When it comes to taking notes or making cards and letters to family, friends and business contacts personal and memorable, handwriting can be invaluable. However the benefits of picking up a pen go far beyond this, with gains for our brainpower and wellbeing when we write by hand.
With National Stationery Week (25 April – 1 May 2016) celebrating the might of pen and paper, we’ve taken a look at why we should use handwriting for capturing information, inspiring creativity, advancing thinking and personalising correspondence.
It appears the British public would agree that writing matters. In a YouGov poll for National Stationery Week, 92% of people agreed that handwriting is very or fairly important, while 97% agreed that it’s important to teach handwriting to school children.
Among the advantages of writing by hand, increased calmness is one. Dr. Marc Seifer, graphologist, handwriting expert and author of The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis, says that writing a sentence like ‘I will be more peaceful’ at least 20 times per day can make a difference: ‘This actually calms the person down and retrains the brain.’
The power of the pen is also recognised for improving our cognitive skills, with scientists saying that cursive writing gives us the capacity for optimal efficiency, with brain imaging studies revealing that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing, compared to typing or just visual practice.
This comes into important play when teaching children. A 2012 study at Indiana University asked children who had not yet learned to read and write to reproduce a letter or shape by either tracing the image on a page with a dotted outline, drawing it on a blank white sheet, or typing it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again. The researchers found that when children had drawn a letter by hand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write. By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect.
As Chris Leonard-Morgan, organiser of National Stationery Week, says: ‘Whether it’s jotting down a shopping list, writing a birthday card, taking down a phone message or filling in an application form, handwriting is part of our daily lives. While modern technology has transformed the way we communicate, the skill of handwriting remains important in education, employment and everyday life. It isn’t a question of just using one or the other.’
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