With the ubiquity of computers and laptops in modern times, it can be easy to forget that there was once a time where everything was written by hand. And while word-processing computers have certainly made writing faster and more efficient, there are some special psychological benefits we miss out on when we don’t write by hand.
With that in mind, here are some key ways your mind benefits when you write by hand.
Improves memory: A number of studies have come to the same conclusion that writing by hand can improve your brain’s memory. In 2014, for example, researchers compared students who took notes by hand with those who took notes on laptops. What they found was that students using laptops tended to write down what the professor said word for word whereas those taking notes by hand were more likely to analyze the professor’s words for important content and process information better by “reframing it in their own words.”
Another study from 2017 discovered that regions of the brain associated with learning are more active when people complete tasks by hand rather than a keyboard. At a time where our brains consume so much information every day, writing by hand offers a chance to remember the things that are most important to us.
Forces us to slow down: According to neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre, we write more thoughtfully when we write by hand. That’s because writing by hand forces us to slow down and take more time to pour over thoughts. This is both the beauty and the pain of writing by hand, especially since we desire everything to work quickly nowadays.
“Recent neuroscientific research has uncovered a distinct neural pathway that is only activated when we physically draw out our letters,” said Aguirre. “And this pathway, etched deep with practice, is linked to our overall success in learning and memory.” When we type on a keyboard, those same pathways aren’t opened up the same way.
Extra benefits of handwritten work: For Aytekin Tank, the founder of a popular online form builder called Jotform, writing out her thoughts in the morning allows her to empty her mind and gives her a truly fresh start to the day. She also advocates writing by hand when planning for the week. Sure, you can use all sorts of organizational apps, but pen and paper remain the best. It’s simple, and you’ll be more likely to remember what you wrote down.