Six Benefits of Handwriting
“The written word” — literally speaking — has struggled for survival throughout the first two decades of the 21st century. As evolving technology and improved user interfaces have made texting, typing, and even voice typing increasingly accessible, the case for handwriting has become more difficult. Progressively minded countries like Finland and the U.S. have even dropped cursive lessons from their curriculum requirements and show no sign of prioritizing handwriting in the future.
With text messages and emails taking over the communication channels, the question is, do we need handwriting anymore?
Fortunately, the answer isn’t difficult to find — and it’s a resounding “yes.” While typing may be efficient, fast, and legible, handwriting brings with it a variety of different advantages that simply don’t translate to the digital pen. Here are six different benefits that exclusively come with handwriting.
1. Boosts Brain Functions
While handwriting may be thought of primarily as a way to communicate thoughts outward towards others around you, it also serves a very important function within your own brain.
The simple act of purposefully writing down words and their letters through the deliberate strokes of a pen fully engages your brain. The artistic aspect of handwritten words and creative composition combined with the calculating and specific matter of grammar, punctuation, and spelling encourages both sides of your brain to participate in the activity.
It’s a phenomenon that isn’t reproduced when preliterate children type or trace letters, and it leads to what has been dubbed a “reading circuit” that can enable young students, in particular, to facilitate the development of letter recognition and reading. Even for adults, engaging your brain on this scale can heighten problem solving and boost creativity.
2. Increases Retention
The handwritten word naturally increases retention in several ways. For instance, young children have been shown to benefit when they’re repeatedly exposed to the same shapes — an activity that occurs often, and in a creative way, when writing by hand.
The brain-engaging nature of writing also makes it a helpful retention tool both for adults and the elderly who may be looking for activities to keep their brain sharp. Part of this comes from the concept that when you write by hand you have to slow down and be selective about what you record.
In fact, one study found that when students took longhand notes, they were forced to be more selective — since no one can handwrite at the same speed as they can type — and thus had to process the information that they recorded more thoroughly.
3. Improves Personal Relationships
One of the natural side effects of writing by hand is the way it can enhance and improve personal relationships. On the one hand, digital mediums such as text messages and emails are infamously terse and often fail miserably when it comes to communicating emotion. On the other hand, handwritten notes have the ability to communicate care and investment in a relationship.
In an era where everything moves at a breakneck pace and all digital communication is buried in a metaphorical mountain of communication, taking the time to sit down and pen a letter carries with it more meaning than ever before.
It doesn’t matter whether you write and hand-deliver a thank-you note, buy postage stamps for a personally inscribed invitation, or simply compose a letter touching base with someone you haven’t heard from in a while, the intentional nature of a handwritten transmission stands out from a sea of inferior communication.
In addition, handwritten letters have a longer, more meaningful shelf life and can stand as a written testament to your relationship for years and even decades to come.
4. Prevents Distractions
All that is required to create a handwritten piece of correspondence is a pen and paper — and perhaps a quiet space in which to compose it. You don’t need a computer, a browser, or an internet connection. This isn’t just a simpler set up to maintain, it also keeps you far away from distractions.
While it’s convenient to print postage online, when it comes to the writing itself, composing on a computer exposes you to endless distractions. The internet is rife with entertainment and responsibilities of all sorts. From skimming Facebook feeds to responding to work emails, watching YouTube videos to checking the stock market, there are endless ways to spend your time.
By handwriting, you instantly eliminate all of those distractions and provide yourself with an opportunity to truly focus on the one task of deliberately and thoughtfully composing whatever it is you’re composing.
5. Heightens Creativity
Handwriting is a unique activity that inadvertently stokes your own brand of inventiveness. Ten people could type out the same email and no one would be able to tell who wrote which one. If they were to write each communication by hand, though, they would quickly stamp each of their letters with their own unique flair.
This is because, as previously mentioned, handwriting is both an artistic and a calculated pursuit. While it does require the ability to spell and use correct grammar and punctuation, it goes further and demands more from the author. By engaging your entire brain, handwriting encourages the artistic side of the writer to use creativity not just in their word choices but in the literal representation of each letter.
Now, it should be clarified that handwriting isn’t as innate as your voice or fingerprints, which you possess from birth. Nevertheless, as far as learned skills go, handwriting has an incredibly unique flair that manifests in an “every snowflake is different” way with each person’s script. This difference is due to a variety of factors including:
- How you visualize letters in your mind.
- How your nerves communicate your mental intentions to the muscles in your arms and hands.
- How your eyes watch the pen and paper as you write.
- How things like stress, temperament, mood, time constraints, and even the temperature of the room are affecting you at the moment.
With so many motor functions being coordinated into an ongoing concert of composition, the creative license of the handwritten word stands as a powerfully individualistic benefit of handwriting.
6. Limits Stress and Anxiety
While writing engages your brain and sparks creativity, it can also do wonders to calm a frazzled mind. This may happen in several ways:
- Journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression, and process and understand past experiences or trauma.
- Poetry can help you establish a rhythmic flow, calming a disheveled mental state.
- Creative writing allows your brain to relax as it invents and innovates.
- Freewriting can increase fluency and avoid accidental censorship of your thoughts.
All of these options provide healthy ways to emotionally express yourself in a contained and artistically creative environment.
Technology makes many chores easier to complete than in the past. For example, instead of buying stamps at the store, you can simply purchase postage online.
However, when it comes to handwriting, shifting to a digital alternative isn’t necessarily an improvement. Fortunately, there have been some positive signs in recent years that handwriting isn’t dead. For instance, one study found that 87% of tech-savvy millennials still valued handwritten notes more than alternative means of communication. This reinforces the fact that an appreciation for the handwritten word and all of the benefits that it provides still remains alive and well in younger generations.