Letter writing has appeared in the news headlines this week with Gordon Ramsay penning an “open” letter to his mother-in-law published in the London Evening Standard. Whatever your feelings about this particular use of letter writing, I don’t think that we write enough letters any more, and the art of letter writing is a dying art. Or is it?
Writing letters, particularly by hand, is not just a great way of communicating in a more personal way with your friends and family. Letter writing can also be a useful method in clearing your mind and enables you to express emotions and feelings in a form that is familiar and perhaps not as daunting as starting a more formal journal or diary.
In the past, I have suggested to angry friends that they write and post letters to themselves so that they experience the full fury and frustration of their harsh words first hand rather than post such a letter immediately to the unsuspecting recipient. By the time the letter arrives back on their doorstep, my friend has had a chance to reflect on the content and usually decides not to send the offending correspondence after all. This is a useful way of getting negative and angry feelings out of the system in a controlled way whilst also avoiding unnecessary conflict.
I like writing letters and I still have the collection of letters which I wrote home to my family whilst at boarding school all those years ago. It is great fun to read through them and revisit experiences long forgotten. I have recently taken up letter writing again as part of the Penfriend scheme run by the charity DepressionAlliance. For those people suffering with depression, it is of great comfort to know that there are others out there who understand what you are going through, and there is nothing like getting a hand-written letter from your penfriend through the letter box instead of all those dreaded brown envelopes. For many, it is the highlight of their week, and I for one, search through my post every day for that envelope.
Another way to encourage people, especially children to write more, is to join the PostCrossing scheme. This too is great fun and involves you writing and receiving postcards worldwide in an organised and secure manner. It is very interesting to receive postcards from around the world and they make a colourful collection. The foreign stamps are also fascinating and add another dimension to the whole experience. Post cards are a good place to start as you don’t need to write much and you can use up spare space by decorating them with stickers, as many do.
I know that many people suffering from depression are often ignored or overlooked by their friends and colleagues during their illness just at a time when a card through the door can make such a difference. The depressed person may not be in a position to welcome their friends and family in person, preferring at times to remain alone. However, a card showing care, concern and support can do much to lift the spirits and ensure that the individual remains included in their social circles. This helps to speed up rehabilitation and can make a return to work far less intimidating. The Royal College of Psychiatrists produces a range of greetings cards specifically for this purpose which I think is a great idea.
So, the next time one of your friends is feeling down, think about sending a card or writing a letter. It may make all the difference.