A personal book can take many forms—from a timeline or journal to a goal tracker, workbook, or picture book. It can also be used to write about thoughts and feelings or as a narrative about the past. They all have in common that they are about you, by you, for you and belong to you. They are all a way of working on yourself (skills, emotion regulation, habits, or discovery), telling your story, discovering themes in your life and what is important to you, or putting thoughts and emotions into a concrete (written) form.
There is something beneficial about writing vs typing or keyboarding, and there are also many benefits of writing down our thoughts and feelings.
The benefits of taking handwritten notes for studying is well documented:
- Comparing Memory for Handwriting versus Typing found that recall and recognition of common words was better for words that had been written rather than typed. This could be due to the psychomotor activities involved in writing.
- Why Using Pen And Paper, Not Laptops, Boosts Memory: Writing Notes Helps Recall Concepts, Ability To Understand summarized two research studies which “suggest that taking notes with a pen and paper, rather than a laptop, leads to higher quality learning, as writing is a better strategy to store and internalize ideas in the long haul. Writing by hand strengthens the learning process, while typing can impair it … writing by hand allows the brain to receive feedback from a person’s motor actions, and this specific feedback is different than those received when touching and typing on a keyboard. … The researchers believe since writing by hand takes longer than typing on a keyboard, the temporal aspect may influence the learning process.”
As noted above, the fact that writing takes longer may benefit learning by forcing us to synthesize and summarize information as we are writing it.
In How Does Writing Affect Your Brain, the authors note that “writing can serve as a calming, meditative tool. Stream of conscious writing exercises, in particular, have been identified as helpful stress coping methods. Keeping a journal or trying out free-writing exercises, can drastically reduce your levels of stress”. The article and accompanying infographic also point out how our brain responds in more areas to “stories” rather than just facts. The Benefits of Writing in Daily Life lists seven ways writing can improve our lives, including clearing our mind, recovering memories, and putting our life events in perspective.
There are also benefits to putting our thoughts and feelings into words:
- In 12 surprising benefits of writing down your thoughts and feelings, the author notes that writing things down can help us clear our minds, clarify underlying emotions, process emotions, take action, and tell our story.
- Journaling for Mental Health from the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Health Encyclopedia, not only lists benefits of journaling for our mental health, but also gives a few pointers on how to do it.
- PsychCentral’s 5 Ways to Process Your Emotions Through Writing also gives us some how-to pointers with ideas for learning to explore our emotions through writing.
In the interest of pursuing goals or tracking progress in skill development, writing is also helpful in clarifying what we want to do, how we want to do it, and keeping track of progress.
A scrapbook might use pictures to represent thoughts, feelings, aspirations, or even our life history. This helps us to visualize these things and process the emotions tied to them, much as writing does—giving them a concrete, visual (instead of written) form.