My reasons for attempting to become ambidextrous were many. The first was for combat purposes, as I hoped to be able to punch with the same speed and accuracy on both sides. The second was for preparation, preparation for my right wrist (which is royally screwed) becoming too arthritic to work with. The third was for bodybuilding, to elliminate any lack of symmetry. The fourth was to be able to write this kick-ass article; and the fifth was because I have waaaay too much time on my hands (both hands you could say). It seems to me as well that we are meant to use both hands. When we are first born our brains are evenly weighted on both sides. Over time however our brains become heavily lop sided, with a right-handed person’s brain being far larger on the left (we use the opposite side of our brain when controlling our hands). Twin studies where one is left handed and one is right handed, have proven the cause to be our dominant limb. Having learned about brain plasticity at university I know that this is as a result of our brain ‘adapting’ to use, and that by the same principle we could once again enlarge the side that has fallen into dissuse. Scientists have also suggested that enlarging your brain in this way could have knock on effects improving intelligence or creativity. I’d tried in the past to achieve it using advice from websites and magazines. They suggested doing little things with your weak hand such as brushing your teeth. This is all good and well until your teeth start going green. They also suggest things like holding cups and picking up objects the other way, but the main problem with this is actually remembering to do so as they are such natural everyday activities. The method I adopted this time instead was to write at least a paragraph with my left hand every day. This actually proved rather effective and I noticed a marked improvement over a very shot space of time. I decided to record my findings over a few of weeks.
Day 1 of experiment: My left-hand writing is crappy and slow but I’ve written a whole page of nonsense - part of the problem is knowing what to write. I randomly chose the lyrics from ‘I would walk 500 miles’. That’s probably not even what that’s called. I got all the lyrics wrong. It’s a bit early to report on any improvement yet as I’ve only done it once. I’ve done some reading about it today though and it seems I can expect to possibly become more alert and intelligent but on the downside I may experience depression according to several reports... not cool.
Day 5 of experiment I’m well chuffed. My left-handed writing is already much neater and quicker. It’s also a lot smaller. My Mum saw it the other day and commented that it was better than my right handed writing. Someone else saw it not knowing what it was and didn’t even comment that it was unusual. Five days! My Granddad was ambidextrous so perhaps there’s a bit of genetic-ness in there?
I still notice a big difference between the hands though, and I’m still not at the stage where I could ever really use it. I couldn’t for example take notes while interviewing people at work like this; it would take too long and be illegible. Also the paper tends to move more when I’m using that hand so I still need both hands free. If I continue at this rate I could be done in no time. I wish I’d started before. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to write two separate sentences at the same time. If I can play two different melodies on the piano then why not? Also randomly Nathan from work has started doing it too off his own accord. Strange coincidence. Now I can compare results. To add an interesting twist, he is actually left handed which he apparently learned from his Dad (who became left handed after hurting his right hand). That says to me that it can definitely be learned. I wonder if ‘right’ actually comes from ‘write’ as it’s the side you write with??
Day 12 of experiment Improvement is still continuing, but although I haven't experienced any depression (I don't do depression), I do suspect this is messing with my head somewhat. First of all my head feels sort of tense. I don't really know how to explain it and it could well be a placeabo or coincidence but still it definitely feels like there's something there and it feels worse on days where I have done a lot of left-handed writing. Furthermore, when writing with my left hand I find strange things happen, like I write entirely the wrong word, or I make really weird spelling mistakes. Then the other day while I was talking I said 'that would never happy'. I meant to say 'that would never happen' - that would never happy doesn't make any sense! Whether or not this is related I can only speculate, but as others have reported on psychological effects I suppose that it could well be the cause, and Nathan is describing similar phenomenon too (although I think he may have given up already). Either that or I have alzheimers.
Day 16 of experiment My writing has improved to the stage where I now make notes in my journal with my left hand and they're fairly quick and legible. Despite this however I seem to have hit a plateaux. I still couldn't jot notes with my left hand and it doesn't seem to be rapidly improving anymore. Piss eggs.
Day 20 of experiment The plateaux is still presenting a problem and my writing is consistently 'okayish'. I guess it's that whole 'law of diminishing returns' and that I just need to keep up the hard work. What I have noticed however is that a lot of my other motor-skills have also improved. For example I now can brush my teath with my left hand and my punching has become a lot more powerful. To make the most of this I have swapped to left-handed mouse (just moved it to the other side). This is good training as it a) doesn't have to be fast or accurate, and b) is hard to forget as the mouse is in a funny place.
So that's the story so far. A tale of determination, of joy, sorrow and love. The results aren't perfect yet but it's a massively marked improvement over me three weeks ago. I can now 'feel' my left hand more and I tend to use it more for mundane tasks. It helps with multi-tasking, coordination and several other things besides. I've come to believe that they should teach this in schools when the brain is still at its most subtle (I also think that bodybuilding should be added to the year 1 syllabus though...) I'm now pretty confident that next year back at Uni I'll be taking notes with both hands. I highly recommend you give it ago, even if you only improve as much as I have you'll be glad you did. Next up: Echolocation!