The (Many) Benefits of Writing

A word dreaded by many (thanks to the white page syndrome, reports, exams, cover letters, etc.), writing is also an art that allows your mind to express itself. Writing makes you dream, and escape reality, as well as process and develop your ideas. Whether you are writing a diary, gratitude journal, fiction novel, or professional email, writing translates in words something that only exists in the corners of your mind into the real world. As demonstrated by a number of recent scientific publications, regular writing has many surprising benefits on your physical and mental health, creativity, productivity, and emotions. Here is a list of the top 10 interconnected benefits of writing:

1. Writing heals your wounds faster

As suggested in a recent Health Psychology (2017) study, allocating 20 minutes of daily expressive writing that describes upsetting life events and emotions would speed the healing of surgical wounds. These results could revolutionise the physical recovery or surgical patients, while allowing them to express and understand the emotions they experience in their particular stressful state.

2. Writing makes you happier

Writing makes you happier by forcing you to refine your thoughts, picture yourself in a fictional situation, and imagine how your life would be in the future. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, writing about your future dreams and goals makes you happier and healthier. Taking the time to sit down every day and reflect about your daily blessings instead of your burdens would also help you clear your mind and add a little meditative "me time" to the busyness of your life. As demonstrated by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough (2003), a conscious focus on your blessings will increase your psychological and physical well-being, while benefiting your emotional and interpersonal skills. It keeps a positive outlook on your life, while promoting an optimistic attitude about your future.

3. Writing makes you sleep better

We have written a few articles about how your healthy sleeping habits can benefit your health, productivity, and general well-being and mood. Writing about your blessings and what you are thankful of will highly improve your sleep. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, when you spend 15 minutes before bed writing a gratitude journal, you will sleep longer and sounder. Not only would you go to sleep with a positive attitude about your life, but it also permits you to reflect on your achievements and what makes you happy. The research has shown that focusing on gratitude enhances the quality and the duration of your sleep. Consequently, your good nights of sleep will decrease your daytime dysfunctions: you will become more productive, happier, healthier, and more grateful. 

4. Writing (by hand) makes you learn better

The action of writing with a pen and paper could help you learn better. As the gesture of writing involves both your hands and your brain, it benefits your motor memory. There are many studies conducted on the subject. Entitled "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking" and published in Psychological Science (2015), one of them suggests that writing class or meeting notes on a laptop would lead to transcribing verbatim rather than processing the information and reframing ideas and concepts in your own words. Writing by hand would trigger and develop your analytical and critical skills.

5. Writing eliminates stress

Writing will clear your mind by eliminating your stress. When you are stressed, worried, anxious, or feeling depressed, writing could be a way of emptying all of these ideas, which are overcrowding your mind. It will also allow you to rationalise, as well as learn about and express yourself better. Putting in words some complex thoughts you have been thinking about for a while would force you to organise them into logical connections.

6. Writing helps you communicate better

Digging deeper into old and new ideas that have been ruminating in your mind will, in turn, train you in learning to communicate complex thoughts more effectively by transforming abstract ideas into concrete ones. Your communication skills will improve, while your emotions, hopes ,and dreams will become more defined. Since practice makes perfect, the more you write, the more sophisticated and clearer your writing style will become.

7. Writing makes you know yourself better

Writing about your feelings, hopes, and dreams will make you know yourself better. It will help you identify the exact emotions you are feeling, as well as their sources. You will then be aware of your reality, process your emotions better, which will perhaps encourage you to make some positive life-changes or continue in the right/successful/healthy path you are already following.

8. Writing helps you overcome difficult moments

A few studies have suggested that writing about your emotions and thoughts surrounding stressful and traumatic moments, such as a job loss or mortality, makes you cop with them better, for similar reasons as the ones listed in 5. Writing eliminates stress.

9. Writing makes you more productive

The words you use to communicate can influence the attitude and behaviour of those reading them (including yourself). Written communications form an integral part of our personal and professional life. Clarity through the choice of the right words enhances productivity. Also, setting your goals in writing, (i.e. to-do lists), will significantly increase your chances of not only achieving those goals, but also achieving them well.

10. Expressive writing creates memories about yourself and your life

If you write frequently, you will accumulate a lot of data and memories about yourself. This will allow you to remember the greatest and the not so great moments of your life. Your writings will present the evolution of your thoughts, while contributing to your knowledge of yourself. Also, who knows, perhaps one day someone will write a thesis about your achievements and your written memories will become a prized primary source material !

So, get yourself a notebook and start writing ! But before you do, we will leave you with Dorrit Cohn's inspirational quote, which offers a rather complete definition of writing:

Writing is not a mere game, a historical ventriloquist use of serious discourse; it is a highly serious endeavour, having a unique mission to portray the operation of other minds in their very otherness.
— Doritt Cohn, Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978), 7.