Most of us perform nearly all of our daily tasks with one particular hand, whether it’s eating, turning a doorknob, or brushing our teeth. This is called hand dominance, and it’s established when we’re quite young.
As toddlers (2½–3 years old), we start showing a preference for what will become our dominant hand. By focusing on hand preference, toddlers are able to develop their fine motor skills with more precision. Take scissor skills, for example. When toddlers are learning how to cut shapes out of paper, they use one hand to hold the paper steady while the other hand scissors along the lines of the shape. Performing this task over and over with the same hand helps them master this basic skill before moving on to increasingly intricate scissors skills.
The same is true for other everyday tasks. As toddlers grow, they need to become proficient at tasks such as handwriting, feeding themselves, and brushing their teeth—all valuable skills that must be learned on the road to independence. Encouraging the use of their preferred hand to practice helps them master such skills more quickly.
If hand dominance is so crucial, why on earth would your brain want you to brush your teeth with your nondominant hand? Well, you haven’t been a toddler in quite some time. (Just a guess.) That means you’ve been performing these tasks pretty mindlessly for years now. When you were a toddler, you were learning a set of brand new skills—and your brain sure does love to learn.
Why? Because putting the time and energy into learning something new changes your brain, in a good way. Acquiring knowledge helps form neural pathways in your brain that you didn’t have before. As we perform these tasks over and over, those pathways become stronger and less likely to misfire, which prevents your brain from becoming stagnant.
Brain cell deterioration is a real thing, my friends. You can learn more about this in Maria Atwood’s interview with Dr. Bruce Fife, which she writes about in her blog post “Forgetfulness: Are You Afraid You’re Losing It?”
Among the topics that Maria discusses with Dr. Fife:
- The difference between forgetfulness, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
- The impact stress and sugar have on brain cell deterioration.
- How choosing quality sources of energy helps keep your brain healthy.
The health of your brain has a huge impact on your overall quality of life. If doing something as easy as brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand can play a role in keeping your brain firing on all cylinders, isn’t it worth it? Once you’ve mastered that skill with your nondominant hand, switch things up with other everyday tasks—notes you leave for your family to empty the dishwasher, drawing or painting a picture, or even just zipping up your pants.
Trust me, your brain wants you to brush your teeth with your “other” hand. It’s that simple.