Live Life with an Arm Tied Behind Your Back

As many of you know, I have four wonderful children. And while they mainly provide me with incalculable quantities of joy, they also provide me with two or three daily challenges.

It is one of those challenges I want to talk about today, and it’s a challenge every parent endures whether they have one, two, or ten—the challenge of rarely having both hands free.

Whether I’m at home, at the park, or taking my kids to school, I’ve always got someone in my arm, holding my hand, throwing me a ball, etc.

Having only one hand available can make simple everyday tasks—like pulling groceries out of the car, cooking dinner, or responding to email—extremely difficult, and that difficulty can easily lead to frustration…

…if you let it.

You see, rather than allow it to frustrate me, I’ve turned it into a challenge—something that can benefit both my mind and body.

How do I play?

I force myself to do fine-motor tasks with my non-dominant (left) hand, and everything involving my kids with my dominant (right) hand.

If I’m pushing Lucas in the stroller through Whole Foods, I’m using my left hand to pull items off the shelf and pay at the checkout.

If I’m carrying Chloe in my arms, but Sébastien wants to play catch, I’m using my left hand to toss the ball.

If I’m holding Benjamin’s hand when we’re walking home from school, but I need to message Anna about our dinner plans, I’m using my left hand to unlock the phone and text.

…You get the idea.

By forcing myself to better use my non-dominant hand, I’m doing more than gamifying one of the challenges of being a busy parent—I’m also improving my capacity for deep-thought and self-control.

Evidence suggests that by proactively using your non-dominant hand, you can develop a stronger neurological link between the two hemispheres of the brain. This improved connection helps cultivate new skills, new interests, and deeper, more complex thought.

Researchers have also shown that by intentionally using your non-dominant hand, you can achieve higher levels of self-control—and not just control of your motor skills, but your emotions as well. In one experiment, participants successfully demonstrated better control over their aggression after as little as two-weeks of non-dominant hand use. Do I have a problem with aggression? Not that I’m aware of, but the notion that I can improve my ability to control my emotions simply by making a more proactive attempt to engage the use of my non-dominant hand is too fantastic to pass up.

I’ve even started using my left hand during those rare occasions I don’t have one of my kids hanging off my right arm, like when I’m brushing my teeth, sipping coffee with a client, or using the trackpad on my Mac at work.

The point is, I can feel the positive impact this self-challenge is having on my day-to-day life—I can sense the richer cognitive function—and if you’re willing to try this little experiment for at least four weeks, I bet you will too.