I have known for months that the art I have been doing during the lockdown is making me happier. I have a fun project to do everyday, connect with friends and family over ZOOM, and I get to learn new things.
Now, it turns out it maybe making me healthier and smarter, too. One of the challenges last week had us drawing something with our non-dominant hand. For me, that’s my left, which is usually pretty useless. It was hard!
Just figuring out how to hold the pencil, how much pressure to apply, then making the lines go where I wanted…. it wasn’t pretty, I tell you. Because my notebook has a large spiral binding, I needed to turn the whole thing upside down so it didn’t get in the way of my left hand.
But I kept at it and finished a drawing of our French press coffee maker that was not terrible. I did some reading about this sort of exercise. “Using your opposite hand will strengthen neural connections in your brain, and even grow new ones”, says Jeff Rose, who began using his left hand because of an injury. “It’s similar to how physical exercise improves your body’s functioning and grows muscles.”
Well, I thought, I could use some of that! Maybe in addition to my daily routine of doing a French lesson, eating lots of veggies and getting some exercise, I should draw with my left hand, like a set of Frontal Cortex crunches.
So I did. The drawings got better, and I got braver. I did some left-handed watercolors with the drawing, which made them prettier, if not actually better. Because my view is limited, I started copying photos of our cat and of poppies in our old back yard.
And last night, when you and I were drawing together on ZOOM, I realized that by using my left hand everyday, my right hand has gotten smarter! I was able to draw my stuffed dog Sammy much better than I could before. Maybe the fault isn’t in our hands, but in our brains. Maybe I have been forming new pathways in my old brain!
So, go do some non-dominant hand drawing. You will feel clumsy for a while, but it will pay off.