Most of us find clumsiness adorable ... in other people. Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars, a panda falling adorably off a perch onto its head: the clumsy are the cute clowns of the world. If you happen to suffer from clumsiness yourself, however, this is not exactly a laughing matter. Some brands of extreme clumsiness are actually a sign of deeper motor problems in the brain — a sudden onset of weird knocking-stuff-off-tables can be a sign of developing Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis, or a stroke. (Or, of course, just being really hungover.)
If you've just been clumsy all your life, however, it's more of a perpetual annoyance than a serious health alert — but it may make you feel better to know that you're not imagining it. Some people really are clumsier than others, and there are certain periods of life that are prime time for clumsiness. But what causes clumsiness — and can you cure it?
Clumsiness in history is linked strongly with ineptitude. The eletrocution of Charles Becker, a corrupt police officer in New York, in 1915 was known as "the clumsiest execution in the history of Sing Sing" for decades because it took an excruciating nine minutes. Interestingly, left-handers were often associated with clumsiness: the Oxford English Dictionary lists "left-handed" as also meaning clumsy, awkward, or crippled. Clumsy people don't have the greatest of reputations, it seems.
So let's take a (bruised, uncoordinated, accident-prone) journey through the science of clumsiness, and what you could do to make it go away.
What Causes Clumsiness?
Back in 2007, there was a breakthrough in the scientific understanding of clumsiness. Professor Charles "Buz" Swanik and a research team at the University of Delaware worked with athletes to discover why certain people seemed much more prone to developing accidental injuries — and found out some pretty remarkable things.
Are There More Clumsy Times In Life?
It also seems that there are two times in life where clumsiness comes to the fore: your teenage years, and that time when you're definitely past the bloom of your twenties and thirties and heading into middle age.
So ... Can You Cure Clumsiness?
One of the easiest ways to change the brain habits of the chronically clumsy, it seems, is to adopt more mindfulness — which means doing every action purposefully, and giving it your full attention. Sounds hippy-dippy, but it's actually a way of focusing that frame of reference we heard about, and eliminating distraction. It's a variation on being in the zone, what psychologists call "flow" — being actively, fully immersed in an activity.
Beyond that, some scientists think the brain can be trained to be less clumsy by fixing the various aspects that seem to contribute to the problem. Improving your memory is one method, while reducing stress is another. (Stress and anxiety are massive contributors to greater distraction, so lowering them is a good idea.) There are various theories as to how to improve brain processing times, including a specialized program that "trains" the brain to react faster to stimuli — and improves memory as part of the bargain.
So you'll be a lean, mean, reacting machine — and perhaps less likely to trip when you're taking off your own jeans.
Images: Getty, CDN Media