Dear readers, when was the last time you hand-wrote a letter? It may be decades ago when you jotted a letter to your penpal, or back in university when you wrote a letter to your parents, but do you remember how it felt? I do, because I regularly engage in the quaint, almost vintage, activity of snail mail. As sending and receiving snail mail turned out to have immense psychological, emotional and physical benefits for me, with this “open letter,” that was originally written for BWQ, I hope to inspire you to give it a try as well – because snailmail makes me happy.
I am not a prepper at all (which explains why I am out of toilet paper for weeks, already), but when our Prime Minister announced the so-called “intelligent lock-down,” I did buy myself some stuff to survive: nice postcards, some beautiful pens, funny stickers, and beautiful stationery. New times require new habits, and while we are physically distancing, I want to remain socially close. My way to do so is by the time-honored tradition of sending letters. Not just e-mailing, chatting and apping, but also by good old-fashioned letter writing.
Our brains are wired to connect.
Our brains are wired to connect to the extent that there is even a neural overlap between social and physical pain. Therefore, sending a letter can help both you and the recipient. Writing and crafting the special gift of a loving letter can increase your happiness, as activities that revolve around love, friendships and other social connections tend to activate the parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion, motivation, memory, and even attention.
Writing and crafting are therapeutic and change how you perceive time and space. No more staring to your WhatsApp screen – a letter might or might now arrive in your mailbox today or somewhere in the future. And when it does, somebody miles away can suddenly feel very close to you. By connecting through letters, you can also strengthen your sense of self. As we cannot attend any “pink” events at the moment, corresponding with others within the Bi+ community helps to address that part of our shared cq group identities.
Handwritten letters can spread love. The secret about writing is that it gives you an opportunity to express exactly what you want to say, to focus on what matters most. Not only that, you are able to communicate it in a way that will make your situation or relationship better, as a letter allows you to reflect and use the most suitable words and/or images.
Writing a thoughtful letter will often make you feel happier, and satisfied, and this might help in decreasing any feelings of sadness, depression, shame, anxiety, loneliness and stress. Therefore, any time you write a love letter, friendship letter, gratitude letter, compassionate letter, or forgiveness letter, you’re not only making the other person feel happy and appreciated, but also uplifting your own spirit. Whether you like to say “thank you”, “I’m sorry” or just “hi there” – doing it by letter feels more classy.
It is not about being perfect, it is about being present.
Through “gift wrapping” your words, you can make your letters as artistic as you want. You can make collages from old magazines and bright up your letters (and the envelopes) with stickers, drawings, dried flowers, potato stamps and “washi” masking tape. But you do not have to – snail mail is already unique – you can just start small, with some nice postcards. Or type a letter on your computer to print and send. Keep it simple, write as you would talk and do not worry about any of your skills, it is not about being perfect, it is about being present.
Creating a piece of snail mail boosts your self-esteem and increases your optimism and happiness. Being in the moment by focusing on beautifying my letter, decreases my anxiety about the unpredictable nature of the future.
By writing about the things I am grateful for, I feel more grounded. Writing also allows to express negative feelings on paper, to get unwanted thoughts and emotions off the chest, to reflect, thus to be able to gain new insights and move on. And when you feel like it, do write about your dreams and goals for the future, to create super strong and magnetic roots for yourself, as notes in longhand are much easier to retain than typed memo’s. Writing about your purpose and meaning increases your resilience. And because of the psychological processes it activates, letter writing also has many physical benefits including lowering blood pressure and improving sleep quality.
Of course, we no longer need the Pony Express as a communication link, but just like in those times, we can make sure that the mail delivery becomes one of the highlights of our days. In contrast to typing an email, that can end up in “spam” and/or getting accidentally deleted, writing by hand is slow and your recipient will appreciate your effort and keep your letter, cherish it for emotional value, re-read it and remember it. Good change that your post is going to make someone’s day – and isn’t that a wonderful feeling?
Take care, you all. Stay home, stay healthy, stay safe.