We can’t hug but we can write a letter
Family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
Research shows whenever we embrace someone – anyone, even ourselves – our bodies are flooded with oxytocin, making us feel happier, more connected and less anxious.
So what a dilemma in our new-normal era of touch-deprived social distancing. Although I do think we should all be giving ourselves a pat on the back because we are getting very adept at looking for substitutions rather than dwelling on the Covid-induced problems these days.
So how else can we let ‘our people’ (and even ourselves) know they are loved, cared about and supported?
Performing an act of kindness – no matter how small – produces the same oxytocin boost one would receive from hugging. But there is one act that has many additional benefits – to both the giver and the receiver.
Letter writing. A smile and a hug wrapped in paper.
I can’t remember the prompt, perhaps it was working on our children’s writing skills during round one of schooling from home, perhaps it was a social media viral video of a nursing home where the staff were asking for their patients to receive letters to exchange communication about their interests when they have been devoid of visitors for months on end, or perhaps it was a need to document the significant changes occurring in our daily lives as they were happening. Whatever the exact initiator, we embraced writing and haven’t stopped.
Oh the memories it brought back – collecting endless themed stationery in our youth, pretty much learning to read from international grandparents monthly
aerograms, penpals, our family sponsor child, learning calligraphy script, creating Do Not Enter posters and motivational phrases transcribed for the bedroom door, frustrated diary entries to those first innocent love-letters. We could go on and on.
The benefits of letter-writing:
- Artistic self-expression
- Thought clarification and idea creation
- A memorable and tangible way to touch the people you love
- It confirms the importance of a relationship
- It helps you pause long enough to say things that matter
- There’s even a good amount of evidence that writing notes by hand will increase your comprehension and retention of whatever you’re writing about
It’s more than an email or an sms – these are instant and usually reactionary. You need information immediately, so you reach out. Writing letters is much more deliberate. You do it to give, not to receive. You write because there’s something you need to say, not something you need to know.
The benefits double for the recipient:
- It creates a wonderful surprise. And more often than not prompts a return letter.
- Writing creates connection. Whilst we are more connected than ever digitally, we’re feeling more distanced than ever.
- It’s individual, invoking a feeling of closeness and privateness – you can’t forward or press share. Even your handwriting itself is unique.
- It’s tangible, physically preserving moments in real time.
It’s been a few months now of regular letter writing. As our worlds have slowly started to open up and social interactions recommence (albeit with no hugging), we have not stopped but our intentions have changed. We are now writing more to ourselves and to the universe. Journalling and manifesting our intimate thoughts, feelings and desires that feel too vulnerable to share with others. We’ve known the power of visualisation and positive affirmations for a long time, but it took surviving a global pandemic to put this knowledge into daily practice.
“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.”
So I challenge you to pick up a pen and paper. Reinvigorate those minute handwriting muscles into action. Write to yourself or to a friend. Share the oddities of your present mundaneness, overshare your thoughts and feelings. No eraser allowed. Embrace mistakes as they flow from your mind to the paper. Most importantly gain clarity on what you want in life by practising using your subconscious mind to attract.
It’s truly cathartic. Our words have power.