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You know that I love writing and receiving letters. I share plenty of tips and suggestions here, from what to write to your pen pal to where to find pen pals, and of course I do arrange pen pal sign ups a few times each year. I get so many interested people every time that I run a pen pal sign up, along with emails and social media messages every few days too. It seems that plenty of people out there like the idea of slowing things down a little and sending good old fashioned snail mail again. But why? Well, I can only speak for myself on this one, so I popped over to our Bring Back Paper Facebook group to put this very question to the community over there. There were many responses that resonated with me, and then more and more personal reasons and that’s when I realised what a real difference pen pals can make. Writing and receiving mail can have a very real impact on our well-being and mental health and I want to share more about that today, as I share with you 6 compelling reasons to have pen pals.
This theme came through again and again, in some form or another, and I think it is probably up there as the number one reason to pen pal. Life is all about the connections that we make, in whatever form they take, and writing and receiving letters is about connecting with others.
People shared stories about writing to family and friends over the years, treasuring these letters and rebuilding and strengthening relationships by sending them. Then there were the tales about finding new pen pals, making friends all over the world and finding those connections with people that they would never normally encounter.
To combat loneliness
Although we live in a society that is supposedly more sociable and connected than it ever has been, there is an increase in loneliness. People work from home, people are dealing with chronic illnesses and struggle to get out and about, people move about more and find it hard to repeatedly build new relationships, family units are often more spread out, the list goes on and on, I am sure you can think of another hundred reasons. But whatever the reason, having pen pals can help to alleviate that sense of loneliness. People can share their lives with someone else through their letters and a letter dropping through the mailbox can make all the difference some days.
To be creative
Sending snail mail can be a creative pursuit. So many people love to work on their penmanship or play around with pretty coloured pens. Pen pals often enjoy decorating envelopes and writing paper, and you only need to look at snail mail accounts on Instagram to see what I am talking about. Then people make their own envelopes, they include mail tags, pocket letters and mini-books, they design bookmarks, stickers, anything at all papery and able to fit inside an envelope!
Having a pen pal for some means connecting through long and chatty letters, and for others, it’s a wonderful creative outlet for them to design and craft mail. For many of us, it’s a little of both.
To relax and switch off
This one follows on nicely from that last reason, as having pen pals is a great way to relax and switch off for a little bit. Whether this is in receiving a letter, and grabbing a cup of tea to sit down and soak up your pen pal’s latest news, or whether it’s settling down at your table, surrounded by your stationery supplies, and penning a note.
Writing and reading letters slows you down. It allows you to think about and reflect on all that you’ve been doing and how you’ve been feeling when you write a letter, and when you read one, it allows you to transport yourself to someone else’s life and listen to their news. It is a a kind of a conversation, in a very slow living and relaxing way.
To travel and learn
There is something very special about having pen pals scattered all over the world. It’s an opportunity to learn about so many different cultures, languages, traditions and ways of life. This need not necessarily be by having stacks of international pen pals, sometimes a pen pal just a few hundred miles away can be a way to travel vicariously, and then of course there will be those friends who live on the other side of the globe.
For some pen pals, this idea of sending letters that then travel the world is a big part of the enjoyment for them, especially when they are themselves travellers at heart.
To brighten a day
And finally, people have pen pals to brighten a day. This one sounds like the most simple reason, but I think it is also the one that most snail mailers would mention.
After a long dreary day at work, a tough day with the kids, a sleepless night or a day when you are feeling lonely and really struggling, the arrival of a friendly letter can make a real difference. It will always brighten your day, even if just for a brief five minutes whilst you savour its contents.
As well as loving to receive pretty, chatty and cheerful mail, it’s lovely to think, as you write and post your own letter, that when it arrives it will do that very same thing for its recipient. It is such a simple way of sending a little happiness to someone, a way of sending a smile through the post. And who wouldn’t want to do that?
In my experience, having been sending letters for a few years now, there is no wrong or right reason to pen pal, and most people will point to one or two of the reasons above, if not all of them, for why they write. Equally, it doesn’t matter what your experience is with it or how many people you write to – in our group alone, this ranges from decades of writing through to just a couple of months, and dozens of pen pals through to just one or two – the point is just that they all enjoy it and get something from it.
Not convinced yet? Then try it. Yes, I challenge you to give it a go yourself. You don’t need to have boxes of stationery, regularly lose yourself in the world of mail art and have dozens of pen pals to do this. Just that one connection, that one pen pal is all you need. Though I should mention, in the interests of full transparency, that this hobby can really feed your stationery addiction, I mean think of all the writing paper, pens, washi tape and pretty stamps that you might need!
I’d love to hear your experiences with this, if you do give it a go now or if you have been snail mailing for a little while. And do join our group, it’s very friendly!
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If you’re new to Bring Back Paper, you can find out more about it all here. You can join our Facebook group here and you can sign up to join the Bring Back Paper Club below, receiving a monthly newsletter which includes stationery and bookish updates and finds, a book club, pen pal of the month and a round up of swaps and activities to ensure you don’t miss anything.