Life

Writing A Letter To A Loved One Has Healing Benefits

Every word counts.
Letter writing has become a long-lost art.
Letter writing has become a long-lost art.

Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s (almost) daily guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.

Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Every Monday through Friday, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.

Today’s Habit: Write a card to a loved one.

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you desperately miss your best friend who lives in another city.

What it is: Letter writing has become a long-lost art thanks to the internet, but it has a storied history that dates back to around 500 B.C. when the Persian Queen Atossa wrote what is believed to be the first handwritten letter.

Before the telegraph was invented in the 1830s, letter writing was our only form of long-distance communication. The handwritten letter took another blow when the telephone forever changed person-to-person communication in the mid-to-late 19th century. And then came email. We know what happened next.

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But we think handwritten letters should make a comeback. For one, they’re more personal than an email, and secondly, you can show your calligrap-HAHAHA who has time for that? But for real, there’s something soothing about writing a letter to a loved one, and it can actually help you feel good.

How it can help: Research has shown that writing, whether it be in the form of journaling, letter writing, or writing a novel, is linked to physical and mental health benefits.

A 2005 study published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment linked expressive writing with improved mood and well-being, as well as lessened stress levels and depressive symptoms. The researchers also found that writing had physical benefits, including lowered blood pressure, improved lung and liver functioning, and decreased time spent in hospital.

Journal writing in particular can be especially healing. A 2013 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that writing down your thoughts after experiencing trauma can make physical wounds heal faster. Researchers found that those who didn’t write about their feelings had slower healing times.

And a paper published in British Journal of Health Psychology found that writing about emotions lowered study participants’ cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.

Letting writing, in particular, has its own specific set of benefits, and while they aren’t backed up by science, they are still valid. For example, in our experience, writing a yearly Christmas card to a dear friend who lives in a different province than us makes us really think about the words we’re putting down.

And because cards offer such little space to write everything we want to say, literally every word counts. In a way, we’re kind of forced to choose our words carefully, with a lot of thought and care. We can’t say the same for crafting an email.

Secondly, because we’re not using our computers or phones to tap out an email, we have more time to focus on what we’re doing, keeping us present and mindful. Instead of opening up a new tab to browse Facebook, we’re using our brain to actually think about one topic: the recipient of our letter.

We love writing Christmas cards to our dear ones.
We love writing Christmas cards to our dear ones.

Lastly, writing a letter helps bring up good memories of us and our letter recipient. Whether we’re reminiscing about that time we visited the Harry Potter studios in London with our BFF, or writing a thank you card to the cousin who helped you plan your wedding, these memories bring up pleasant feelings.

Where you can do it: Anywhere as long as you have a pen and a piece of paper! But personally, we like to write our letters in a little nook of our home at our favourite desk.

How it makes us feel: Really, really happy. We love writing letters to friends who live in different cities because it makes us feel close to them even if we can’t physically be with them.

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And that’s your tip of the day.

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