The Art & Benefits of Letter Writing

In our modern era of text messaging and emails, the art of letter writing has taken a beating. These days most of us rarely pick up a pen and paper to communicate with one another, but we probably should. There are several mental, physical, and emotional benefits to letter writing that can’t be gained from texting, emailing, or even talking on the phone. When you sit down to write a letter, it can be downright therapeutic. Letter writing requires time, patience, and thought. Writing a letter allows the author the opportunity to gather and express his or her inner thoughts without the fear that they will be incomplete, rushed, or unclear. When you write a letter, you have the opportunity to say exactly what you want to say, exactly how you want to say it. You can edit your words until you’re certain they communicate what’s in your heart. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in this manner can be extremely cathartic. Writing a letter makes you feel good as well as being a boost to the one who receives your written words.

Eons before the days of electronic communication dawned, letters were the only way people were able to talk to one another when distance separated them. History is full of examples of famous letters; Napoleon Bonaparte’s love letters to Josephine, President Abraham Lincoln’s letter to the widow Bixby expressing his condolences for the loss of her sons in battle, the lively, quirky letters of a young Ernest Hemingway covering such subjects as his adventures as an ambulance driver on the Italian front in World War I, famous novelist Jane Austen’s intimate, observant, and informative letters to her sister that read like little novels themselves, and the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail written by civil rights activist Marin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 which contained the key statement that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, just to name a few.

Letters are much more personal than a text or email could ever be, since they represent the extra care, time, and effort required that other forms of communication don’t demand. Letters show how much you care, and because they are becoming such a rare commodity these days, the recipient of your hand-written letter will appreciate the special way your missive makes them feel. Letters allow us to share our souls, and to quote the famous English poet and cleric John Donne, “Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; For, thus friends absent speak.”

It’s not just your friends who would enjoy hearing from you in a letter; family members who live in other cities or states also enjoy receiving a letter from time to time. For service members stationed away from home, letters can become a lifeline to family, friends, and loved ones, and something every soldier, sailor, and airman looks forward to on mail day. College students (even though they may be phone dependent!) also look forward to letters, cards, and care packages from home to help them stay connected to the ones they love.

Letter writing promotes mindfulness by requiring us to slow down, contemplate our words, and live in the moment as we connect our brains to the words we’re putting down on paper. Whether you’re trying to nurture a little romance, cultivate a friendship or simply stay connected with the ones you love, letters show how much you care. Writing sparks creativity, and science has linked expressive writing to reduced stress, better mood, and an improved sense of well-being.

Since September marks Grandparent’s Day, this is a great time to write a letter to a grandmother or grandfather you might not see on a regular basis. Letters are a way for your grandparent to hold a little bit of you in their hands, to have something concrete that represents your love for them. A letter is something your grandparent can return to over and over again to read the thoughts and feelings you shared with them, and there’s a good chance that your letters will become cherished memories that your grandparent holds onto for many years to come. 

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