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Can writing make us happy?

In the age of ‘infobesity’ the antidote to digital overload may be writing

Humans are the only living beings on the earth who can express their thoughts in the form of writing. Call it an evolutionary success of the higher primates or an act of adaptation, the complex human brains show remarkable feature in terms of superiority in the animal kingdom.

Benefits of this invaluable capacity in humans have a larger scope. Writing not only serves as the mean for communication or expressing the thought processes in a systematic way but it also has developmental implications. One of these is the improvement in the neurological health, such as enhancing your memory.

How Does Writing Help You?

In the era of digitization, writing has become a lost art. Starting from writing books, novels, stories to blogs, nearly all forms of writing are taken over by typing. But scientific research shows the brighter side of handwriting.

Studies have determined the therapeutic benefits of writing to overcome symptoms of depression, and cognitive development to increase memory and other positive effects.

Therapeutic Aspects of Writing

A number of studies were carried out in the past and some are ongoing to prove the therapeutic aspects of writing. Expressive writing involves writing about yourself, this includes emotional experiences and thoughts.  It can be in the form of writing in your diary. It is narrative in nature and is more on the explanation or the impact of the incidents on mind rather than a mere description of events. Scholars have penned down their views supported by facts and results to outline the benefits of expressive writing.

'Expressive Writing: Words that Heal', a book by James Pennebaker and John Evans beautifully described the positive sides of expressive writing. The authors also suggested several examples on the subject matter. For example, you can talk about things that keep you awake at night, incidents that caused trauma and happiness. Pennebaker and Evans suggest dedicating at least 20 minutes of your daily schedule to writing to increase its health benefits. They also said that writing for six weeks using different techniques and analyzing the written material plays an important role in mental wellbeing.

Cognitive Aspects of Writing

On top of all its therapeutic aspects, writing also has several cognitive benefits that we can take advantage of. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is similar to Expressive Writing and it also requires its participants to pen down stressful memories in order to help the patients to fight depression. In a study based on cognitive processing therapy, participants showed a significant reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and improvement of cognitive health just by writing. Another study by Longcamp et al. has proved that learning and remembering the pattern and orientation of letters by using different mediums, can also impact the brain. Participants took two different methods to learn new letters from unknown languages, those were handwriting and keyboard typing or copying. Over a period of time, the group of people involved in handwriting was found in a better position to memorize than those who were typing.

Conclusion

The benefits of writing are enormous but often underrated. Writing has deep therapeutic advantages. Writing is also a good exercise for the brain to stimulate the brain cells and to improve memory. Bridget Murray at the American Psychological Association explains how the psychologists are using this weapon to treat thousands of patients with anxiety, depression, and trauma. So slow down, get a pen and paper out and start to write!

Kathy Mitchell is a Travel & Beauty Blogger and a new contributor to Peacebeam. She likes to go out with her friends, travel, swim and practice yoga. Kathy is also a contributor at BookMeditationRetreats.com.