Writing is a skill that many people have, and even though you can always improve in this area, it is good to be familiar with some of the basics before getting started. If you’re curious about how writing affects the brain, you’re in for a real surprise. Writing does, in fact, affect the brain and below are 11 ways that it does so.
First of all, writing affects two separate parts of the brain in several ways. These include:
- The frontal lobe: This is the part of the brain associated with both writing and speaking. Other areas it is responsible for include problem-solving, reasoning, and judgement, among others.
- The parietal lobe: This is the part of the brain that interprets language and words. It is located in the top section of the back of the brain.
If someone has damage to the parietal lobe, he or she will have trouble writing by hand and spelling even basic words.
Writing Things Down Helps Your Brain Remember Things Better
Most people know that by writing things down, they will remember those things a lot better. At the base of your brain is a collection of cells called the reticular activating system, or RAS. The RAS filters the information that your brain is trying to process and gives the part you’re trying to focus on a little more attention.
You can think of it this way: the physical act of writing things down will cause that information to go directly to the forefront of the brain, and it even notifies your brain that it needs to pay attention to that information.
One of the reasons why writing things down is so helpful is that in organizing your thoughts before you write something down, you are actually involved in a process that is required to write those things down; it is this process that helps you remember what you need to remember in the future.
If you listen to a lecture, for example, you will remember both important and trivial parts of the lecture. However, once you start writing things down, both the process you use to write, and the brain’s functioning at that point are geared towards helping you remember those things, which is why you’re successful at it.
Writing with Your Emotions & Reactions
Many studies have been conducted describing how writing affects the brain and they’ve come up with some very interesting conclusions.
For example, when you write in an expressive way describing your feelings, it can actually have both psychological and physical effects on your immune system. Among the areas that show extensive improvement include overall functioning ability, physical health, physiological functioning, and psychological well-being.
In fact, if you write about your feelings before attempting something that you know is going to be stressful, the brain will actually work more efficiently and will perform the task with fewer resources and in a much simpler manner, helping to make the activity a little less stressful for you. The brain is an amazing organ, and everything you say and do — such as writing — affects it in a very specific way.
Storytelling Makes a Difference
There are many ways to get your point across, but if you turn the task into a story, your listeners are going to remember your points a lot more easily.
For instance, if you choose to use a PowerPoint presentation in a certain class, studies have shown that the only parts of the brain that are affected are the parts that process language; specifically, the Wernicke area and the Broca area.
If you choose to use storytelling instead of simply going over bullet points with the audience, things change. The sensory response portion of the brain lights up, enabling people to feel as if the events are happening to them.
If you tell a story and say something similar to “her legs were soft as silk” or you describe someone screaming or singing, the listener’s brain reacts as if it were happening right then and there. Not only can he or she relate to the presenter a lot better but certain portions of his or her brain are stimulated and show a marked difference from people who are simply viewing a presentation on a screen.
What does all this mean for a writer? Simple. It matters how you write and what you say because when you tell your story as it is actually a real story, part of the listeners’ brains will be activated and they will both enjoy the story better and can sense what is supposed to be happening to that character at that time.
Good for the Writer Too
Readers and listeners always benefit from reading a novel or listening to a story being told, and it has a definite specific effect on their brain every time. Of course, they are not the only ones who can say that.
When you write, and it usually doesn’t matter what type of writing you’re doing. Basic copywriting, for example, produces many of the same effects as meditation does. When you’re copywriting, your breathing slows down, and you get to a point where the words will flow freely through your brain. In fact, these and other types of writing have been proven to de-stress the body. This only proves that writing affects the brain.
Writing engages the thinking part of the brain and even calms down your parasympathetic nervous system. The result is an essential rewiring of your brain so that you can relax and forget about some of the negativity in your life. Even if you write in a journal every day, it affects your brain, enabling you to heal faster from physical wounds according to some studies.
This is especially true when you’re writing about your feelings. Even writing down your thoughts after a traumatic event will help you recover much more quickly. In other words, the mind-brain connection that you hear so much about is real!
In yet another study on how writing affects the brain, engineers who had recently lost their jobs and who started writing in journals afterward found jobs a lot more quickly than those engineers who didn’t write in journals.
They suffered less overall anxiety and had less hostility and anger towards their previous employers. Because they were dealing with their feelings and not ignoring them, it had an impact on their brain and therefore an impact on their psychological well-being. This, in turn, made them feel more confident and enabled them to use that positive attitude to go out and find themselves another job.
Many Psychological Benefits
It is obvious that writing things down, especially when describing either positive or negative feelings, produces physiological changes in the brain. This has been shown in numerous ways, including the following:
- A better sense of gratitude for life
- An easier time making sense of the rough times that everyone has
- The ability to communicate even complex ideas, including in areas such as math and science
- A better sense of overall happiness and contentment
People who write regularly are known to be happier and to accomplish more goals than people who don’t because writing affects the brain positively.
Expand the Depth of Your Knowledge by Writing
When you write anything, one thing always happens: you gain knowledge. In fact, when you’re writing about a certain topic, it is possible for you to learn about another topic as well and this has an effect on your brain.
Your brain is capable of handling hundreds and even thousands of pieces of information at any given time. Over just a short period of time, your writing will enable you to learn more vocabulary words and more information than you ever thought possible.
Writing well almost always involves doing some research; this research gets seared into your brain and gives you something else to log there.
Reading and writing affects the brain so the more you participate in either of these activities, the more knowledge you’ll have, which goes a long way in improving all of the other aspects of your life. This is how writing affects the brain in a positive way, and it is one of many ways that the brain is affected.
A Lot of Emphasis on Journaling
Much of the information you find on writing and its effect on the brain centers around journaling, and there is a good reason for this. Writing in a journal regularly has been proven time and time again to have a positive effect on a person’s psyche, which can only result from a direct effect on the brain.
More than anything else, journaling seems to work wonders managing a person’s stress level and the ability to see things more clearly over time.
There are many different types of journaling. Most people write in their journals for emotional release and to help them deal with the ups and downs of daily living. This type of journaling usually involves writing down everything that happened to you throughout the day and how you felt about each of those things.
This is perfect for learning how to deal with your emotions, especially if you are stressed out about something. It also allows you to vent your frustrations without hurting anyone’s feelings or making anyone mad and it is simple and quick to do.
Many people also keep gratitude journals, and they list a minimum of three reasons why they are grateful for that particular day. Not only does it help put things in perspective but it also helps keep you focused on the more positive aspects of your life. You also have a written record of the many things you can be thankful for, making it easy for you to refer back to it when things get rough.
Finally, there are some people who use their journals in the same way other people use their daily planners.
They write down goals for each day, scratch off the items they accomplished that day, set new goals for themselves, and even write down specific memories so that they never forget about them. Doing this keeps you very organized, makes you a lot less stressed, and enables you to have more overall balance in your life.
Regardless of the type of journaling you choose, it has a direct effect on your brain and works wonders in relieving stress. Best of all, even if you are not writing in your journal every day, you can pick up again at any time and start writing to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Journaling can affect your physical health as well as your emotional health, and it has even proven to be helpful against illnesses such as asthma and arthritis, as well as many others. If you want to participate in one activity that has been proven to help with both physical and psychological health problems, journaling is it.
One Writing Assignment, Many Different Brain Reactions
Of course, not all writing affects the brain the same. As you plan, research, write, review, and edit your articles, different parts of the brain are being affected. For instance, planning what you’re going to write about stimulates the visual centers of your brain, in part because writers “see” what they’re planning to write in their heads.
If you research or write about a specific action or activity, the motor cortex of the brain is stimulated and any sensory detail you include in the story will stimulate the sensory portion of the brain to produce a response.
These are perfect examples of how writing affects the brain, and this is a good time to point out that certain phrases have an effect on readers that you may not want them to have.
A perfect example is the use of clichés. A cliché is usually ineffective because in most cases, your brain interprets it as mere words and nothing else. An example would be, “a tough day”, which long ago affected the sensory portion of the brain; however, since phrases such as these have been used so often, most people’s brains no longer respond that way.
Remember, when you write, you want to evoke certain cerebral responses in your readers, so it is best to avoid clichés and find newer and better ways to describe activities or situations in your writing.
Long-Term Effects Are Included
If all of this information isn’t encouraging enough, there has also been research done on the long-term effects of writing and the many positive results it produces.
Fiction, in particular, causes positive reactions in the brain and prepares people for old age because it exposes them to many different realistic situations. Because of this, it allows people to develop strategies for these scenarios, so they are better prepared for them in the end. It is really amazing how reading or writing affects the brain.
In addition, when people get old, they tend to have problems remembering names and other pieces of information; however, since reading stimulates so many parts of the brain, avid readers are less likely to suffer from these memory problems as people who don’t like to read.
The more you write, the better the effects are on your brain. This is why professional writers tend to stay so sharp for so many years.
If you want to improve your brain functions even more, try regular handwriting with a pencil and piece of paper. Handwriting is definitely a lost art, thanks to computers and other digital devices, but it still remains a great way to improve your brain function. In addition to better motor skills, enjoying a slower pace, and improving memory, writing by hand can even help with writer’s block. All you have to do is put pen or pencil to paper and start writing. You’ll likely be surprised by how quickly the ideas start to flow.
An Overflow Effect
Because writing regularly affects so many different parts of the brain, it is easy to understand why that effect can spill over into other aspects of learning. Students who write often simply learn better because writing affects the brain of such students.
If you write well, you are much more likely to be better in subjects such as math and science.
When you write, it affects the brain’s processing and retrieving of information so you can think of this task as a way to build up the brain’s “muscles”. This means that you can use those muscles for numerous other cognitive activities besides writing, which will make your schooling a whole lot easier.
Some Final Thoughts
There are scientific studies that have proven how many parts of the brain light up when you write and even when you read.
Writing can improve your physical and emotional health, teach you things you never thought you’d learn, and can even help you become sharper as you get older.
When you think about it, there are no real disadvantages to writing on a regular basis. Whether you write occasionally or you’re a professional, you will be able to enjoy life to the fullest if you just keep on writing.