Looking forward, looking back -that’s Janus. January is named after Janus, the Roman god with two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. He heralds new beginnings. What a perfect symbol for a new year and some fresh starts.
We’ve done plenty of looking back. So, what’s ahead? How are those resolutions going?
Laurie Santos, founder of the Happiness Lab, suggests that we approach our resolutions with kindness and self compassion. The orders from our “inner drill sergeant” to lose weight or exercise more, rarely work. Instead, Ms. Santos steers us towards a more positive, happier mindset by counting our blessings, becoming more present, and switching from a “me, me, me” focus to helping others. Studies show that “people are happier when they’re helping people in need.”
Now, it just so happens that today begins Universal Letter Writing Week. This occurs every year during the second week in January. This event runs from January 10th to the 16th. It’s a week devoted to writing letters to family, friends, anyone. The challenge is simple- write a letter everyday for 7 days. With the pandemic still raging, writing letters to stay connected is a heartfelt and safe way to go. It will also give us an opportunity to put some of the above happiness concepts into action! For example…
Counting Your Blessings-
Writing a thank you note is the perfect way to express gratitude. Remember Emerson Weber? She’s the young girl pictured above. “Em” wrote a thank you note to her mail carrier. My friend, Adam wrote a thank you to his gym. I thanked my library. It may seem like a small and insignificant thing to do, but guaranteed, it will be appreciated.
Focus on Others-
Writing letters to friends, family, and pen friends is the most authentic, private, and safe way to communicate during this time of self isolation and increasing loneliness.
“Pandemic or not, studies show that the act of letter writing has tremendous benefits for both the writer and the recipient.”(AARP-Pen Pals Share the Joy of Letter Writing) The mere act of writing a letter, focusing on just one person with pen in hand is an exercise in concentration and deep connection.
Writing to Strangers-
Lauren Maxwell in her article in Glamor- Feeling Lonely? Write a Letter to a Perfect Stranger, exclaims- “Letters can’t replace hugs, but in my experience they come close.” She adds, “Having a pen pal changed quarantine—it was like my door cracked open and new light beamed through.”
Finding a Pen Friend-
If you are interested in finding a pen friend-Penpalozza looks promising. It was started last year and has global reach. But my favorite resource for pen pals is always The Letter Exchange, which has been connecting people since 1989. I have made many wonderful friends through LEX.
Love for our Elders-
Seniors love receiving mail. Their isolation and loneliness is very real. And with family and friends prohibited from visiting during the Covid lockdowns, they are hungry for connection. Love for our Elders is just one organization that exists to generate pen friends for senior citizens. Or you can reach out to any number of nursing homes or assisted living facilities in your locale to see if they have a letter program. Or you could adopt a neighbor as a pen friend, and write to them. I leave a card for Bernie, my neighbor down the street, whenever there is a special holiday.
Get the Kids Involved-
It’s never too soon to get kids writing letters. They won’t need much convincing if you invite them to write to family members they may have missed over the holidays. And they all miss their friends from school. I found this kit that a homeschooling mom put together, complete with a rubber stamp, pen, stationery and envelopes. (see Amazon link below)
It’s a great idea, but kids are just as happy with loose leaf paper and an arrangement of markers and crayons.
By all means, do involve the kids in this week’s challenge.
I hope that you will join me during this Universal Letter Writing Week by sending out some joy in the form of a few handwritten letters. Find the avenue that works best for you. Just know that these other ideas are out there. By writing letters you are helping to connect people during this time of severe disconnection. I am sure that you will feel better and even happier for making this fresh start in this very new year. Thanks.