In a world where so much has gone online, one concept possibly considered old-fashioned by some is currently enjoying a resurgence: the humble letter.
Research from Royal Mail shows one in five UK adults sent more cards and letters in the post than usual during one lockdown, with 74% of people saying they feel doing so has a positive impact on their mental health.
During the strange and often isolating times of the last year, we have all craved social connectedness in different forms, missing the feeling of being loved, cared for and valued. Strong ties with family, friends and our community provide us with happiness, security, support and a sense of purpose, all of which are important for our wellbeing.
Social connectedness has been proven to have physical and mental health benefits, including a reduction in anxiety, depression and loneliness, an improved immune system, enhanced self-esteem, improved sense of belonging, a generally more positive attitude and an overall happier and healthier lifestyle.
During the Second World War, the British Army’s postal service delivered roughly two billion letters around the world, providing vital moral boosts while keeping people connected to homes and family.
In more recent times spent in lockdown, we have explored a variety of ways of keeping in touch. Whether through social media, video calls, text messages or chatting on the phone, staying connected with loved ones has never been more important.
But when communication can be so instant, there is something quietly uplifting and powerful in the slowness of writing and posting a letter; taking time out from our busy lives to sit quietly and put pen to paper is so good for our mental wellbeing.
Capturing and sharing important moments in your life with another confirms the importance of your relationship, not only to them, but also to you; it reminds you that you have people with whom you want to stay connected.
Plus, it shows your loved one they are worthy of the extra effort; taking the time to write a letter or a card (and getting round to buying a stamp!) shows you’re thinking about them and how much you appreciate them. It says that you cherish the relationship and want to invest in it.
Reading a letter has been described as reading a small chapter of someone’s life story written with you in mind. Receiving a handwritten letter or card that can be carried around and re-read at any time can help to ease the pain of separation and really brighten the recipient’s day.
Unlike an email or a text message, letters can be treasured. Finding an old letter in a drawer or box in the attic is nostalgic, transporting you back in time to relive special moments, which can be incredibly thought-provoking.
Plus there is more to letter writing than simply showing a loved one you miss them. There are thought to be nine million lonely people in the UK, four million of whom are older and find constant loneliness the hardest to overcome. With an absence of friends and family in their lives, many care homes are asking for volunteers to become pen pals with their residents.
If you are feeling lonely or would benefit from having someone to keep in touch with, our Welfare caseworkers are here to help. We can put you in touch with local support groups in your area, can help find a local befriending service, introduce you to our living well groups or keep in touch by telephone and virtual chats.
And you don’t have to send us a letter to seek our support. You can just give us a ring on 0800 389 8820 or visit www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/support.