If you lost the use of your dominant hand through accident, injury or stroke, would you be able to do with the non-dominant hand the normal, everyday things you need to do? Most of us are not able to use either hand equally well. According to mentalfloss.com , only one percent of people in the world are ambidextrous.
I learned at an early age the value of what I call “other-handedness” or the ability to use your non-dominant hand. My dad was ambidextrous. He usually wrote right-handed and usually threw a ball left-handed, but he could write and throw equally well with either hand. And, he could butter a slice of bread with either hand and not tear a hole in the bread. I never knew for sure how he got that way. I think when he started school he tried to write left-handed, and his teacher made him change. It seems a lot of teachers did that in those days.
I found out the value of my dad’s dexterity when my mother told me it was responsible for his success. Being able to feed material into a machine with both hands got him a promotion to a white-collar job in time-study engineering, and he never looked back.
I don’t know if I’m naturally right-handed, but I’m right-handed nonetheless. Remembering my dad’s success, I’ve always thought it would be helpful to be ambidextrous. And, the value of learning to be “other- handed” really came home to me a few years ago after a couple of my close friends had strokes. Because of partial paralysis on one side, both of them became severely limited in what they were able to do. They both became dependent on the hand they rarely used. I’m no expert, but I believe that both of them could have benefited by being able to perform basic tasks using their non-dominant hand.
With that in mind, here are some things I’ve tried to do to improve my “other-handedness”:
- Eat a bowl of soup.
- Work a crossword puzzle.
- Hammer a nail. (With care!).
- Throw a ball.
- Comb my hair.
- Brush my teeth.
- Shave. (Again, with care!)
- Make a peanut butter sandwich.
- Hit a golf ball.
If you’ve tried any of these, you know how difficult they can be. And, it takes a lot of effort to get better. The one thing I do left-handed on a regular basis is work the daily crossword puzzle. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years, and I’m proud to say my printing is quite legible. I am also an avid golfer, and I now keep a left-handed six-iron in my bag (within the 14 club limit, of course) for those pesky shots from the wrong side of a tree, or to avoid having to stand in a water hazard.
Aside from the benefits of giving my brain a workout, which, according to livestrong.com, it definitely does, there is a very practical side to these exercises if I ever lose the use of my dominant hand. I hope that ever happens, but being able to adapt, brings me much confidence and peace of mind.