The science-based benefits of writing

It’s no secret that I love writing. I write everyday for this blog as well as other publications, and have an on-and-off journal I use when I feel anxious and need to put my thoughts on paper. Many people don’t realise how much time they spend writing every day: we send emails, we write to our friends and families, we create documentation, presentations, and more. Well, good news: writing is actually good for your brain. Let’s explore the science-based benefits of writing and how various forms of writing can affect your brain.

science-based benefits of writing

Writing makes you happier and healthier

Research shows that writing about your life goals makes you happier and healthier. Most studies in the past have focused on writing about one’s past traumas in order to heal faster. What’s very interesting about this study is that they compared the effects of writing about traumatic events to the effects of writing about the participants’ “best possible future self.” The researchers found that both had similar positive effects, but writing about one’s goals was significantly less upsetting—which is understandable.

And writing about your goals doesn’t have to be private either. According to Dr Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, blogging may trigger the release of dopamine, similar to other dopamine stimulants like music and looking at art. So you may have some of the same therapeutic effects you would get from writing privately, with the added benefit of accountability. Pretty good for an activity that’s completely free.

science-based benefits of writing

Writing makes you more resilient

If you’re going through a difficult experience, writing can help you cope better. A study that followed recently fired engineers showed that the ones who consistently engaged with expressive writing were able to find a new job faster.

“The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less. Eight months later, less than 19% of the engineers in the control groups were reemployed full-time, compared with more than 52% of the engineers in the expressive writing group,” explains Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist at Wharton University.

science-based benefits of writing

Writing increases your gratitude

According to research, people who take the time to reflect on the good things in their life once a week by writing them down are more positive and motivated about their current situation and their future. I previously wrote about how writing things you’re grateful for can be part of the mental push-ups to add to your mental gym routine.

This could be the topic of an entire article—which I may write another day—but practicing gratitude can improve your psychological health, enhance your empathy, increase your self-esteem, help you sleep better, and more. We naturally tend to dwell on things that go wrong or not as well as we expected, so it’s a great exercise to reflect on the things you’re grateful for by writing them down. Added bonus if you also take the time to thank the people who supported you so they know you’re grateful for their help.

science-based benefits of writing

Writing helps you communicate clearly

It may sound obvious, but writing regularly has been shown to help people communicate complex ideas more clearly. This has benefits both in terms of emotional intelligence—expressing how you feel—and in what are considered hard sciences such as mathematics.

You know how sometimes you want to explain something and feel like it sounded better in your head? Writing is a great way to flex that communication muscle and to practice translating what can feel like confusing thoughts into words other people can make sense of. Whenever I struggle to articulate something and I have the opportunity to sit down and write it, I get my notebook out and try to lay it down in a few sentences. It usually helps in making my thoughts clearer, first for myself, and as a result for others.

science-based benefits of writing

Writing is a great personal growth tool which I use a lot as part of my mindframing method for mindful productivity. If you want to get started and make it a regular part of your routine, I wrote an article about ways to build a writing habit. Happier, healthier, more resilient, more grateful, and a better communicator… What’s not to like about writing?


Anne-Laure Le Cunff

I’m an ex-Googler, entrepreneur, and part-time neuroscience student at King’s College. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about productivity, creativity, learning, and designing engaging products.

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