"Write it down!" say psychologists and all the self-help books, out to make you a better person. Jotting down aids memory, they say. (So what if Socrates thought writing down actually killed memory.) "When you press your thumb against a writing instrument and write on a page, it triggers the mind," says Dr Noothan Rao, founder of Write Strokes Through Right Thoughts Research Centre for Holistic Healing in Bengaluru. She explains that even activities like knitting, making rangolis, drawing and painting help connect with the brain.
While handwriting analysis is a well-known tool in forensic science, more and more people are now using it as a guide to a healthier life. Graphology, the study of handwriting, has been around for over a century. In 1919, American psychologist June Etta Downey developed the Downey Individual Will-Temperament test that measured personality based on a person's handwriting. The test helped to identify three personality types; hair-trigger (impulsive and quick), witful (succinct and decisive) and accurate (slow and thoughtful).
What does your handwriting say about you? That you are flamboyant, carefree, kind, successful? Or that you are a great lover or, perhaps, the world's least organised person? Handwriting analysis can pick up nearly 5000 traits and is often used as a psychological testing tool during recruitment. A graphologist can also find underlying health issues through a handwriting sample. Yes, no need to draw blood; a page of your writing is enough to see what ails you!
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"The handwriting traces disturbances in neuromuscular coordination," explains Rao."The way strokes flow out of the writing instrument gives away a great deal about the health condition.The warnings can come through our handwriting much before our body starts exhibiting visible symptoms of a particular ailment.We can get clues to our health conditions – physical, mental, neurological, psychological, psychosomatic, and even hormonal."
While working on her research project at Bengaluru's St. John's Hospital, Noothan was surprised to learn that many patients with kidney-related issues also displayed signs of low self-esteem.Studies have shown that a high percentage of people with cancer have hidden resentment issues in their early life.In addition, endocrinology research has shown that people with thyroid disorders show a change in their moods and their handwriting.
"The root of any health issue lies in the brain, in our thoughts.Grapho-therapy is the science of using techniques like altering your handwriting to change your thought process, and hence help you live a healthy life," says Noothan.Her projects include analysing the handwriting of hockey players to see if they were mentally fit for highly-competitive team sports.
We're not talking about improving one's handwriting like our teachers told us in school.It isn't so much about the aesthetics of writing as it is about the many other facets of writing—strokes, margins, spacing between letters and words, the slant, the pressure on specific letters, the overall pressure on the paper, and so on."Your handwriting is like the mirror that shows up your pimple. Once you see it, you can decide how you want to treat it.A good handwriting expert or grapho-therapist can suggest ways in which to alter a trait by altering your handwriting," adds Zubin Vevaina, the Pune-based director of A to Z Graphology.
While just starting in college, Zubin says he came across graphology and fell in love with the field."As a student of science, I did not believe in the power of handwriting to change one's life.But as I continued to try out the exercises and learnt more about handwriting, my life changed too, and I went from a low-performing student to a high-performing one," he says. Now he uses graphology to help people of all ages to make the most of their inherent strengths."Irrespective of the language and script, writing samples can be used as a diagnostic tool," says Vevaina, who has analysed samples in 14 languages, most of which he does not know.While interacting with artisans near Jodhpur, he found that some of them could not write their names. How did he analyse their writing then?"I asked them to draw whatever they felt like. A pond, trees, animals, birds. By observing the way they made their strokes, I could learn a lot about them."
Like in any counselling intervention, grapho-therapy works only if the person believes she has a trait or problem that she wants to address. For instance, if you want to be a more organised person, it isn't enough to just start writing consciously, leaving decent margins on the right for a week! One needs at least 40 days of commitment through the exercises, in consultation with an expert, to see the desired change, warn the experts. And so, for a healthier life, I'm going to experiment with jotting down a to-do list every day!
Mala Kumar is a Bengaluru-based writer whose to-do list includes 'throw out old pens and sharpen pencils'.