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Science Proved That People Who Love To Write Are Smarter

Science Proved That People Who Love To Write Are Smarter

Everyone should write—not just professional writers.

You might say it’s easy for me to say that because I’m a writer. A singer can just as easily say, “Well, I believe that everyone should learn to sing.” But, out of all the creative means of expressions available to human beings, none intrinsically champions critical thinking, enhances creativity and improves clarity of thought quite like writing. Writing makes us smarter.

Here are some reasons (backed by science) why that is so:

1. Writing helps us untangle the messiness in our minds and allows for clearer thinking.

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about writing. In her book, Why We Write, curator Meredith Maran interviewed writers on why they write. Nearly all of them gave self-serving reasons, but there was a delightful, recurring motive of why people write: Writing provides a pocket of time in the present moment to reflect, digest and think deeply.

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Joan Didion, author of Play It as It Lays said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City explained, “I write to explain myself to myself. It’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.”

It’s not uncommon for one to think they have totally grasped a concept until they write it down and realize there are aspects of the concept they hadn’t quite thought about.

Writing, then, is a way to organize our thoughts. It allows us to reflect and helps us gain new insights and achieve new perspectives. You think more deeply when you write, and that helps you see things more clearly.

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2. Writing helps us absorb information better and learn significantly more.

Not only do you see things more clearly when you write, you also absorb information better and learn significantly more when you write down information given to you. That explains why students and attendees at conferences and meetings who take notes of lectures or speeches learn more than those who just listen to lectures and don’t write anything down.

Interestingly, according to a study published by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer from Princeton University and University of California respectively, students who take notes on paper learn significantly more than their peers who take notes on a laptop.

The researchers found that laptop users generally type almost everything they hear without devoting much thought to what they are writing. Basically, they are not processing the meaning of what they are taking notes on; rather they are mindlessly transcribing. Transcribing doesn’t require much cognitive activity.

Those who take notes by hand, however, obviously cannot write down every single word the speaker or professor speaks. So they have to listen more attentively, summarize the lesson, list only the key points and, consequently, learn significantly more. Your brain is fully engaged in the process of comprehension when you write by hand, which means you remember the information delivered to you better.

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Yes, we live in digital age and I bet you can’t imagine not using your laptop for work or studying, but you shouldn’t totally neglect writing in the good old fashioned way using a pen and paper.

3. Writing helps us process negative feelings and improves our emotional intelligence.

A 1994 study conducted by Stefanie Spera, James Pennebaker and Eric Buhrfeind tasked 63 unemployed engineers with writing to see the effect writing would have on their stress levels.

The participating engineers were divided into three groups: A writing control group (wrote about their plans for the day or activities in their job search), a second control group (did no writing), and the experimental group (did “expressive writing” where they kept journals of their deepest thoughts and painful experiences).

The engineers in the experimental “expressive writing” group wrote for 20 minutes every day, describing their feelings of loss, rejection, financial stress and so on in their search for a job. Three months later, “Five subjects in the experimental group got jobs, no writing control subjects got jobs, and two non-writing control subjects got jobs,” wrote the study authors.

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Eight months later, only 24 percent of writing control subjects had accepted full-time jobs, 14 percent non-writing control subjects had accepted employment, and a whooping 53 percent of experimental subjects found full-time employment. The conclusion from the study:

“Writing about the thoughts and feelings surrounding job loss may enable terminated employees to work through negative feelings and to assimilate and attain closure on the loss, thus achieving a new perspective. Doing so may create a shift in the individual’s orientation that allows getting past the negative emotions, preventing them from resurfacing and perhaps sabotaging the job search in, for example, a job interview.”

In other words, the researchers discovered that suppressing negative feelings is a heavy burden, and writing it out, not for publication but for oneself, is like a balm to chapped lips. Writing it out makes you emotionally intelligent and apt to deal with unpleasant situations.

Bottom line

The psychological benefits of writing (particularly using a pen and paper) are like the gradual benefits of exercising. You don’t often see the gains immediately, but the transformation is happening underneath. When writing, ideas are crystallizing; emotions are examined and questioned (not merely glossed over); and, creativity peaks as dots are connected.

And yet, like exercise, even after understanding how beneficial it would be to your life and work, many people still actively shun writing. Those who write, though, speak and think clearer and are often much smarter.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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