A simple but challenging experiment could produce gratitude in the short term and creativity in the long term.
[ music ] . Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. Today I'd like to talk about an experiment you could conduct that might lead to more gratitude and creativity. If you search "non-dominant hand for creativity," you'll get more than 23 million results. And I've read them all so you don't have to. No, seriously, there's evidence of increasing creativity through this practice as it seems to activate our non-dominant brain hemisphere. Otherwise our neural pathways get accustomed to us doing the same thing in the same way, and among other things, it can make life kind of stale. Here's the background. About 10 years ago I had a bike accident at a high speed when my front brakes locked and I went flying over my handlebars. I lost consciousness on impact. Had a broken helmet, a broken arm and a really messed up hand. Quick PSA for helmets: please wear one! It was a lot easier to replace mine than it would have been for my family to deal with a traumatic brain injury. So if you won't wear a helmet for yourself, consider wearing one for the people who love you. Okay, back to our topic. A long time ago, I read about studies where people who use their non-dominant hand for everyday activities had an increase in creative problem solving. And I'd actually tried doing this before, but I never stayed with it long enough to notice anything. My poor dexterity with using a mouse at work with my left hand led me to abandon the practice pretty soon after starting it. I was just too slow and I made too many mistakes. I had also occasionally tried it just because of some shoulder pain on my right side, and when I didn't mouse with my right hand, this pain was alleviated. But again, my poor coordination seemed to take precedence, so I would just give up. Then with my bike accident, where it was of course my right arm and right hand that were injured, I didn't have a lot of choice. So I started mousing with my left hand, but this time I stayed with it, and I improved. That was during a time when I'd sometimes shoot baskets over the lunch hour. And this was one of my versions of exercise before I discovered Zumba. And with my right arm in a sling, I started using my left arm and I improved at that too. And my personal best reached 11 made free throws in a row, and even a few three pointers. So over time, thanks to PT and OT where I did my my homework, my right hand strength didn't just return to baseline, it doubled compared to my good hand. And without thinking, I went back to right-handed mousing but my shoulder pain started to come back. And I thought, "Hey, I've made such progress on becoming ambidextrous, why lose that?" So I resumed my new skill of left-handed mousing, and I've never stopped. But what I did not expect, and I can only attribute to this change, is that my creativity increased. And that's when I started to think maybe there's something to that research on creativity and neural plasticity . Without realizing it, I had been rewiring my brain. A few months ago, I was talking to a friend who was recovering from a broken arm, also of course, on her dominant side. And she said she noticed two changes during this period: she started cooking and painting. Both of these creative pursuits she got interested in only after she started using her non-dominant hand. So my suggested experiment for you has two levels of difficulty, and each with its own purpose. You choose. First, break your arm, but make sure it's on your dominant side. Oh hang on, there's gotta be a less painful way! Ah, okay, I've got it. First, use your non-dominant hand for an entire day in as many activities as possible. You know , brushing your teeth and hair, eating (you might need some extra napkins), writing. With touchpads , mousing is rare, but if it's something you still do, use your other hand. And even if you go back to life as normal the following day, you'll be relieved at how much easier your day has become. We usually take our coordination for granted until we lose it. That's a fast way to get a dose of gratitude. This level reminds me of a children's book we would read to our daughter: "It Could Always be Worse." Spoiler Alert: It's where a wise rabbi advises a family in a small house that was bursting at the seams to take in a lot of animals--I think from their barn as I recall--one by one, until it just got ridiculous. And they did. And then the rabbi advised them to, one by one, release them, put them back in the barn until their home was back to normal. And to their surprise, after realizing that "it could always be worse," they felt that they actually had more than enough room. The second purpose is for creativity. This level takes a lot more time and effort. So although it's a bigger investment, the payoff's much bigger too. It's continuing to use your non-dominant side for a month. There's probably no magic in that length, but that's about how long it took me to fully notice the creativity effect . I think you'll start to see positive changes before then, but even if you don't, you're going to increase your full body coordination. And if nothing else, I think you'll be more grateful when you allow yourself full access to your dominant side, whenever that might be. So if you try it, good luck with your experiment. Thank you for listening, and we'll talk again soon. [ music ] .