The letter drops into the porch about midday. I’m sitting on the sofa, working from home, when I hear it and get up to pick the post from the floor. It’s a homemade envelope and I recognise my friend’s writing. I feel warmth in my belly.
On the back of the envelope, she’s written, “Thank you Royal Mail workers!” with hand-drawn stars circling the words. Inside is a handmade card: a beautiful big flower, and pink painted strips. I see her handwriting again – distinct and familiar – with words of positivity and hope for our future meets.
I immediately feel a boost to my day. It’s a highlight, for sure. She’d taken time to make the card, write the card, send the card. And while WhatsApp messages from friends checking in are so appreciated right now, there’s something more intimate about a handwritten letter.
And in the weeks that follow, I do the same; make my own cards at home, write letters and poems, and send them to the people I’m missing the most. I find the activity calming, even before I pop the results in the mailbox.
Why is it that mail feels so personal right now? So needed and appreciated, more than ever before?
“Doing something nice for someone else makes you happy, especially if you know they’ll really like it,” said Deborah Smith, a positive psychologist and mindfulness expert. “Taking the time to handwrite a letter shows you care, that you’ve made an extra effort and you’ve really considered the other person.”
And, as handwriting a letter takes more time than writing an email or text, you’re also more likely to take time to think about what you write and how you write it, she says, so it becomes more personal and meaningful. “It’s something that the receiver is more likely to keep, remember and treasure than an email.”
The actual art of letter writing itself is a mindful activity, which is great for our wellbeing ― especially during a pandemic. “Handwriting is a wonderful way to tap into your own inner mind,” said Smith, the author of Grow Your Own Happiness. “It can be a very therapeutic exercise. It’s also great to have time away from a screen and to connect with pen and paper.”
Smith suggests writing a gratitude letter to feel even more benefits. “Think about someone you feel grateful towards and allow yourself to fully express yourself on paper. It’s an incredibly powerful exercise for the writer and receiver,” she said.
If you’re worried about whether sending letters is giving postal workers more work during these testing times, don’t be. Letters and cards are a valued part of what they offer, a Royal Mail spokesperson told HuffPost UK.
“During the coronavirus crisis, it’s clear people are increasingly looking to connect with friends and loved ones in a truly meaningful way,” said Shane O’Riordain. “A carefully crafted, handwritten letter really stands out against the backdrop of Zoom calls and WhatsApp chats at this time. The uplifting effect of receiving a handwritten card or letter can be palpable.”
Letters are important to Royal Mail’s business, he added. “We’re very grateful to our hardworking colleagues at this time as they continue to keep the UK connected. Letters play a key role in this. To help manage the workload, we’re supporting our people by putting even more resources into the operation.”
Perhaps it’s time to put letter writing on your to do list this week. “Enjoy writing and enjoy knowing you’ll make someone happy each time they read it,” Smith said.
This article originally appeared in HuffPost UK.
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