According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells.” A great way to keep the brain active is to write.
If you focus on writing expressively, that is, reaching for emotion and understanding in your writing, you increase the benefits according to researchers. University of Texas psychologist James W. Pennebaker, PhD and his colleagues say that “people who benefit most from expressive writing tend to use more causal analysis and express more emotion in their writing.” This leads to speculation that expressive writing helps people simplify and organize fragmented memories.
if keeping active mentally is crucial to aging well and writing is one way to keep your mind working, why not consider writing some of the stories about your life to share with your children and grandchildren? Or write your memories of your childhood and youth now, while you can and enjoy reading them yourself later, when your memory might fade a bit.
Writing your memoirs can do double and, even triple, duty in your choice to embracing aging with grace. When you write your memoirs, especially if you write expressively, you can:
- increase the vitality of your brain cells
- improve working memory and reduce stress
- enjoy being creative in your later years
Writing some recollections of your life can be as informal as writing a letter to your grandchildren. Sam Wright wrote 90 letters (one for each year of his life before he quit writing) to his ‘as yet unborn’ great-great-grandchildren. We published the collection as The Way It Was and it’s a beautiful look into one man’s path through life.
Perhaps you’ve had a pretty exotic life, with lots of travel or star-studded experiences. Surely people who have known you would love to read the details of some of your adventures. Why not write them down and illustrate your book with photos. Take a look at what Dave Dressler created with his book, The Skooter Travels the World in Search of Adventure, just published by Dudley Court Press.
Or maybe your life has been simple. Maybe your life is best summed up as a “series of moments” shared with family and friends. In that case, why not share the moments that you most vividly recollect by writing them down. Peg Woodard, author of Life is a Series of Moments, says that you should “just start writing.” She continues, “When you remember one thing to write about, pretty soon that one leads you to another, and then another.” Write your simple life in simple stories that tell of the world as only you experienced it.
If you’re interested in writing about your life but aren’t sure where to start, consider this resource: Memoir Writing Made Easy – a downloadable ebook that will get you started right away. Also, check out our newest online programs, Writer’s Sprint and Aspiring Author to Published Pro.