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You Can Boost Your Brain & Mental Health If You Use Your Non-Dominant Hand Often

You Can Boost Your Brain & Mental Health If You Use Your Non-Dominant Hand Often

Stuck in a rut at work, getting frustrated with your home life, or simply need a little mental pick me up? This simple tip could help.

Experts have found that doing exercises as simple as brushing your teeth with your left hand instead of your right can have positive long-term effects on your well-being and can strengthen your brain. With this exercise you will find you are more able to control your temper, be calmer and react to stress more positively, and even stave off other mental difficulties some of us meet later in life, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Using your non-dominant hand

It’s quite simple, really – just begin doing everyday tasks such as eating or brushing your teeth – only using the hand you don’t normally use. So, if you use your right hand for eating your cereal, use your left, and vice versa. You can do this with any number of activities, and it’s up to you how much you incorporate it into your life. The more you do it, the more effective it will be and the bigger difference it will make to your brain long-term.

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Here are a few ideas of how you can use you non-dominant:

  • stirring your coffee
  • opening doors
  • hoovering
  • writing
  • texting
  • drawing
  • swiping dates on tinder
  • and so on. -Pretty much anything that is safe to do will work.

Neurobics — the mindfulness technique

There is a scene in The Peaceful Warrior in which the budding gymnast student realizes that each moment in life is precious, and that each moment matters. This idea can be distilled into the more scientifically based phrase: ‘neurobics’. These are exercises that keep your mind agile and also keep you in the moment, more aware of your senses than ever before. Using your non-dominant (hand) fits into this category, helping us see life in new and different ways.

Neurobics can be likened to mindfulness techniques, as both bring our attention more intensely to our sensations as we go through life. This is a handy tip if you don’t feel like meditation is the thing for you right now, but you’d like to take some action to feeling more balanced in life. If you are more balanced mentally, your life will automatically feel more in balance physically and emotionally, too.

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Avoiding memory loss

We are often encouraged to try memory exercises to keep our brains agile, but fortunately, we can swap hands without buying any expensive gizmos and without taking any time out from our day!

Using your brain, like using and developing any muscle, makes it stronger and more accessible. Much like other new learnt skills, (such as learning a new language) using the non-dominant hand has a similar effect in terms of growing your brain’s strength (like all other neurobic activities), can help with avoiding age-related challenges such as Alzheimer’s.[1]

Self-control and aggression

This tip can help develop our levels of self-control. Something we could all do a little more of when we’re wanting to shout at our boss or swear at the guy who just cut across us when driving to work.

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Levels of aggression shown seem to be directly linked with how much self-control we individually have. Which makes sense. if you can’t control your temper, you are more likely to fly off the handle when someone eats the last profiterole, for example.

In Dr Thomas Denson’s study,[2] he found that practicing this tip for just two weeks led participants to have higher levels of self-control, and also, consequently, to have more ability to react in a less aggressive manner.

Creating possibilities

The special thing about this tip is that it has been proven to actually stimulate and develop certain parts of the brain in a positive way.[3] This workout for the brain means that it runs better than ever before. As Dr P. Murali Doraiswamy (of Duke University Medical Centre) said, it is like “having more cell towers in your brain to send messages along. The more cell towers you have, the fewer missed calls.” More brain connections mean more ideas, and more possibilities in your life.

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Amazing what such a small change can do. So, if you’re needing a mental pick-me-up, I urge you to try it out, even just for a day; see how you feel, and see how life comes alive.

Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

Reference

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Daniel Owen van Dommelen

Coder, Director, Writer, Human

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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