How can I distract my hand?
July 21, 2011 8:00 PM   Subscribe

What do you do with your non-dominant hand to keep it busy?

I've got a small skin-picking/hair-pulling habit that I suddenly just got sick of. I really, really, really want to stop. But I've found that, like some smokers who've tried to quit that I know, I just need something else to do with my hands. They feel useless and sad when I don't let them play with my hair.

When you're reading a book or using a mouse, you hold it with your dominant hand. What on earth do you do with your other hand? Because right now I futz with my hair or my face, and I've done that for as long as I can remember. I know that has to stop. I just need something to do with my left hand instead that scratches the same itch.

Any suggestions?
posted by troublesome to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Silly Putty or Playdough!
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:07 PM on July 21, 2011

Candle with some dried dripped wax on the side, to flake off? Not quite as good as picking, but at least something comes off!
posted by mittens at 8:09 PM on July 21, 2011

i have your exact problem. i'll be watching this thread with interest.
posted by woodvine at 8:13 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's always...

Seriously, I flex it a lot and often throw it up across the top of the couch. I also have had such nervous habits and these help. Trying to do nothing does not work for long as I am fidgety.
posted by michaelh at 8:16 PM on July 21, 2011

Pen clicking?

Play simple melodies on air keyboard?

I like to wrap and unwrap my hair band around my tube of chapstick (in pocket or out).

Have you thought about switching your mouse to the other hand? That may break the pattern enough that your dominant hand won't have ingrained...
posted by guster4lovers at 8:26 PM on July 21, 2011

Klixx! It also makes a really satisfying (though quiet) clicking noise/tactile sensation, so you feel like you're actually accomplishing something with your idle twiddling.
posted by phunniemee at 8:36 PM on July 21, 2011

Maybe try wearing a spinner ring?
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:39 PM on July 21, 2011

I knit. Can't do it all the time, and it requires both hands rather than just the non-dominant hand, obviously, but it helps during times when there are long stretches of nothing, like when I'm watching TV, and I find the coordinated effort between both hands to have a calming effect even after I've stopped knitting. It helps gets both brain hemispheres in sync, I guess, so I fidget less.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:43 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rubber band around two or three fingers. Pulling against the tension is totally mindless but impossible not to do, so your hand is always doing it but never interfering with what the rest of you is doing.

(Also helps keep that cigarette-holding reflex at bay.)
posted by Etrigan at 8:59 PM on July 21, 2011

For when my dominant hand is doing something, I usually just hold a pen in my other hand & fidget with that. For when both hands are inactive I fiddle with the bracelet on my dominant wrist, worn specifically for the purpose of stopping me picking at myself. Of course this means I can justify having a fairly large collection of pretty bracelets :-) Bracelets with different sized beads and small dangly bits are particularly satisfying.
posted by alicegoldie at 9:56 PM on July 21, 2011

I once had an internship where I got to use a left-handed mouse, so (being left-handed) I really had nothing to do with my right hand when I wasn't typing. I had recently seen somebody who could spin a pen around her thumb, so I idly started trying to teach myself to do that with my layabout right hand. During the 6 weeks that internship lasted I dropped a lot of pens but eventually actually did pick it up pretty well.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:28 PM on July 21, 2011

Coin rolls?
posted by MrBadExample at 10:42 PM on July 21, 2011

when I have nothing in my hand to play with, I'll tap my fingers together, each one to the thumb, up and back, as it keeps me from picking at stuff.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:45 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just try to tuck and re-tuck my thumb into my fist until it lies perfectly on the seams where my fingers meet hand. Then I just grip it tightly from there on out.

And I'll second the rubber band (hair tie in my case) notion. Keep one around the wrist, and you'll eventually find your fingers to be messing around with it without even noticing.
posted by this one is danny at 12:39 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use worry beads.

I had visions of Alien Hand Syndrome or something, from the way you wrote this. Lol.
posted by tel3path at 2:01 AM on July 22, 2011

Take two film canisters (remember those?) and roll them around. Try to use each finger with your thumb. Builds dexterity, too.
posted by notsnot at 3:10 AM on July 22, 2011

A few lego bits of various sizes. Put them together, rip them apart...
posted by Namlit at 3:30 AM on July 22, 2011

Pen tricks. No annoying clicking involved.

It occupies my hand very well and it fascinates anyone who watches. It took a while to get the tricks down, but it's a very easy habit to get into if you always keep your hand occupied with a pen.
posted by nikkorizz at 5:44 AM on July 22, 2011

Chinese tranquility balls, squishy stress balls or hand exercisers. For something requiring more skill you can try to flip a coin between your fingers end over end.
posted by ayc200 at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2011

I have this same problem. The solution for me turned out to be cheese. Well, sort of. Babybel cheese, to be specific - the kind that comes encased in wax. Someone brought a bag of those into work, one of the wax blobs ended up on my desk when someone ate their cheese, and next thing I knew my free hand was busy kneading the wax while I worked with my other hand.

My hand gets a little sticky after a while, but on the other hand I'm not picking at my skin with my free hand so much, and I have a very nice wax dog on my desk that I sculpted while staring absently at my monitor one morning!

Playdoh or silly putty like i_am_a_fiesta suggests would probably also work, though those have a bit less resistance than wax.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 7:36 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Those wire thinguses with the beads on them, yeah yeah those. You can permutate the hell out of them onehanded without even thinking about it.

I am not a trichster, but my friend is, and she likes the rubber spike ball. It has a hole in it, and you can turn it smooth side out or spike side out. She keeps her spikes on the inside, and then sticks her hand inside to preen the spikes between her thumb and forefinger.

Bendy magnet robot dudes? Electronic bubble wrap? Putty? Buckyballs? You can find more stuff by searching the term "fidget toys".
posted by Sallyfur at 12:25 AM on July 23, 2011

« Older Shared housing in DC   |   You mean I have to take ALL the pills? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.