The Curious Magic of Handwriting and The Mind

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With the use of technology in the modern world, longhand handwriting is decreasing in daily usage for many people. 

However, with this trend, we risk losing a number of powerful benefits that come from applying handwriting to certain tasks.

My Personal Perspective

I’m writing this article as someone who works with the human mind and has first-hand clinical experience of the benefits of handwriting to support a number of cognitive functions.

I’m also dyslexic with poor handwriting (if you are a regular client or have attended a workshop of mine, this is no secret!), so I am in no way making a technophobic argument for the case of ‘pen and paper’ versus keyboard typing.

In fact, because of my dyslexia I use a number of technological tools, such as dictation software, to help me with my work and to stay organised.

Instead, I am making the point that, for some things, handwriting is still best and combined with technology really can provide the ‘best of both worlds’ .

Handwriting and Learning

My experience, that of my peers when I studied at university and also that of many of my clients is that they find it more difficult to learn when reading from a screen whilst also trying to also take notes via typing.

The general response is that information does not seem to really ‘go in’. For many, this is remedied by taking handwritten notes from what they are reading on the screen .

This experience extends to note-taking during lectures, where a psychological study from 2014 showed that learning and understanding of concepts was better for those who took handwritten notes compared to those who made notes exclusively via typing.

The Curious Magic of Handwriting

It follows that many people experience the need to write down certain things in order for them to ‘stick’ in the mind and it seems that this is part of our ‘hard-wiring’.

Given our species has been handwriting for some 6000 years, this should not be too surprising!

More than that, as a clinical hypnotherapist working daily with the human mind, I see a quality of handwriting that I call its ‘curious magic’.

This is how when we handwrite we seem to adopt, what I would term, a more associatedstate. There is particular focus of the eyes, the mind, our fine motor skills that combines to create an emotional and intellectual ‘closeness’ to the subject being written about.

It is not that this closeness is necessarily absent when typing on a keyboard, rather that it seems to be lessened. As such, the things we type don’t seem to take shape and form as powerfully in our minds as the things we handwrite.

For example, I provide guidance in how to use affirmations in my coaching and I would always recommend, where affirmations are being written out, that they are handwritten.

I honestly cannot imagine typing out an affirmation 15 times on iPhone notes!

This ‘magic’ is therefore also the ability of handwriting to touch or program the subconscious in a way that typing seems unable to match.

Different Uses of Technology

With my dyslexia I find software like Microsoft’s OneNote really useful for collating information visually and mind mapping with different types of media.

A recent small scale study by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) showed improvements in reading comprehension and behaviour for dyslexic children using the software.

However,  I still see this as the collating and organising part of the process of learning. If it’s important and I really want it to go into my mind, then I handwrite my notes.

Finding the Perfect Blend

Personally, I use a lot of technology (dictation software, cloud file storage, online calendar, task management apps, OneNote, journalling apps etc.), but I also have my trusty notepad and handwritten daily ‘to do’ list.

Likewise, any affirmations that I am reinforcing in my subconscious mind are also handwritten.

It’s not about technophobes vs. technophiles – like many aspects of navigating the modern world, it’s about taking the best of the old and the new, and making it work for you.

So, what is your approach? Do you notice some things just work better in your mind when handwriting? Are we losing an important skill?

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