity, our brain’s ability to change at any age for better or worse.
Here are the best reasons to routinely use your other hand:
- Increase Your Creativity
Because brain mapping shows that creativity is housed in the right hemisphere of our brains, experts say we can stimulate this right brain through working with our non-dominant hand. This also works for lefties, as studies indicate that one hemisphere is active when we use our dominant hand, but both hemispheres are activated when we use our non-dominant hand.
In this way, we can use the combination of our two hands to create new connections between our ears. “By its design, our right mind is spontaneous, carefree and imaginative. It allows our creative juices to flow free without inhibition,” according to Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a neuroanatomist with the Indiana University School of Medicine. “If creativity is located in your non-dominant hemisphere, then using your non-dominant hand may stimulate those cells,” she says.
Another national expert, Lucia Capacchione, has done research which shows that, regardless of which hand we favor, writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand gives greater access to the right hemispheric functions like feeling, intuition, creativity, and inner wisdom and spirituality. “When a dialog occurs between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, both emotions and thoughts are more fully expressed and understood,” according to her website. Her book The Power of Your Other Hand gives a nine-step process for accessing our creative centers by using our other hand.
- The Brain Benefits
Beyond the jumpstart in creativity, using the other hand helps your brain to better integrate its two hemispheres, experts say. “There is research that musicians who use both hands have about a 9 percent increase in the size of their corpus callosum [the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres], so certainly using both hands create more transfer,” says Hale, who works primarily with children with cognitive challenges, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. “One could argue that this increase in exchange between the hemispheres could benefit intelligence or processing,” he says.
- Be More Open Minded
It seems that our dominant hand may have a hand in our life choices, too. Studies show that we often favor things that fall on our preferred side and discard those on our clumsy side. A recent Stanford University study by David Casasanto backs up this handy theory. Participants were asked to imagine they were hiring personnel for a new company and purchasing new items. They were asked to make hiring and purchasing decisions based on brief descriptions of candidates and items arranged in columns on the right and left side of a page. Results showed that right-handers were more than twice as likely as left-handers to choose candidates and items described on the right side of the page. Left-handers preferred candidates on the left.
- Balance out your body
Most of us have some imbalances in our physiques from left to right. These aren’t usually desirable, often resulting in postural problems and various other ailments that can be avoided with some balancing out. While it’s not necessarily true that something low-impact like brushing your teeth with the same hand every day is causing a muscular imbalance, more complex actions might well be. If you always use your mouse with your right hand, does that cause you to lean a certain way in your chair most of the time? Do you always sleep on the same shoulder? Shift your weight to the same foot?
Just like with higher-energy exercise like weight lifting, it’s worth paying attention to how balanced you are in your everyday movements. They may well be impacting you more than you realize now.
You do not need to injure your hand to get all of these benefits and achieve these same results, you just need to consciously start using your non-dominant hand. I suggest start with brushing your teeth and then slowly add in other daily activities. Your brain and body will thank you for becoming more “balanced”.
I am looking forward to getting back to work and helping my patients feel and function better and showing off my new skills with my left hand. If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org