Have you ever received something really fun in the mail? Not the usual bills, advertisements or notices, rather something like an actual pen-and-paper letter from a friend.
How did it make you feel?
I bet some of you are smiling right now at the memory of those moments. Also, some of you are likely thinking, I can’t remember the last time I got an actual letter. Letter writing seems to be a dying art with people communicating more electronically these days, texting short questions and responses.
The reason we chose this topic for our Open Mind column, is that letter writing is something actionable that we can do right now, today to help boost our own moods and perhaps help someone else too.
We know being involved in an activity helps to distract us from our worries. It may also help improve our mood or decrease anxiety by making our brain focus on something constructive and positive.
Our Open Mind committee had become aware of a local teacher who wanted to teach creative writing techniques by having students write something purposeful and helpful. The students wrote cards and letters with the intention that they be sent to people in the community who might need a “pick me up”.
She reached out to the local Alzheimer Society, which was happy to distribute the letters. Our local primary school had children write cards that were delivered to surrounding homes to brighten people’s days. I got one and it worked!
One of our members chimed in with the story of how a relative got her friends and family together virtually and came up with the idea to make fun cards and letters with nice stickers and sayings in them.
They made over 200 cards and contacted a long-term care home in their area where they were graciously accepted and delivered to each and every resident. The home stated that the residents were delighted and their faces lit up with smiles at getting such nice letters. Some people are even still carrying theirs around with them weeks later and reading them over and over again.
When was the last time you picked up an actual pen, marker or crayon and found a piece of paper and an envelope and wrote to a friend?
Another member of our group said that one of her friends had done just that and one day she found a very colourful envelope in her mailbox containing a letter covered with fun stickers a thoughtfully worded message. A real treasure. Also, stickers are fun at all ages!
Another member said that she buys beautiful postcards and writes little notes on them and mails them to family overseas. Their children love seeing Canada that way and her family think it is comforting to know that someone far away is thinking about them.
When one of our members talked to her mom about letter writing, she immediately looked up the address of an old high school friend and penned a “let’s catch up” letter. She later got a phone call in response from that friend telling her how delighted she was and what a nice surprise it had been to open.
Letter writing can be a form of positive journaling and helpful for us as we engage our minds to focus on others. When we come up with pleasant and supportive things to say it actually helps us too.
It connects our thoughts with creative ideas and when we do this with the generous spirit of helping others, our brain rewards us by creating more positive thoughts in ourselves as well.
Paula Frappier is an education coordinator for Homewood and CMHA. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.