Friday, February 26, 2016

Using the Non-Dominant Hand


Why would anyone want to use their "other" hand when their dominant hand isn't occupied or broken? Isn't life hard enough the way it is? As odd and unnecessary as it sounds, there might be some merit in doing so.

The other day, at work, I was consumed by the darkest, deadliest boredom ever to plague mankind. My job at the standardized testing company involves reading essay after essay, bubbling in score after score, and witnessing the abuse of the English language over and over and over and over. Not sure why I felt more tortured than usual that day, but instead of begrudgingly enduring those few final hours, I decided to throw in a little challenge. I started to bubble in the scores with my non-dominant hand and impersonate a lefty! Why? Wouldn't that cause even more frustration?  Now thinking back on it.....yes, logically, it does sound like an added complication rather than a relief. But at the time, I saw it as a good distraction, something that wouldn't disrupt my work but could make the mundane reality in front of me seem less so.

I held the pencil awkwardly but firmly, the same way I did in kindergarten learning how to write. I kept it in my hand the whole time even while I was just reading. Soon enough, I got eased into the feeling of having something in my left hand, but the challenge of trying to pencil inside the bubbles persisted the entire afternoon. Yes, it slightly slowed down my work process. But no, it didn't make me more frustrated with my job. Using my non-dominant hand, in fact, had a strange calming effect. Instead of rushing through the essays and trying to finish my work day early, I was forced to decelerate both physically and mentally. As a result, I became more focused, more composed, and surprisingly, somewhat more optimistic. This is not to say it turned my humdrum task into a riveting festivity. All it did was render me more impervious to soul-sucking tedium.

After that day, I've done some research on the benefits of using the non-dominant hand. I didn't find a lot of credible websites that discuss it in detail. But among the ones that do, there are two major benefits they all mention and praise. First, it heightens our creativity. According to Jill Bolte Taylor, a well-known neuroanatomist, when a right-handed person utilizes their left hand, it can help them access and stimulate the right hemisphere, the brain area in charge of creativity, spontaneity and intuition. Although I cannot personally attest to this claim since I wasn't doing a creative project during my left-hand experiment, there are many scientists and artists who agree with Dr. Taylor. In fact, a group of comic artists was so inspired by the idea they created a site called "Left-Handed Toons by Right-Handed People."

And second, by using our non-dominant hand, we create a dialogue between the left and right brain hemispheres, which leads to better cognitive performance, a.k.a. the ability to learn and process information. Did I feel more relaxed while grading with my left hand because my cognitive ability was improved, and therefore the run-on sentences and chaotically structured paragraphs in those essays didn't confuse me as much? Hmm.....maybe.

Also, there's another study, conducted by Dr. Thomas Denson of the University of New South Wales, that states the utilization of our non-dominant hand can improve self-control and curb aggression. Well, I wouldn't describe my emotion that day as "aggressive." I wasn't on the verge of throwing my shoe at my supervisor or burning the whole building down. No one was about to get hurt or killed because of my wrath. But yes, during those hours of my lefty impersonation, I was more emotionally composed. 

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