The Benefits of Putting Pen to Paper
Being both old school and a visual learner I often find myself with pen on paper doodling and annotating when I’m learning something new.
There is an added dimension to learning for me when I write and draw. I often thought it could be part of my addict nature to take copious (and I mean copious!) amounts of notes during any classes, meetings or TEDTalks.
I have since found out that one of my core values is growth, so taking courses and learning are a pretty constant aspect of my life. As a result, I have an ever-growing collection of notebooks! As happens every so often I recently found myself questioning why I keep them all. Surely what I was meant to learn at the time has sunk in somewhere into my being, and it’s time to do a Marie Kondo and lovingly thank them and let them go.
As I pondered this, realizing I wasn’t getting a full bodied “YES!” to this notion, I reached for a notebook and let it drop open to a random page and glanced at the notes I’d made. What looked back at me in my less than elegant handwriting was “Benefits of Writing with Pen and Paper”.
Thank you Universe for the timely reminder of what a gift it has been to create this ever-expanding collection of handwritten notes on topics, ranging from banishing bad habits to balancing the gut biome.
As I read my notes, I was reminded of why note-taking and journaling are so powerful. If you don’t have a practice of writing by hand on a daily basis already, I would invite you to give yourself the experience. For the next month commit to just five minutes in the morning or the evening. You can make it specific and do a Gratitude Galore exercise where you write everything you are grateful for. Or you could do an emotions journal where you can start to build your awareness about what’s going on for you emotionally throughout the day. You could even do a daily diary of thoughts and events, or follow Julia Cameron’s lead in ‘The Artist’s Way’ and, upon waking, write whatever comes to mind for two minutes.
There are a host of benefits that your mind and body experiences while you write. Looking at the physical body first we know there are two hemispheres to the human brain. The analytical ‘left brain’ and the creative ‘right brain’. If you are of my generation, which I believe was the last to have handwriting classes as part of the curriculum at school, and were taught how to write cursively and with a fountain pen, then what you would have experienced as the loops and curves made their way across the pages, was a deep stimulation of both sides of the brain at the same time. A cultivation of both our artistic, creative abilities as well as our analytical, logical and problem-solving abilities. So an added bonus is that more creative juices flow when we write than when we type.
It turns out that writing by hand actually flexes the muscles of the brain, so to speak, and that this in turn keeps the mind sharp. We are using more motor neurons while engaging more senses when we write by hand, which has been shown by a study at Oxford Learning to improve the memory retention of students (https://www.oxfordlearning.com/studying-writing-typing-2/).
Perhaps one of the most significant recovery benefits of spending time each day writing by hand is that it reduces stress, depression and anxiety; the three emotional triggers that often compels us to reach for relief from our drug of choice.
Writing with pen and paper is an excellent tool for winding down or centering, because the brain is calmed with the act of physically writing, and naturally, the body follows.
Writing a gratitude list in the morning or evening is a highly recommended part of a morning or evening practice. Writing a Step 10 inventory (for 12-steppers), or simply journaling thoughts and feelings (having a ‘brain dump’) before bed, are powerful practices to bring you peace of mind.
When negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination and resentments come up (because they do!), there is great relief in just putting down on paper what is coming up. Negative thoughts and feelings can be abated when we sit and take time to get them out of our heads and hearts and into a journal or notebook.
So, go get yourself a new notebook or journal, one that pleases your senses in some way. Treat yourself. And just start. One day at a time find the practice that feels right (or write) for you and feeds your heart and soul. Enjoy!
Written by Kirstin G
Kirstin is a Wellness Consultant for Miracles Asia and a Program Facilitator for Miracles at Home. She is an R20 Recovery Coach, Yoga and Meditation Teacher.