The Benefits of a Simple Hand-Switch.
Have you ever sat down at your desk and realized you have no memory of how you got there? Arrived home from the store and can’t remember your drive or walk? Don’t be alarmed—you’re not forgetful. When you do something that is very routine, your brain simply commits it to memory. You’ve done it so many times, you just don’t need to think about it anymore. This is really efficient (thanks, brain!) but can also be detrimental for your brain stimulation.
Like your drive or subway commute to a familiar place, your morning and evening routines are probably something you don’t remember too much of. These habits, including teeth brushing, are so wired into our normal schedules that we often rush through them without thinking. But by mixing up these routines, we can not only improve our brain stimulation; we can also improve our fine motor skills.
Mix it up
Once our brains are wired a certain way, it becomes challenging to make a change. If you’ve grown comfortable writing with your right hand, why would you attempt writing with your left? While we don’t encourage you to abandon your dominant hand—there’s a reason you developed a dominant and helper hand as a toddler—we do encourage you to try to switch hands from time to time. Although it’s awkward, it signals to your brain that it needs to work. This restimulates the brain, and can even cause it to grow new cells. The simple hand-switch keeps the brain sharp, which can help slow age-related memory and motor skill loss.
The next time you step up to the sink to brush your teeth, flip flop your routine. If you’re right-handed, hold your toothbrush in your right hand and apply your toothpaste with your left. Then, place your toothbrush in your left hand, and brush. Lefties, do the reverse.
You’ll notice right away that this is very challenging. It might even feel silly. It’s just a sign of your brain doing the work to figure out how to do something new. Switching up your routine several times a week encourages your brain to continue firing and growing.
In addition to stimulating your brain, switching hands when you brush will help you revitalize your long-established fine motor skills. First and foremost, you’re using muscles you rarely use, giving them a workout. And like other activities, practicing helps you refine your skills. Secondly, brushing is a precise activity. You move your toothbrush in small movements—up and down, around in a circle, back and forth. All of these little movements force your hand and fingers to work together. In order to do this with your non-dominant hand, you’ll need to work slowly, thoughtfully, and deliberately. This will help you become more efficient at using your left hand, so when you’re doing activities that require the use of both hands, you’ll be much more successful than when you leaned on one dominant hand. Having your hands share more of the work, even while they retain their dominant-helper split, helps improve your bilateral coordination, which is something your brain has been working on since you were a toddler.
Using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth can also spark your creativity, and encourages both sides of your brain to work together. Regular use of your opposite hand can also help improve your grip strength in that hand, because it’s so often underused. This will help you more evenly distribute the work between your left and right—the next time someone needs help opening a jar, you might jump at the chance.
Routine Changes Shouldn’t Be Routine
When you embark on your teeth brushing change, be sure not to fall into old routine habits. That is, don’t switch hands on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays every week. Keep mixing up your schedule, and keep challenging your brain (and opposite hand!) to try new things.
While you’re changing up your routines, it’s probably time to ditch your old toothbrush and get a new kit. Check out goby.co for more info.