Write to a friend (or stranger)

I don’t know how old you are, but when I was younger I had a pen pal. I sound like my parents saying that, but it’s true. It was a time before mobile phones when we actually had to act out our Snapchat videos in person (I’m still scarred). If you are unsure of what a pen pal is I will explain. In its most extreme form you join a pen pal club to be introduced to strangers in foreign lands. Often but not always it is in order to improve literacy in a foreign language. More often than not the two people never meet. Of course this really only worked before the age of the internet and in some ridiculously far fetched modern day movies.

You may be wondering why I am suggesting that you take up your pen and write when there are so many easier ways to communicate. And in that sentence I have answered your query. It is because it is not the easiest way to communicate that I recommend it for your mental health and the receiver of your handwriting. When I write a letter I am taking time away from my own selfish desires and insane wonderings to create a gift for someone. I don’t mean that in a high and mighty way, I am aware that my letter writing is not yet at that level. Rather I mean I am taking the time to genuinely ask after that person and to think about their life for a moment. Then to tell them as many interesting facts about my own life that I feel I have actually done something since I last spoke to them!

The act of handwriting a letter takes you away from your own worries certainly. Yet it is also a form of art, creativity in reproducing your voice through written word. Admittedly it takes practice to convey something of interest without including all the unnecessary details that would make most people burn your letters. But the practice is where you will see the benefits. Much like practicing yoga or meditation or really anything that requires patience and a commitment of time and energy. You may feel better from one letter like you might feel the endorphins from one workout. But like fitness training consistency is where you start to see and feel the results in other areas too; your focus, your creativity, your memory to name just a few.

That’s a long way to recommend writing a letter! My advice, keep it simple. Write three short paragraphs only.

The first could be the reason why you are writing, “I’ve wanted to tell you for some time now that I hate your dog.” This is tremendously helpful for kicking off the momentum of the letter as there’s normally a good reason you wanted to write in the first place, especially if you hate their dog.

The second paragraph should change tact (for mental health purposes) and ask about them, “how have you been since your dog ate your favourite hat?” This is to move away from yourself into a different headspace, one that shows empathy and caring to others.

Finally the third paragraph could be something positive that you are working on, some good piece of news you’ve received, something you are grateful for. “I heard that Danielle’s rescue dog saved her from a fire recently, dragged her right out of the burning house!” Again the idea is to get you out of a negative headspace sharing something positive, not gossip.

I see letter writing as a tool for disrupting negative thinking patterns whilst maintaining or improving relationships, a way to get out of your noisy mind. It’s not meant as a means for voicing displeasure or grievances, that should be kept for the people you have a beef with, or a professional who can help constructively.

So give it a go today and write to the first person that pops into your mind.

Tom :)