“Every single day I learn a new word,” says Willeumier. (She uses the Merriam-Webster app.) “And then what I do is I practice writing it with my nondominant hand.” It’s a fun exercise to train your mind and take you out of your comfort zone—which Willeumier notes is stellar for remaining sharp.
Plus, “when you start writing with your nondominant hand, you will start drinking with your nondominant hand, you’ll start brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand,” she notes. These small changes may not seem like much, but it’s a sign that your brain is making new connections rather than staying complacent. “New learning is about stepping outside of your comfort zone. We like to call it stretching your neurons,” she adds.
Granted, there’s still much to learn about the topic, but there is some research that shows the learning benefits of writing with your nondominant hand: In one study, right-handed participants set out to draw with their left hands and experienced significant improvements in their abilities after less than 200 minutes of practice, demonstrating the brain’s ability to strengthen novel connections with the body. And the link between learning and brain health is well documented, too. In fact, research has found learning new skills can enhance memory function in older adulthood.
So perhaps take Willeumier’s recommendation: “Learn a new word today, practice writing it with your nondominant hand, [and] teach it to your friend.” A pretty simple task in the name of a healthy brain, no?