Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Use It Or Lose It...

Your brain, that is.

Last week I was leafing through a magazine while sitting in a doctor's waiting room. One of the articles in the magazine caught my eye; it was about brain fitness in baby boomers. According to the author, to keep your brain nimble you need to keep learning. When you challenge your brain with new skills and ways of doing things, it increases connections in the brain and improves its effectiveness. Sounded interesting to me, so today I tried doing a normal activity in a different way when I brushed my teeth with my right hand instead of my left.

I'm a confirmed southpaw. Some things I've learned to do right handed, like using a computer mouse. However, most activities are awkward and it takes me longer to do them if I use the "wrong" hand, but I was willing to have the job be a bit more challenging than usual today and use my opposite hand if it meant that I was exercising my brain.

When I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth after breakfast, force of habit caused me to take the brush out of the holder with my left hand. I realized preparing the brush was part of the process, too, so I put the brush back and picked it up with my right hand. I also tackled the toothpaste tube with the opposite hand--my left. It was very awkward; even though I was squeezing the tube with my dominant hand, I ended up with a too much toothpaste on the brush.

Brushing with my right hand was a unique experience. It was actually easier than I thought it would be to do the outside surfaces and tops of my teeth, but the inner surfaces threw me for a loop. I couldn't get the right angle to get everything cleaned. When I was done, I had toothpaste on my chin and all over my lips.

Just to make sure I'd gotten rid of all the plaque-forming materials from my teeth, at the end I switched back to my left hand and did another once-over on all my teeth. I'm not willing to risk a cavity for the sake of exercising my brain!


  1. I brush my teeth with both hands...I guess because it takes me between 5-7 minutes and one hand gets tired. I'm envious of left-handed people...I feel there is a disproportionate number of successful lefties [sports, politics, etc.] - I was left-handed when I was under four years old, but my teacher made me right handed. I still do most sports leftie though.

  2. You must do a much more thorough brushing job than I do!

  3. Wow. I'm sitting here trying to imagine brushing my teeth with my left hand. It sounds very difficult. Good for you!

  4. I will give that opposite hand a try...... but 5-7 minutes! I am usually brushing my teeth while doing another task, such as filling the water in the coffee machine or letting the animals out. Time for me is a precious commodity. I have twins, my daughter is right handed and her brother is left handed. Since they are fraternal I doubt this has anything to do with sharing a birthdate.

  5. I have started trying to do a lot of activities with my non-dominant hand. Even using the mouse on my computer is a bit of a challenge -- really works the brain. And a lot of the activities work muscles I didn't realize I used with my dominant hand.