Can I Teach Myself to Be Ambidextrous?
October 1, 2004 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to teach myself how to be ambidextrous? [mi]

Has anyone ever tried doing this? Is it simply a matter of just practicing the alphabet over and over again with my other hand? Or is it too late, now that I'm an adult?
posted by invisible ink to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I dunno about writing - but i have taught myself to use a mouse with my left hand - with great succes i might add. Now i can relieve my right hand from time to time, but I can't play FPS though.
posted by FidelDonson at 12:09 AM on October 2, 2004

Have you practiced masturbating with both hands? It is a hard won skill.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:41 AM on October 2, 2004

It should be possible. When I was in school I lost the use of my dominate arm for a few months and learned to write/draw with my off hand. I can still do both, but not a well as with my dominate hand. Though I still eat with my off hand.

Just like most things, practice and repetition are key. It'll take a little while to build up the dexterity in your hand.
posted by Tenuki at 3:53 AM on October 2, 2004

Ambidexterity exercise
posted by the cuban at 4:04 AM on October 2, 2004

I don't know if you would count it as being ambidextrous but it's quite possible to become extremely shillful at particular tasks with your off hand. Think of, say, pianists. Just takes practice. I believe that's most of the basis of handedness: a newborn is equally clumsy with both hands but has a slight preference for using hand A rather than hand B, so hand A gets all the practice.
posted by jfuller at 4:52 AM on October 2, 2004

I think it's true that you can become much better through practice, but I'm not sure if people can achieve what they'd be happy to call ambidexterity. I practiced writing with my left hand for a while - began with the alphabet, then began writing the first four or five sentences of journal entries with the left, and when I was bored just writing random notes on the left...

anyway, I definitely improved considerably, so that it was no longer difficult to do, and my handwriting got much better over the course of a few months of doing this on a daily basis. But at some point I sort of lost interest. Basically, it wasn't getting to a point of any real usefulness. Part of the reason I wanted to do it was so that in long lecture classes I could switch hands because I like taking longhand notes and my right hand gets really tired (I take close to transcription notes plus commentary at times). But I never got good enough on the left for it to be an option to actually switch. Still, I probably have much better handwriting on my non-dominant side than a lot of people, so that much is certainly possible.

One thing I found useful: try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. it's harder than you might think at first. That I still do. And I use my left hand for lots of little tasks interchangeably with the right... I am not completely sure how much of that I did before the writing exercise. One thing I realized back when I was focused on this was that I naturally snap my fingers on the left. I learned to do that on the right though :). Also, I have always been bad at distinguishing my right from my left, and I got much better at that with all this attention being paid to it...
posted by mdn at 7:56 AM on October 2, 2004

invisible ink - yes.

1) start with letter formation, as slow as necessary to mantain very good pecision. Take as much time as necessary to do that. Speed up as long as you can maintain control while doing so.

2) $ Profit !

mdn - You need to persist. Learning such as this works best, in my experience, with short but frequent exercises performed in a variety of context, moods, and times.

This challenge is not trivial but still relatively minor. There are - however - significant neurological benefits, I believe.
posted by troutfishing at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2004

The Cuban - Thanks for reminding me.
posted by troutfishing at 8:36 AM on October 2, 2004

well, I still practice from time to time, but somehow, I feel like I reached a wall of sorts. The first few weeks I improved dramatically, and after ?maybe a couple months, I started practicing script, which was a big step. I probably kept at it reasonably regularly for 6 or 8 months. Now I can write with the left in a somewhere- between- cursive- and- print, which is what my right hand handwriting (and most people's, I think) is, but the handwriting is stilted, a little jagged, overly tight, often pressed in bit. I dunno, it just looks unnatural.

You're right that persistence is probably key, but like I said, I sort of lost interest - my writing on the left will never be as good as on the right, and I don't really need it for anything, so it's more of a parlor trick than anything... Still, I doodle with my left hand, and write things now and then, and use the left for a lot more than I used to (like brushing my teeth, eating, spreading butter, etc).

as for neurological benefits, I actually got a little paranoid about possible neurological debits - that is, it's often suggested that using your "right brain" (or non-dominant hemisphere, whatever) is good for opening up creativity, non-linear thinking - and it occured to me that that might be precisely because it's untrained, that maybe by training that side I would decrease my creativity.
posted by mdn at 12:53 PM on October 2, 2004

put this up and then the server went down - but this is where I am with left hand writing.
posted by mdn at 4:14 PM on October 2, 2004

My headteacher when I was at school could write with both hands, in fact could write two different things at the same time, which was pretty impressive. Apparently learnt to do it after badly breaking his right arm playing rugby. Not sure if that's the most effective technique, but I guess it shows you can develop ambidexterity later in life?
posted by prentiz at 7:18 PM on October 2, 2004

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