5 Super Benefits to Writing by Hand

I remember a few years ago, I had to write a report for work.Like actually hand write it (clutches pearls. I know..)  Within about 3 minutes, my hand started cramping. I was a little surprised that my hand was actually in a bit of pain but I instantly knew why. I never write. I don't write. Ever. My hand was out of practice. My muscles were sad. I had not realized that over the past few years, everything that I communicated was either by computer or phone. Pen and paper may have gone out of style as quickly as the blackberry but don't throw that #2 pencil away just yet.

I loved when my daughters started learning cursive in school; and was shocked to hear from parents at other schools that their children weren't learning how to write in script. And indeed, as the Washington Post reported last year, the Common Core standards adopted by so many states no longer require teaching cursive in public schools. (More pearls clutching!!)

But it appears the tide is turning, and the curly-cued linked letters – and block printing too – will not go down without a fight. A number of states are now requiring the teaching of cursive in schools, a revival encouraged by educators, researchers, parents and politicians. And it's a good thing. While typing and digital files have been great in stemming a tide of paper waste, when used judiciously, writing things by hand has numerous benefits that we should not be in a rush to lose sight of. Consider the following:

1. It improves learning

A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that taking notes in longhand, not laptop, improves comprehension, concluding that "laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

2. It encourages brain development

A report in Psychology Today describes the importance to brain development of learning cursive, during the course of which "the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking." Brain imaging shows how engaged the brain is while learning cursive:

To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. You have to pay attention and think about what and how you are doing it. You have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.

3. It makes for better composition

Research reveals that students who write essays with a pen write more than those that used a keyboard; they also wrote faster and in more complete sentence.

5. It keeps older brains sharp

The Wall Street Journal reports on research that finds that by engaging fine motor-skills, memory, and more, writing by hand acts as a good cognitive exercise for aging brains

And to all of this I might add, there is a certain intentionality that comes with forming letters on paper; one that is lost when tapping plastic buttons. And if nothing else, there are few things that compare to receiving a handwritten letter in the mail (that gets delivered by a human being to a physical mailbox).

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but some traditional skills are too important to lose ... especially when they come with so many benefits.