One cannot deny the evidence. Handwriting letters can improve your relationships with your loved ones, give your creativity a shot in the arm and sharpen your mind. A 2017 study found that areas of the brain associated with learning chirp up when we prefer writing by hand over a keyboard.
Such findings go against modern inclinations. Nowadays most of us rarely have enough free time to pick up a pen, place a piece of paper on a table and express our thoughts. We find it much easier to text or email or WhatsApp whether we’re at home or in the tube.
Yet you might still want to return to the old ways. That is true whether you wish to initiate or sustain a long-distance relationship or hope to tell a friend that spending multiple years away from them hasn’t made you oblivious of their absence. Read on, and you’d find out the reason behind this advice.
Here are multiple reasons why you should write handwritten letters every month:
1. It’s good for your brain
Multiple studies have connected the dots between journaling and mental health. The process of blurting out our thoughts on paper can aid brain function and cognition. Some case studies have even linked handwriting letters with a better ability to process one’s feelings.
Here’s why I think that’s the case. When we write something by hand, we know that there’s no going back. Sure, you can always erase what you may have previously written, but the splash marks the act of removal will leave on paper will make your writing look ugly. Most people, then, will avoid it.
This knowledge that you are engaging in an irreversible process forces us to take the act of handwriting seriously. It leaves us with no choice but to think and re-think our thoughts, in the hope that we’d be able to draw connections between them. As only then we’d be able to express our ideas on paper.
Many people feel this act of thinking through their thoughts liberating. On one end, it frees them of the weird ideas that might have occupied precious real estate in their brain. On the other end, the act of thinking our thoughts, so to say, allows us to come with better ones than what we already have.
2. It will cut your screen time
How many hours did you spend online over the past week? Residents of different countries will answer this question differently. An average American spends more than a day online every week. Similar is the case with the average Briton whose online activity consumes 24 hours of their life every seven days.
The statistics start to get even more worrying when you factor in smartphone usage. Majority of the world’s population spends more than 3 hours looking down on their cell phone every day, with millennials devoting 5.7 hours to their phone and baby boomers allocating it an average of 6 hours.
Spending so much time looking on the screen does have its shortcomings. Researchers have found that people glued to the interactive world have a higher risk of obesity and are more likely to develop increased blood pressure, and are more prone to high-cholesterol and sleep problems.
This is why you might want to turn off your smartphone the next time you’re on your bed. With a UVC robot doing its work on the carpet, you’d be better served by taking out your pen and piece of paper and writing to your pen pal. This exercise will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine.
3. It makes you feel happy
Researchers say that we garner three feel-good benefits by writing letters. The first of them is an increased level of happiness. The second is a greater feeling of satisfaction with our lives, and the final benefit is reduced symptoms of depression, if you’re suffering from it.
The findings shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most of us write letters when we wish to tell our loved ones how much we value their presence in our lives. This expression leaves us with no choice but to count the blessings that we have in our lives. In other words, it makes us feel grateful.
Feeling grateful then opens a window of benefits to us. Study after study has shown how people who are happy with what they have – and express their happiness for the same – are more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and have a lower risk of anxiety and depression.
Which is to say that you’re actually helping yourselves when you’re dishing out appreciative letters to your pen pals. You might want to think of it as if the words you’re writing for them – kind, hopeful words – are having a mood-elevating and brain transformative effect on you too.
4. It makes you less reactionary
Imagine you were living in the 19th century. A closed associate has just sent you a letter ridden with expletives. You have no choice but to retaliate in words. But before you pull out the chair and start noting down your fiery response, there are a few pieces of information that you need.
Why did they send you such a letter? Did you do something to merit such a hard-hearted response? Is there any behavior of yours that resulted in putting their words to fire? The answers to these questions won’t come easy. You’d have to ask fellow friends and dive deep into your mind for them.
Now return to the second decade of the 21st century. A loved one has sent you a letter that has put your entire being on fire. With multiple modes of communication at your disposal, you can take them to a task in a matter of minutes, if not earlier. How dare they send you such incendiary material!
Both these examples must have shown you what I’m trying to say: letter writing is slow. It is also less reactionary. Who knows what piece of information you’ll gather between the time you received the incendiary letter and when you’re about to post a response? Perhaps it will tame your emotions.
5. It creates a beautiful surprise
Remember the feeling you had in your childhood when you were opening gifts at Christmas? Each new gift box brought with it an unrivaled feeling of sensation. The seconds between opening your gift and seeing what was inside it for you were filled with loads of excitement and bundles of positive energy.
Getting a letter evokes a similar feeling in the recipient. Although they’d know that whatever is inside the letter is heartfelt and lovely, they aren’t aware of the words you might have chosen to express your love towards them. This feeling of the unknown will make letter reading a wonderful exercise for them.
You can therefore expect to get two benefits from letter writing. One is letting the other person, who might be doing nothing sitting underneath their UVC light, know how much you care for them. The other is making their day with the feel-good feelings that receiving the letter will evoke in them.
And both these effects will last longer than if you had emailed the letter to your loved one. The recipient might treat your dispatch as some kind of souvenir, putting it where they can see it while they are busy with household tasks, thereby reminding themselves how much you care for them.
6. It sparks creativity
Juxtapose the experience of writing a letter with writing a text. The former allows no revisions, offers limited space, and gives you only one chance to say what you genuinely want to say. The latter allows unlimited revisions and space and allows you to follow up with your original message immediately.
Which of the two then will force you to be more creative? Of course letter writing. You’d have no choice but to dig deep in your thoughts and say only those things that truly matter. All the trivial stuff can wait for the time when you’d see the letter’s recipient in person.
That, in turn, would force you to give your full undivided attention to the process of letter writing. You’d have to set aside a few minutes to organize your thoughts as better as you could. Only then you’d be able to say all the stuff that truly matters, while leaving the riffraff on the margins of your brain.
Modern modes of communication have relegated the art of handwritten letters to the fringes. Yet, as we have shown above, you can accrue many benefits by switching your keyboard with a pen and paper. Let’s re-summarize all of them in the final paragraph.
Handwriting letters is good for your brain, takes down your screen time, and has the potential to make you feel happy about yourselves. It also has the tendency to make you less reactionary, more creative, and creates a beautiful surprise for the recipient. What more can you ask for!