I was watching some old home videos the other day and was rather surprised by something my dad said as he handed me a teething toy.
"Here you go--oops, that's right, always in the left hand. It's pretty clear already that you got your mother's hand dominance."
The fact that I'm left handed is news to me, because for the past fourteen years I've been writing with my right hand. It's not even very ambiguous, I'm strongly right-handed. I'm not entirely surprised, because other than my hand, I'm extremely sinister. Learning to shoot bow and rifle was extremely difficult, as I had to learn to shoot with my right, non-dominant eye, and both my mother and older bother are left-leaning ambidextrous.
Another inspiration for this exercise was when I was working on a timber frame recently, and one of my ambidextrous friends was able to switch, quite seamlessly, from his left to right hands while driving a peg with a mallet.
Not only is it utilitarian from day to day to have the choice of hands, but there are other, perhaps less immediate benefits. It's thought that exercising both sides of the brain lends itself to heightened problem-solving capacity. Also, in the event of a stroke, one side of the brain will be left operable for communication. Unfortunately, I can neither confirm or deny the veracity of these claims.
With these incentives in mind, I decided to pursue ambidexterity, and post a guide online for like-minded Instrucablites.
I've devised a few techniques to train the non-dominant hand. These will be grouped into 3 categories: encumbrance, passive training and active training.
Please keep in mind that I'm striving for this goal as well. If anyone has ideas I haven't come up with, or have improvements on my techniques, please let me know.
Step 1: Encumberence Training
At home, wear a (non-insulative) glove, wrist brace, wrist weights, or wrist guard on your right hand. This will force you to use your non-dominant hand more without fully debilitating your dominant hand. While out and about, you can accomplish a similar effect by wearing bulky jewelry, watches, bracelets or other unobtrusive encumbrance devices. The purpose of this part of the training is to remind you, consciously and subconsciously, to do the others.
Warning. There have been concerns expressed that weighing down one of your hands and leaving it sedentary for long periods can decrease its dexterity. I would therefore advise against casting your hand in a cement block in an attempt to attain ambidexterity. Do not neglect your dominant hand in the course of this training. Also, I would like to state that I am fully responsible for anything bad that happens to you when you're following this training regimen. Or when you're not. Please, please sue me.
Step 2: Passive Training
Whenever you can, perform day-to-day tasks with your non-dominant hand. Eating is an excellent example of one of the things you wouldn't expect to be difficult, but may be harder than you think. Operating a fork or spoon with your non-dominant hand is often quite a clumsy exercise at first, and you may find yourself switching back to your dominant hand without thinking. Dominant hand encumbrance is an important part of this type of exercise. Locking or unlocking your car, dialing your phone, brushing your teeth, carrying your wallet on the non-dominant side and reversing your computer's keyboard and mouse positions are also good ideas.
Step 3: Active Training
Some activities may not be eligible, for one reason or another, for passive training. For example, writing may not, at first, be legible when you use your non-dominant hand. For things like work or school, turning in a report that looks like it was scrawled out by a kindergartener is not an option. In these cases, active training is necessary. Every day, take the time to transcribe a moderately sized block of text with your non-dominant hand. The lyrics of a song by your favorite band, or part of a script from a play or movie, or a passage from a book. This should keep things interesting and maybe give you a better understanding of the text in question. If you like, you can buy an inexpensive handwriting primer at virtually any bookstore or department store.
Another technique to try is training with larger objects, perhaps training your non-dominant hand with sports such as tennis, racquetball, ping-pong, bowling, fencing, riflery, playing a musical instrument or, if you have one, a Nintendo Wii. Sadly, certain articles of sporting equipment, such as fencing foils and golf clubs, are not as ambidextrous as you aspire to be, and you'll have to get different handles, at least.
Step 4: Some Notes
There will be a number of activities for which you will have a choice: duplicate, or mirror? For example, when you reverse your keyboard and mouse, will you leave the button layout of the mouse as-is, or reverse it? In the case of writing, will you stick with the standard, dextercentric style of writing taught in schools, or get your DaVinci on and write mirror-style? (Of course, native southpaws may find that the traditional left-to-right method works better with the right hand.) The mirror method has going for it the fact that your brain finds it relatively easy to replicate an action performed by one hand in the other, but mirrored, as it were. You should experiment to see which method you prefer in each instance that the option presents itself.
These three techniques should be continued for as long as it takes to establish acceptable dexterity with both hands. Good luck!
The inimitable Weissensteinburg has suggested writing with both hands simultaneously, your non-dominant hand mirroring the dominant. Cool! Try it! It...didn't work so well for me... Imagine drawing an object you've never seen before while blindfolded as described to you by someone who also can't see what you're drawing. That was the quality of the "letters" that were spawned from that attempt. However, it was interesting to feel how your hands desperately want to move in mirror images of each other. As another fun side-experiment, try writing the standard way with both hands simultaneously.