Through our technology dependence, from smartphones to laptops, we seem to have a keyboard attached to our fingertips at all times. Have you thought about the last time you wrote something by hand? Research shows that our brains benefit from handwriting in multiple ways.
I talked with Dr. Marc Seifer, a graphologist, expert in handwriting, and the author of The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis (published in 2008). According to Seifer, the following are the main ways in which handwriting helps our brains.
1. Handwriting has a soothing effect
By writing a soothing sentence, we exercise a type of graphotherapy, says Seifer. Writing down something like, “I will be more serene” twenty times every day may, in fact, exert an effect, particularly in people with attention deficit disorder.
“This makes the person calmer and rewires the brain,” he adds.
2. Handwriting coordinates the brain’s hemispheres
Writing something in cursive, as outdated as it feels, coordinates the brain’s hemispheres. However, the depth with which we use the two parts of our brain differs from person to person. Don’t confuse cursive with writing your signature, though!
3. Handwriting boosts learning
Handwriting notes is one of the best ways to study and acquire new knowledge. The reason is that writing by hand stimulates a part of the brain called the RAS, or the Reticular Activating System. According to Lifehacker, the RAS filters all information that needs processing by the brain, prioritizing the things in your immediate focus at the time of writing. This is boosted by the physical act of writing. A 2010 study showed the areas of the brain that are related to learning were stimulated much more when children were requested to jot down words like “spaceship,” instead of simply focusing on the word.
4. Handwriting will keep distractions away
Your computer is a master at wasting your time, either by enticing you to look at pictures of cats or stalk your exes. Distractions are the reason software like Minutes Please and Facebook Limiter exists. Having said that, there are good things on the internet as well. A study in 2012 suggested that 5-minute breaks to browse BuzzFeed or Tumblr may even boost your productivity at work. However, when you are done with GIFs and you can’t escape working on your dissertation again, try doing it with a pen and paper. You will appreciate the lack of distraction that is all too common on the internet.
5. Handwriting keeps aging minds sharp
Handwriting is an awesome tool for baby boomers who want to retain their minds’ sharpness as they age. “Writing by hand helps to keep the mind dexterous and assists in solidifying memories,” says Kelsey Poe, Director of Marketing & Sales at CMP. “Keeping a handwritten journal can really sharpen aging minds and boost memories.”
6. Handwriting enhances memory
Let’s assume you are in class, taking notes. Perhaps it will be quicker to use your laptop, but have you considered that jotting your notes by hand may enhance your ability to remember all that information later? According to many psychologists, handwriting better enhances memory, an effect that is evident in both children and adults.
“There is considerable research showing that among developing children, the ones who write by hand have stronger memory,” said Seifer.
7. Handwriting activates your brain more than typing does
Handwriting makes you use more of your brain. The regions of the brain that are associated with reading are stimulated while writing by hand only, and not while texting or typing.
“One of the key differences is movement. That implicates the brain’s motor cortex, so … you are activating a larger portion of your brain than when simply typing,” said Seifer.
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