5-Minute Health Tip: Handwrite Notes to Boost Brain Power

handwritingWe type furiously all day every day on laptops, smartphones, and smartreaders. Typing is convenient, easy, and fast, saving us time and effort. But…we’re missing out on the brain-boosting gains of handwriting.

When we write, we use whole strokes to depict a letter, and in doing so activate the parts of the brain responsible for thinking, memory, and language. Unlike typing, writing by hand engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, keeping them fit, healthy, and active.

No one’s saying trade in the computer for a good old-fashioned ink pen, but taking a few minutes to handwrite notes, be it in a journal or as a quick note, can help boost brain power for the better.

Fire Up Your Conceptualizing Capabilities

A study published in Psychological Science showed that people who took handwritten notes were better able to conceptualize and process information than people who typed notes. Participants watched a series of Ted Talks videos and either took notes by hand or on a laptop. After the lectures, they were “distracted” with tasks in an effort to reset their brains. They then answered factual and conceptual questions about the talks. Both those who typed and those who wrote by hand did well on the factual questions, but the typists struggled with the conceptual questions. Researchers found that those who typed copied down the information in the lectures pretty much word-for-word, easy to do because we type much faster than we write. The slower pace of writing, however, forces us to digest, process, and conceptualize the information presented as we go, which also enhances our ability to retain and recall the material.

Elevate Neural Activity

The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience published a study that showed how adults learning a new language were better able to recall characters when they wrote them out by hand rather than using a keyboard. Writing notes by hand forces us to look at the page, process, and commit the information to memory.

Here’s another interesting finding: research from Indiana University measured brain activity during handwriting. MRIs showed more neural activity when kids wrote by hand than when they simply looked at images of letters.

So take 5 minutes today and work out your finger muscles in a different way. Pick up a pen and outline a project, or handwrite a thank you card, or plan your weekend…your brain will thank you for the typing break!