Remember the last time you wrote a card—even a postcard—scrawling a brief message to a friend and imagining the surprise your note would give the recipient? When you open the mailbox, a rush comes over you as you notice your name handwritten on a cream-colored envelope, the forever stamp and postmark from the town where it began its journey. You can feel the joy, even before you read a word inside. Not all letters are love letters. But when we remember to write one—and send it!—we know a bit of love sneaks onto the page. And it fills up the person holding, and reading, it with pleasure. While text message strings and email threads can bind us, letters beg to be freed from their sealed envelopes. Each word is a welcome, meaningful connection to the friend who not only thought of you, but took the time to write.
We recently bought two vintage typewriters and invited folks to tap out a note to someone they appreciate. They were delighted to reel half sheets of paper through the spool and then feel how hard they’d need to press to to make keys click and leave their blackish impression, one by one. (Type too fast, and the hammers jam up in a pile.) The mechanics were curious and fun, of course. But we could also sense an unmistakable feeling of goodness, when what came to mind appeared before us, like magic. Unlike the backlit keyboards we use and the messages that disappear from our screens every day, these notes gave us a physical memory and a charming message we could roll up and hand or seal and send to someone we love.
This simple gesture has loads of rewards. Alena Hall, Associate Healthy Living Editor of the Huffington Post, outlines research that shows how the act of writing a letter has physical and emotional benefits. Writing a letter (or even a brief postcard!) can:
put us in a good mood. Science has linked writing to decreased stress. People are in a better mood and report improved overall sense of well-being. Sharing genuine thoughts with another person boosts morale.
spark creativity. Engaging multiple senses as we move thoughts to paper—the more we dive in, the more engaged our imaginations can be.
focus our attention. Writing itself is a complex marriage of imagination and emotion. When you aren’t multitasking, you can enjoy the luxury of thoughtfulness.
freeze time. Writing is a tangible way of preserving memories that might otherwise be forgotten. Our writing becomes a living document of a moment in time.
The next time you think of a friend or loved one, consider telling them by putting pen to paper—or analog typing your note, if you get the chance. Fair warning: you may become hooked. And who knows? You may just open your mailbox to find a handwritten letter addressed back to you.