Three Ways That Handwriting With A Pen Positively Affects Your Brain
Stephen King purportedly wrote Dreamcatcher in longhand — using a Waterman cartridge pen. J. K. Rowling penned The Tales of Beedle the Bard — all 157 pages of it — in longhand, and the leather-bound tome sold for almost $4M at auction. F. Scott Fitzgerald did it, as did Hemingway, Kafka and countless others, each of whom had access to either a typewriter or, later, a computer. They all chose to put pen to paper and see where it took them. This is perhaps the true magic of a pen: It transports us to unexpected places, on wings that require no more than a timely shot of ink to keep them aloft, destination unknown. And in the process, the mindfulness writing engenders encourages calm and creativity. Here are three proven ways that handwriting is good for your brain…
1. Handwriting increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, similar to meditation. According to a study performed at the Indiana University, the mere action of writing by hand unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way. And high-tech magnetic resonance imaging has indeed shown that low-tech writing by hand increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, much like meditation.
2. Handwriting sharpens the brain and helps us learn. Writing is good for keeping one’s gray matter sharp and may even influence how we think, as in “more positively,” studies show. Apparently sequential hand movements, like those used in handwriting, activate large regions of the brain responsible for thinking, language, healing and working memory.
3. Handwriting forces us to slow down and smell the ink. Another often-overlooked benefit of writing by hand is that it just plain forces us to slow down and enjoy the moment — a novelty in today’s world where immediacy reigns. Mindful writing rests the brain, potentially sparking creativity, according to neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre.Today In: Lifestyle
Stephen King wrote ”Dreamcatcher” in longhand with a Waterman pen. (Photo credit: FRANK PERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Sounds good, right? So why not find a good pen and some paper and get started? Sadly, we often become intimidated by bad penmanship or our lack of anything “meaningful” to write about. That’s why I prefer the write-just-because-you-like-it mentality that says that whatever you produce need never see the light of day, as long as it makes your spirit soar. Some might consider this journaling, but that can have headier overtones. So why bother to label?
Letter writing, too, has a profound effect on one’s brain and psyche — whether you’re the writer or the recipient. Who can argue the qualities of a handwritten note to bring people together? Consider the love letters of John and Abigail Adams, or Winston and Clementine Churchill, or Robert and Elizabeth Browning, which have captured our imaginations for decades.
But just as important as these torchy missives are the quotidian letters to and from family and friends. I came across a few of these not so long ago in a box in my attic. One was a chatty letter from my mother to her newly married-and-moved-away daughter (me). I remember how I’d look forward to those weekly letters in my mother’s uninhibited scrawl and the almost palpable affection tucked inside each one. Another note was from a high-school friend, also from a couple of decades ago, catching me up on all her day-to-day goings on, from career to kids to hobbies. It was written in perfect Catholic-girls-school Palmer penmanship. I think Virginia Woolf said it best when she called letter writing “the humane art.”
Writing by hand is a powerful tool for learning, relaxation, creativity and connection, and it’s an integral part of our culture. It offers insights and renewal, whether the writing is intended for anyone else’s eyes or not. National Book Award-winner Robert Stone said, “The pen compels lucidity.” And lucidity, I believe, offers a different and often clearer perspective of dreams, goals, challenges and life in general.Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.