Neuroscience Says 1 Simple Habit Will Help You Build Brainpower and Emotional Intelligence. Here’s How to Do It

Neuroscience Says 1 Simple Habit Will Help You Build Brainpower and Emotional Intelligence. Here's How to Do It

The science is clear: Writing is good for your brain.

There are literally hundreds of studies that indicate the psychological benefits of writing. For example, Duke University researchers found that participants who engaged in a six-week program of expressive writing improved their resilience, symptoms of depression, and perceived stress.

In another study, researchers analyzed brain scans to see how writing about negative events such as failure affected the way subjects processed and dealt with such events. The researchers concluded that “expressive writing may be an effective tool to use to address negative emotions,” and that writing about a past failure could lead to improved learning.

And last year, brain researchers demonstrated that writing by hand rather than typing with a keyboard promoted more elaborate brain connectivity, which was crucial for memory formation, encoding new information, and learning.

All of this research indicates that the process of writing not only allows you to clarify thoughts, it helps you “internalize” them, making them a part of you and increasing the benefits associated with doing so. This helps you exercise your cognitive skills and develop emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions.

But if you’re not in the habit of writing, what are some simple methods you can use to develop that habit? And how do you actually get better at it? Here are three tips to help you practice. (If you find value in this lesson, you might be interested in my free course, which teaches you how to build emotional intelligence in yourself and your team.) 1. Keep a journal.

Of all the things you can do to build emotional intelligence, journaling is probably the single most impactful.

Journaling can help you: Clarify your thinking

Connect the dots

Get to know yourself

Gain control over your emotions

Express yourself in a healthy way

Manage anxiety

Reduce stress

Improve your mood and your mental health

Yes, a journal can be a place to share your innermost thoughts and feelings–and that’s a great way to build self-awareness.

But if you tell me “I’m not one of those people,” remember this:

A journal can also be a place to keep random thoughts–anything from stream of consciousness, to new learnings, to that great idea you got in the shower.

So, use your journal however you want. The key is to make it easy (use a dedicated notebook and pen that’s feels good to use).

And although you can journal at any time, you may find it helpful to set aside a few minutes to practice at the same time every day (or at whatever cadence works for you). 2. Write to people you love.

For years, before I ever began writing professionally, my writing consisted primarily of thank-you notes, cards to friends, emails and letters to my dream girl and eventual wife. (Those letters and emails are actually the way I won her over–but that’s a story for another day.)

There are many advantages to writing friends and family:

You write with an audience in mind, which helps you build empathy.

You use an honest, “keep it real” writing style–which helps you get to know yourself and build rapport with others.

Most important, you share something of great value with loved ones. Think of how you felt the last time someone you cared about took time to write a heartfelt message to you.

You can even use this as an opportunity to save relationships that need mending, or just to get an extra smile out of someone. 3. Write appreciation notes at work. When Doug Conant took over as CEO at Campbell’s, he transformed the company culture from toxic to award-winning. He credits an interesting habit as a big part of his strategy:Writing thank-you notes.”Most cultures don’t do a good job of celebrating contributions,” Conant once said in an interview with Fast Company. “So I developed the practice of writing notes to our employees.”Over 10 years, it amounted to more than 30,000 notes, and we had only 20,000 employees. Wherever I’d go in the world, in employee cubicles you’d find my handwritten notes posted on their bulletin boards.”Today, almost all written communication is electronic. When you write short, sincere, specific notes of appreciation–at work or at home–you practice relationship management, a key element of emotional intelligence.In doing so, you develop a habit that helps you, helps others, and makes your workplace or home better.There you go. Three quick ways to get more practice writing, in a way that will help you exercise your brain and develop emotional intelligence:1. Keep a journal.2. Write loved ones.3. Write appreciation notes.The key is just to get started. Because the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll make writing a habit in your life. And the sooner you’ll use writing to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.


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