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How To Develop Ambidexterity

November 12, 2012

Besides being cool and impressing your friends, developing ambidexterity balances your neurological system and grows the connection between the two sides of your brain.  Here are some practices you can implement in your daily life to develop this capacity.

Look For Opportunities

There are all kinds of opportunities in our regular activities where we can use our off hand without significant loss of overall functioning.  Activities that provide leeway with the results are ideal.  For example, I make a habit of using my off hand whenever I eat with flatware or chopsticks, brush my teeth, or play ping pong.  Other opportunities might include putting away the dishes, cleaning, and operating household appliances.  In general, notice when you are using your dominant hand (or foot) habitually, and ask yourself if you could manage to use your off side for that activity.

Learn New Things On Your Off Side

Whenever you learn to do something new, you will usually be equally bad at it with either side, so why not take the opportunity to develop your off side, since there is no noticeable difference?  For example, when I took my first art therapy class I wasn’t used to drawing, so I started out with my off hand, with no loss of effect, and possibly some actual improvement.  Other examples might be learning to use a new tool or musical instrument, or learning new techniques in sports or martial arts.  Start out with your off side until it feels comfortable, and then develop your dominant side if you want to.  As Mestre Cobra Mansa, who founded the International Capoeira Angola Foundation, has said, “Most people practice ten times on their good side for one time on their bad side.  You should practice ten times on your bad side for one time on your good side.”

Make A Daily Writing Habit

Besides being good for lots of other things, a daily writing habit can be an opportunity to develop finely-tuned manual dexterity on your off side.  I keep a daily log of life parameters that I want to keep track of, such as personal development, relationships, diet and exercise, work, and finances, and using my off hand to write with is part of the practice.  Other positive daily writing habits are journaling, free association, or affirmations.

Be Patient And Intentional

Developing ambidexterity is a practice that can be frustrating, especially if you are focused more on results than on the process.  It takes the right mixture of patience and intentionality to make progress.  It takes time for results to develop, but you can’t make progress on autopilot; you have to actively engage your entire body and mind with what you are doing in order to develop coordination.  The practice pays off on many levels, however, and you might just be surprised at some of the benefits that surface from it.

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