November 6, 2020
One of the major words people use to describe the social effects of the pandemic is isolation. Seeing others in person brings safety risks and after a long day of school and work on the computer, finding the motivation to FaceTime or text a friend becomes a lot harder. The quick transition into a fully virtual world has left many people craving some form of thoughtful, tangible interaction.
Not only have people been feeling more isolated, but they are facing more struggles with their mental health. Researchers at Boston University found that symptoms of depression have more than tripled as a result of COVID-19. After six months of remote learning or work and no end of the pandemic in sight, a lot of people’s optimism has run out, leaving them with feelings of hopelessness or apathy. Life may be chaotic, but for most people, it is not exciting.
One simple thing can remedy these two problems: a letter. Receiving a hand-written note is always a lovely surprise, but it especially is when mailboxes are full of political propaganda and bills. Dopamine is triggered when things happen unexpectedly, which explains why we enjoy getting mail and texts. Psychologists such as Susan Weinschenk, who has a doctorate in psychology, agree that messages from friends make us feel better almost instantly. When someone opens their mailbox to find a card or a note, they receive a mood boost from the dopamine.
Dopamine can be triggered by a text or email too, but a letter is even more satisfying. It means more to get a letter because of the time and care that goes into it. Sending a text is instant and easy. Writing a thoughtful note takes a little more time, but makes it much more impactful.
Taking the time to write a letter shows the recipient that the writer cares. Seeing the writer’s handwriting makes the contents feel more personal and feels much warmer and connected than printed text. While it can’t replicate the feeling of an in-person conversation, the authenticity and personal touch of handwritten notes make it feel special. Writing things down can also make it easier to express one’s feelings and appreciation for the recipient without the nerves or awkwardness of bringing it up in conversation.
According to the Huffington Post, writing a letter matters now more than ever. It’s a great way to surprise the friends who stayed home from the semester, to make your grandparents’ days or reach out to a friend from back home. Write to anyone whose address you can remember and don’t be afraid to ask close friends for their mailing addresses.
Invest in nice stationery or tear out a sheet of paper from a notebook. The content of the note is what matters the most, but don’t overthink it. If writing doesn’t come as naturally, sending doodles or jokes will make the recipient smile too. There is no wrong way to write a casual note, so have fun with it! The writer can be as creative as they want it to be, making the experience just as enjoyable for themselves as it will be for the recipient.
The world is a strange place and almost everyone is feeling lonely or a little down. So instead of procrastinating by scrolling through TikTok or playing Among Us, write a note to a friend or loved one. A simple letter can go a long way.
Lacie Kunselman is a second-year student pursuing a double major in professional writing and public relations. She aspires to one day be a managing editor for a magazine or be a PR executive at a sustainable fashion or lifestyle brand. Her less-academic pursuits include beach volleyball, macrame and thrift shopping.