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I’ve always loved handwritten letters. Prior to the invention of electronic mail, I was always writing in some shape or form. Even many years later, when it was more common to text, my grandmother and I would exchange handwritten letters on a monthly basis. I was only forty miles from my hometown, but there was something special about receiving a carefully thought-out letter from my granny. There was never anything new to be told, everything we wrote about was a summary of our phone calls, but I didn’t mind. It was just lovely to share such an old-fashioned and forgotten medium with her. But the most important part of her letters was how she signed them off.
“Love you always.”
I haven’t sent any handwritten letters since her passing. But it’s something I’ve often thought about doing if I could find the time or person to write to. Writing an article such as this reminds me of all the reasons we value handwritten letters.
5 Reasons why we should still send handwritten letters.
Handwritten letters create physical, long-lasting memories.
Studies have shown that there is a distinct link between handwritten letters and increased neural activity in the brain. I’ve been saying it for years, but nothing beats writing things down physically when it comes to creating memories. I kept handwritten notes during my university career, and even now I prefer writing things down physically, especially if I need to remember them. The moment we commit pen to paper, we’re more likely to store it within our memory than if we type it onto a computer or into a phone. And the same applies to sending handwritten letters to our nearest and dearest.
There’s also the added benefit of finding these memories years down the line. Sure you can save an email or screenshot a text. But, there’s nothing quite like coming across handwritten letters. My grandmother and I used to frequently go through her boxes of memories and we’d often find various yellowed, hand-written cards and letters from decades gone by. From the fraying edges of the paper to the delicate scrawl of the old-fashioned handwriting, I always felt somewhat emotional about reading old correspondents. And the emotions I feel when I open my grandmother’s memory box and read her letters are a mixture of sadness and love as I recall just how much we meant to each other.
Handwritten letters can show how much you care.
It goes without saying that most people like to receive a text or an email just letting them know you’re thinking about them. Even if it’s just a simple ‘hi‘ it can mean the world of difference. But, receiving handwritten letters is something else. It takes real effort and time to hand write to someone, which makes receiving a handwritten letter or card even more special. A few simple words on paper or cards become more meaningful when you’ve carved out time in your day to sit down and write them. This is specifically true if you’re corresponding with elderly loved ones who perhaps feel that the art of letter writing is gone.
But handwritten expressions of care can extend further than just our loved ones. It’s also a thoughtful way of thanking others for their service to you. This could be anything from thanking wedding guests to car sales thank you cards. I spent a few hours writing thank you letters to those who wished us a happy wedding day in late 2020, and to those who sent gifts. The option to send a mass email or text was there, but I chose the more traditional route because of how special it felt to me.
Letters help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
No matter the time of year, writing a letter to a loved one can remind them that they’re not alone. This was specifically needed during the various lockdowns caused by the pandemic. But thinking of our lonely loved ones should still be a priority even now that all restrictions have been lifted. As we approach the holidays, arguably one of the loneliest times of the year, we should consider picking up pen and paper to connect with those most in need. Think of your elderly grandparents, bereaved neighbour, or even friends across the water. No matter their generation or situation, receiving personalised messages will let them know that you’re thinking of them and that you care.
They honor tradition.
I love how handwritten letters connect us to our past and how things once were. It’s easy to forget that years before the internet or mobile phones, our parents and grandparents communicated purely by letters. Romantic relationships were much more difficult if one person was abroad or deployed. There was no such thing as social media updates or a quick Whatsapp message to tell them you love them. Often you had to wait to call them at a phone box or sit by the letterbox for the postman, hoping he had something for you.
Handwritten letters are a reminder of what it means to be patient, which makes them even more special.
Writing by hand promotes a sense of mindfulness.
Even if you’re not writing a letter or a card, just the act of writing can promote mindfulness. It forces us to slow down, listen to our inner voices, and process what you’re about to write. The same goes for colouring and drawing, both of which have been proven as useful mindfulness techniques. If you’re ever feeling anxious, physically write down what it is that you’re worried about. You might even find it helpful to make physical lists and cross things off as you conquer them.
Finally, I find that when I have something that I’m afraid to say, I write it down. Whether it’s something you want to say to a person or a situation, writing it down relieves it from your mind. Often, I’ve found myself writing letters to those that have hurt me. But instead of sending them, I’ve filed them away or, more commonly, disposed of them either by burning or tearing them up. This is also considered a form of ‘mindfulness’ and teaches us to process our emotions in a healthy way.