February 28, 2020
Even if English wasn’t your forte in high school, or if you still struggle to compose a letter, there are plenty of reasons to give creative writing a try.
For starters, it may benefit your health – both cognitive and physical.
Writing is a complex task that engages all parts of the brain. When you imagine – or recall – a scenario and replay it in your mind, you’re using the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. When you translate abstract ideas – like emotion, sensation and motivation – into words, your parietal lobe gets to work. The left frontal lobe, called the “writing area,” handles technical skills like grammar, spelling and word choice.
In a study cited by The New York Times, researchers compared brain scans of volunteers assigned to copy text from a document and those asked to write creatively. The result? The creative group had boosted activity in areas of the brain that process complex tasks and memory.
But that’s not the only reason to pick up a pen: Studies increasingly show that creativity is linked to better health outcomes in older adults, such as reduced stress, lower blood pressure and stronger immunity. Self-expression causes your brain to produce many of the same “feel-good” chemicals that exercise generates – including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.
“Creative expression is important to everyone, at every age,” affirms Dr. Gerald J. Schiffhorst, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Central Florida. “It takes us out of ourselves into the realm of imagination.”
Dr. Schiffhorst teaches a creative writing workshop at The Mayflower and recently edited the group’s inaugural literary journal, The Mayflower Review, which comprises resident-written memoirs, essays and poetry.
“Writing is valuable for older adults because it serves as a memory aid. It’s stimulating and keeps the mind active,” Dr. Schiffhorst adds. “There is great satisfaction, even joy, in writing and sharing a story or poem, just as there is in painting or music.”
At The Mayflower, we believe creativity and passion are essential to well-being. With preventive healthcare, fitness programming, lifelong learning, art workshops, performances, and more, our community helps you live better. To learn more about our programs and activities or to schedule a tour, give us a call at 407-657-1620.