Squeezing your right hand into a fist can lift mood and boost your confidence.
Try this the next time you are feeling anxious about something – a difficult conversation, a nerve-wracking presentation or some other challenge.
You can do this under the radar without anyone noticing – lightly squeeze your right hand for 45 seconds or so, relax for 15, squeeze again for 45 seconds, relax for 15 seconds and so on while you are waiting to begin.
This boosts activity in the left front part of your brain which is part of the “approach” network – the reward-seeking set of brain circuits underlying goal-seeking.
Persist with problems and so lift mood.
Right hand squeezing also helps you to persist with trying to solve problems that seem insoluble.
Giving up in the face of difficulty is linked with the avoidance network in the brain, and with the associated negative emotions of anxiety and sadness. The right front part of the brain is associated with this punishment-avoiding network which is linked to anticipating risk and avoiding negative events.
It is not surprising then that left hand squeezing increases negative emotions linked to the avoidance network.
When you are trying to learn something new – the name of a new acquaintance for example – squeezing your right hand can help the memory encoding network of the brain store that information.
This is because the left frontal part of the brain is linked to the process of storing new memories. The right frontal part of the brain on the other hand, is associated with recalling already stored memories. So if you are trying to remember the name of someone whose name you know but can’t quite remember, you can give the right front part of your brain a little boost by squeezing your left hand.
In my book The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper (Bloomsbury), I give more simple examples of how you can master your emotions. Try the Stress Questionnaire on www.ianrobertson.org and follow me on Twitter @ihrobertson