Why I’ll Always Send Snail Mail
The United States Postal Service estimates that the typical U.S. household receives only 10 pieces of “real” mail per year. That means each and every small handwritten note we write can make a big impact.
Just think: That birthday card might be the only one your friend receives, or you may send the singular condolence card to the co-worker whose parent passed away. That’s powerful. That’s important. And we can make this impact for the low, low price of 55 cents. (Far more affordable than the latest smart watch, Nintendo console or whatever else the cool kids are asking for these days.)
While others are searching for gifts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I can often be found sorting through my online address book (Postable.com is a super-streamlined and free way to stay organized, by the way!), pulling together a list of dozens of holiday messages to send. I then stock up on some locally made greeting cards, pop on a stamp and spend nuggets of time for the next few weeks writing personalized letters to each person about what they mean to me, why I’m grateful for them, and what I hope the future has in store for us this year and beyond.
I also enjoy randomly surprising friends and family throughout the year with “thinking of you,” “get well soon” or “congrats” cards just because the universe is signaling that they could use a pick-me-up or some extra support.
Turns out, there are some fascinating benefits to this practice for both the sender and the receiver. In research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, those who wrote three letters of gratitude during one month to friends, co-workers or loved ones reported lower rates of depressive symptoms and increased happiness. And recipients of such letters have been proved to experience less loneliness and feel more connected to the outside world—hence the major trend of pen pals during the pandemic, especially at assisted living facilities.
There’s also something really beautiful about the permanence and novelty of a real note in an era when the average American sends and receives around 125 emails per day related to work alone, according to a report by the market research firm Radicati Group. Each item in that email mountain feels like another piece of “admin” to deal with. The physical card, at least in my perspective, feels like an unexpected ray of sunshine that lands at my door.
Snail mail has been a habit since I moved to New York City to pursue my first career post-college, when I wanted to stay in touch with loved ones back home. But it’s become even more of a priority in the last few years as the Postal Service takes budget blow after blow.
There’s no one “right” way to celebrate the holiday season. Whether you enjoy purchasing gifts, donating to charity (always a great idea if you have the means!), sending family updates via email, or baking everyone cookies, I hope we all remember the impact we can have by simply showing up as ourselves and saying what we mean however we choose to say it. I think we can all agree that making it through the whirlwind of 2020 is something worth celebrating, and I count my blessings to share this community with you.
Karla Walsh is a freelance writer and restaurant brand manager. You can follow her on Instagram @karlawalsh and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you could use an extra piece of real mail or two, join her address book at postable.com/karlawalsh.