Participants ask me in every workshop I teach whether it is best to write by hand or type when journaling. The answer is to chose the method that allows you to write in stream of consciousness best when journaling.
Steam of consciousness writing is when you are allowing your thoughts to flow freely and uninterrupted. In this type of writing, you usually write quickly, if not fervently — passionately releasing all thoughts, feelings, and other inner and outer observances onto the page. Thus, we are giving ourselves the time and space to allow our innermost, most authentic Self to emerge, along with moments of profound insight and clarity, known as “ah-ha! moments.”
Some people complain that writing by hand in their journals slows them down, consequently interrupting their thoughts. If this resonates with you, perhaps try typing on your computer or smart phone to journal. If you choose to type, I suggest creating a folder for your journal entries on Google Drive. This way, all of your journal entries are automatically saved; they are generally safe from others reading, as you must sign into your email to access your journal folder; and you can access this folder from any computer, so you can write anywhere, whenever inspiration or need calls.
On the other hand, when typing, some people don’t like the red or green squiggly lines that appear underneath grammar and spelling that might need correction. They are annoyed or want to go back and make the spelling or grammar correction, which interrupts their steam of consciousness flow. Or people feel they type too slowly. If either of these issues sound like yours, consider writing by hand in a journal.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that major benefits of journaling were discovered in a study where participants journaled by hand. These benefits include improved immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure, improved mood, fewer PTSD and avoidance symptoms, reduced depressive symptoms, improved social and linguistic behavior, higher GPA for students, improved working memory and much more.
Furthermore, it’s believed that the physical act of writing is a creative outlet for our brain, activating the amygdala. The amygdala controls memory processing, emotional reactions and decision making. Therefore, when we write by hand, we are strengthening our ability to process memory, react emotionally and make decisions. Typing may still produce similar benefits; however, no study to date supports this theory.
So when considering whether to type or write, choose the method that allows you to write most freely. I write slowly by hand, but I also love writing in a journal, so I tend to switch off between typing and writing by hand. There’s no harm in switching it up like this, so long as you’re comfortable having your journal entries in two separate places. At first, I thought this would bother me, but it doesn’t. Give both a try and see what works best for you. Happy journaling!