How Writing by Hand Benefits Your Mental Health
We live in an age where typing on a computer, smartphone or tablet is increasingly replacing writing things out by hand with a regular pen and paper. Even simple note-taking and to-do lists can be replaced by the countless productivity apps that are are available these days.
I don’t know about you, but I rarely write things out by hand these days. Interestingly enough, when I read blog posts or watch videos on topics related to productivity and personal development, I’ve noticed a bit of a trend regarding the importance of handwriting. Many emphasize some sort of hidden benefit of writing by hand, which people don’t seem to get as much from typing on a computer or a phone.
It made me curious about why writing might be more powerful than typing. Here are a few of the interesting benefits I discovered when I looked into this further.
Your learning capabilities are enhanced when writing by hand.
One study found that students who took notes in class by hand ended up learning more compared to students who took their notes by typing them out on a laptop. Researchers tested the students’ memory of detailed facts, their understanding of the concepts and their ability to generalize and make sense of what was taught.
The students who took notes with their laptops had longer notes, but those who wrote them by hand showed better conceptual understanding of the material compared to the laptop note-takers. The handwritten note takers also performed better at applying what they learned.
It keeps your mind sharp as you get older.
According to The Wall Street Journal, some physicians recommend handwriting for older individuals as an effective cognitive exercise for keeping their minds functioning well as they age. Writing essentially activates more parts of the brain than typing does, including the areas that govern regions like thinking, language and working memory.
You’ll remember more of what you wrote.
Handwriting involves remembering the shapes and lines of letters, and then using your brain’s motor skills to form each letter with your hands. It’s entirely more complicated than just pushing a key on a keyboard to make a whole letter appear.
In addition to the mind sharpening effects mentioned above, the WSJ also pointed out that adults who are studying new symbols, like those found in Chinese languages, can enhance their recognition of the symbols by actually writing them out.
It supports better creativity.
Because writing by hand combines visual, motor and cognitive perception, it’s a much slower and involved process compared to typing. With more regions of both your left and right side of your brain engaged through handwriting, you can enjoy more of a creative boost compared to what a keyboard offers you.
Moreover, the act of writing by hand is an art in and of itself. It takes skill to improve the way your writing looks, and every individual has their own unique way of forming their letters.
If you’re someone who’s stuck in front of a computer for most of the work week and attached to their phone almost 24/7, it may be time to invest in a new notebook and some pens. Start by taking up a new daily journaling habit or consider taking your daily to-do list back to pen and paper rather than using a document file or an app.
As a writer, I couldn’t be more excited to find out about some of this research. Technology is wonderful and all, but sometimes there’s nothing quite like getting back to the old-fashioned way of doing things.
Photo Credit: photosteve101r