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December 28, 2012

Living Independently: Write it Down to Remember!

The next time you need to remember something, don’'t pull out your iPad and tap in a memo. Instead, write it down— on paper! We are being pushed to move to a paperless society. Banks want us to get our statements electronically. Utility companies are pushing online bill payments. The last time you changed medications, instead of handing you a piece of paper, your doctor may have even used his smartphone to send the prescription directly to the pharmacy. 

The digital universe has increased the speed of communication; that’'s not a bad thing. Shared data bases keep us safe and alert us to problems. Hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies are sharing data electronically to reduce medical errors and improve patient care. But as beneficial as the move to a paperless society can be in some areas, when it comes to your brain, paper rules! 

Paper Elicits a Physical Response 

Touching a piece of paper reminds us that “we’'re physical beings, despite having to contend with an increasingly virtual world,” Steve Leveen, CEO of Levenger, told The New York Times. Taking the time to write out our thoughts by hand “slows us down to think and to contemplate and to revise and recast,” Steve said. This may be extra beneficial to those of us older adults who are experiencing our power to remember details slowly slip away. 

As CEO of Levenger, a firm specializing in paper journals and notebooks, Steve can hardly be faulted for his paper bias, but research supports his view. A 1997 British study found that people process and comprehend complex information better when they read it on paper. 

Paper Forces our Brains to Work Harder 

Productivity expert David Allen told the Times writing notes and reminders by hand may slow us down, but it also forces us to think about what we’'re writing. The very act of writing something down helps cement it in our memory. Of course, paper also has a physical presence that is hard to ignore. As David noted, digital reminders disappear when you close your phone or turn off your computer— but paper is “in your face.” 

To learn more about the way your mind works, download our free guide, “Understanding Your Cognitive, Mental & Emotional Health

Photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc

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