Crossword: Find out why the age-old art of calligraphy is still so popular

In the resolutely digital age, it’s safe to say that more and more people are rediscovering the therapeutic effect of putting pen to paper. A simple quick search on Instagram shows millions of results, from both professional calligraphers and aspiring calligraphers, as they take mundane phrases, famous quotes or bits of poetry and bring them to life on paper.

Calligraphy is by no means a new art form. In the Arab world, calligraphy has existed since the time of Ali Ibn Muqla, an official or vizier of the Abbasid Caliphate (around 860). He is responsible for creating a system of proportions for Arabic script, developing and extending formal structural thought to cursive forms. Legend has it that when political rivals cut off Ibn Muqla’s right hand, he continued to write, with a pen strapped to his arm!

In China and Japan, calligraphy developed somewhat differently. Known as brush calligraphy, the focus at all times is on finding balance. The act of putting brush to paper is considered a performance, or a dance, with smooth, flowing movements.

In the case of Europe, calligraphy first appeared in Latin script around 600 BC, in Rome, Italy. It was used to copy religious texts and continued to evolve until the introduction of the printing press in the 15th century saw a decline in manuscript works.

Today, calligraphy is seen more as a conscious art exercise. It involves regular breathing, concentration and mindfulness – all aspects that have a restorative impact on our well-being. A 2011 study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging found that calligraphy therapy improved cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

The physical exertion of calligraphy also has wonderful benefits. A 2014 study in the journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management found that practicing Chinese calligraphic writing, in particular, leads to a decrease in an individual’s heart rate and an increase in skin temperature – the same calming effects that people find in meditation.

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