Ask professionals about writing, and you are likely to get diverse responses. There are some people, like me, who love the written word. There are others who wish to write but never get around to it because they have so many other things to do. And then there are some who do not write because either they simply dislike putting pen to paper or feel they have little to write about.
I think writing is for everyone. For, it has the power to make us really happy. Whether you write books, articles, blogs, emails or your own personal diary, here is an art form that is easy to pursue and fulfilling.
Why does writing lead to happiness ? Here are some compelling reasons.
We live with many thoughts and ideas in our mind. These could be ideas for the next project in office, thoughts on the forthcoming marketing campaign, or some reflections that a nice video on YouTube has triggered.
These thoughts are often initially fuzzy, and evolve either through deep thinking or after discussion with our colleagues. Either way, when you start writing to articulate these ideas, and what they mean to you, you end up sharpening the thoughts themselves.
This happens because writing focuses our mind, and compels us to be as clear and precise as possible. And, of course, when we are able to crystallise our thoughts in this fashion, we certainly feel happy.
I have found writing to be a great lifter of mood, especially when I’m feeling down and out, or when work is particularly stressful.
Adam Grant, organizational psychologist at Wharton and bestselling author, tells us that writing about our work and its impact makes us more productive and happy. It’s particularly the case when we are caught in the midst of stressful, fast-paced work. Penning down the positive impact we have been able to create can give us a new boost of energy. Similarly, writing about what we wish to achieve in the future, even if these goals are still quite distant, makes us happy because it clearly outlines for us the dreams that we want to move towards. Our dreams give us hope, and seeing them clearly articulated on paper make them even more real and tangible in our mind.
A thank-you note
There is considerable research to show that feelings of gratitude make us happy. Writing helps us express our gratitude in authentic and intimate ways—something that is sometimes difficult to do verbally.
For instance, writing a weekly diary, where we record all that we are grateful for, helps us see how much happiness, big or small, has come into our lives over the past seven days, notwithstanding a challenging environment such as the current pandemic. Writing a small letter, email or even a WhatsApp message, to convey genuine gratitude to a colleague, also makes us happy because we are adding a few smiles and some positivity to another person’s life. We sometimes do not realise the enormous power of these small written gestures of gratitude. I have treasured some of these messages for years thereafter and so have many of my colleagues.
We come across so many interesting and relevant things each day. Sometimes, a book or an article or even a WhatsApp forward throws up good ideas that we may wish to use. Often, we attend a lecture or a webinar where a few compelling points are put forward. At other times, a wonderful idea may occur to us at a random moment, when we are commuting, or day-dreaming, or even while taking a shower. These ideas often get waylaid in our over-crowded minds, as we quickly move on to some other activity. With time, these thoughts may get lost altogether.
The best way of archiving ideas, for future reference, is to write them down. I have seen some colleagues carry a little notebook with them all the time, for precisely this reason. You may, or may not, use these thoughts later but by writing them down, you can feel happy that you’ll not lose them. It is quite likely that you may revisit some of these written ideas at a later date, to develop them further.
Many of us wish to contribute to our professional world by making a positive impact through our ideas and reflections.
The ability to influence thinking in our specific sphere of work or interest inevitably creates happiness in our mind, even fulfilment. Sometimes, this is also important to our roles. Writing is perhaps the easiest method of developing such thought leadership.
Once you have penned down your thoughts and posted them on a public platform, they can travel far and wide. I write quite often on professional network LinkedIn on areas of my intense interest. When a reader then comments on how my article has helped or inspired them, I instantly feel motivated to think and write even more. This is a positive spiral of ideation, and writing is often the best starting point.
Finally, for many of us, writing also brings immense happiness because it is such a beautiful art form. Pinning down the right phrase, crafting a seamless flow of words, picking the right metaphor, injecting a bit of humour, polishing the prose, discarding the jargon, expressing a difficult idea clearly and succinctly—these are all integral part of the joy of writing.
You do not have to be a professional writer to experience these delights. As you keep writing, you will find that your love for the written word also evolves, and you soon become a wordsmith in your own style.
Harish Bhat works with the Tata Group. He finds that writing is also therapy for the mind as it often settles his thinking, and gives him both space and peace.