In the modern world, the prominence of smartphones, tablets, and computers means that we communicate via typing rather than the written word. The art of writing by hand is fast becoming a tradition of the past. Yet, according to science, handwriting benefits our brain in multiple ways.
In this post, we explore the 5 benefits of handwriting compared to typing and show why you should consider putting pen to paper more often.
Is handwriting a lost art?
Can you remember the last time you put pen to paper? If the answer is no, then you are likely to be part of a growing body of people who now solely use typing rather than the handwritten word.
While it’s hard to put an exact figure on the decline in handwriting over time, some are predicting that this is a dying art form. A study conducted by Docmail found that out of 2000 respondents, one in three had not written anything down on paper over a six month period.
5 Benefits of Handwriting
So why are we being encouraged to grab a pen and practice the old fashioned art of handwriting? Let’s take a look at the ways handwriting can benefit your cognitive abilities.
1. Writing by hand helps us to learn
When writing by hand or typing into a computer, we use different parts of our brain, which affects our ability to learn. The movements which we make when we write triggers the activation of larger regions of the brain than when we type, including those that take care of language, healing, thinking, and our memory.
A study by Longcamp et al (2006) compared the effect handwriting and typing have on our ability to learn. They found that children that learned to write letters by hand were better able to remember the letters and recognize them than children who had learned the letters by typing them onto a computer.
Further research has also demonstrated how handwriting benefits our ability to learn in comparison with typing. Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) compared the ability of students to comprehend information conveyed to them whilst attending a lecture by comparing those that took notes on laptops versus those that wrote them out by hand.
Over the course of three experiments, they repeatedly found that students that took notes in longhand were better at answering questions about the lecture than those that typed up the notes.
The study concluded that in typing out notes, we are more likely to be transcribing them verbatim. At the same time, with handwriting them out, we are required to process the information and reframe it in our own words, which aids the learning process.
2. Handwriting sparks creativity
One of the appealing benefits of handwriting is that it helps to spark creativity. Many famous writers have favored the written word even when they had access to a typewriter or computer. J.K Rowling, for instance, hand wrote the whole of The Tales of Beedle the Bard in a leather-bound notebook. Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway were also said to have preferred putting pen to paper over reaching for the typewriter.
According to science, there is a link between fluid arm movement and its ability to enhance creativity. The speed with which we write also helps us to be more creative. For most of us, typing is now second nature and, consequently, we type with speed. Writing, on the other hand, is much slower and allows you the time to process your thoughts as you write. This gives creative ideas the chance to develop as you write.
3. Putting pen to paper can sharpen your brain
Retaining cognitive ability as you grow older can also be aided through writing by hand. As when we write, we are engaging our brain more than when we type, handwriting practice boosts your cognitive performance. This, in turn, can reduce the occurrence of cognitive decline in later life. Writing letters, keeping a handwritten diary, or writing out plans can all help towards keeping your brain sharp as you grow older.
4. Handwriting can improve your problem-solving skills
The process of writing can also help with problem-solving. Many find that writing out the problem can help to clear the mind of the confusion around an issue and make it easier to reach a solution.
The technique of ‘brain dumping’ is a great way of being able to see all your ideas down on paper and conceptualize what the next steps are. It can help us to organize knowledge, spot patterns, and draw connections as we write it down.
5. Writing helps to relax our mind
In a fast-paced world, finding the time to sit down and write can be troublesome. However, in focusing the mind in this way, we can use writing as a way to be mindful and relax our mind. It forces us to slow down a little and patiently write out what we want to say. Similar to doodling or painting, writing can be a way to find a moment of peace in a chaotic world.
With online diary planners, messaging apps, and email, it can seem like there is no longer a need for a pen and paper. However, there are multiple benefits of handwriting which suggest we should not be so quick to dismiss them.
Writing on paper can help to engage our brain in a way that typing cannot. It can help us to learn and retain information better, unleash our creative juices, help us to problem solve and even be a mindful process of relaxation.
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