A Neuroscientist Explains How Your Nondominant Hand Can Bolster Brain Health
Here at mindbodygreen, we're always interested in discovering new ways to bolster brain health. Brain teasers? Sign us up. Brain-supporting foods? Yes, please! So when neuroscientist and author of Biohack Your Brain Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., shared a few daily hacks to keep your brain sharp on the mindbodygreen podcast, we were all ears.
One of her go-to methods? Writing with her nondominant hand. Read on for the benefits of this simple brain exercise.
Why a neuroscientist wants you to write with your nondominant hand.
"Every single day I learn a new word," says Willeumier. (She uses the Merriam-Webster app.) "And then what I do is I practice writing it with my nondominant hand." It's a fun exercise to train your mind and take you out of your comfort zone—which Willeumier notes is stellar for remaining sharp.
Plus, "when you start writing with your nondominant hand, you will start drinking with your nondominant hand, you'll start brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand," she notes. These small changes may not seem like much, but it's a sign that your brain is making new connections rather than staying complacent. "New learning is about stepping outside of your comfort zone. We like to call it stretching your neurons," she adds.
Granted, there's still much to learn about the topic, but there is some research that shows the learning benefits of writing with your nondominant hand: In one study, right-handed participants set out to draw with their left hands and experienced significant improvements in their abilities after less than 200 minutes of practice1, demonstrating the brain's ability to strengthen novel connections with the body. And the link between learning and brain health is well documented, too. In fact, research has found learning new skills can enhance memory function in older adulthood2.
So perhaps take Willeumier's recommendation: "Learn a new word today, practice writing it with your nondominant hand, [and] teach it to your friend." A pretty simple task in the name of a healthy brain, no?
By introducing new activities, you can create new connections in your brain. Consider trying out this exercise, and check out even more ways to support your brain health here.
Olivia Giacomo is mbg's Social Media Associate. A recent graduate from Georgetown University, she has previously written for LLM Law Review.