Friday, March 27, 2015

Letter Writing Series: Letters to Yourself


A letter to yourself? That may sound hokey, but, actually, it could save your life.

Okay. Maybe that's a little melodramatic, but studies do show that writing letters to yourself actually helps you. By writing a letter to your future self- you are contemplating your future. People who consider their future, especially in context to their goals, are more likely to achieve them Also, sharing goals makes people feel more accountable, and this proves true even when you are just sharing them with yourself! People who write letters to their future selves are also more likely to make decisions now, based on how they would like their future selves to handle or feel about those decisions.Being future-oriented is also one of the most significant traits of leaders, so picking up a pen may be improving your leadership skills. Writing letters to yourself may even make you healthier!  Experiments done by James Pennebaker indicated a connection between writing about difficult personal issues and visits to the doctor.

Let me guess? You had to go back and reread that last sentence? Personal Issues? We are definitely in touchy-feely land, you might be thinking; where do personal issues come into this? To answer that, let's talk about how you write a letter to yourself, both content and form, so you can get on to getting those amazing, research-backed benefits!

Like all letters, this kind is impacted by who you are writing to. Yes, it is a letter to you obviously, which you? The year-older self? The decade older self? The just-graduated self? The new parent-self? Possibilities abound.  Many people choose to write with the idea that their letter will be opened after a specific amount of time, which could range from a few weeks to years later; others choose to have a letter that is opened in the event of a certain situation (i.e. writing to yourself on the day of your wedding.)

Once you have chosen when you want to have your letter opened, consider why you are sending it. Many people write using their letter to share important life lessons they suspect they may need reminding of. One person wrote a letter to himself about how his parents handled one of theirs descent into alzheimer's,  and how that affected their marriage.  Steps that would have helped the process were ones his mother had earlier felt were right to take, but as things progressed was too emotional to do. His letter focussed on reminding himself, should he find his own marriage in a similar situation, what he wanted done and why. He was building in a safeguard to add perspective to what could be an emotionally charged time. Other people write to offer encouragement (and perhaps reminders) of their goals. If this is the case, in your letter-  be clear in the vision of that goal, but be kind to yourself, and be flexible with what the achievement of that goal looks like. Focus on the whys of the goal over the hows. Instead of merely saying your want to be a public speaker, focus on the reason why- , in this example, perhaps to share your knowledge. You may find yourself a teacher in the future. You're still speaking in public (even if that public is six years old), but the reason why has not changed. Many others also use this letter-to-self to reflect on their past. Share what challenges you have faced, how you overcame those challenges, and what things you did that made you proud. What advice do you have? What do you want to remember? What are you looking forward to happening? There may come a day in the future you will be glad of these reminders of your strength and joys.

Above all, remember, this is a chance to be as kind to yourself as you are to others. When writing, don't focus on your flaws. Remember people change, goals change, lives change. But good advice is still good advice,  and a good laugh is still a good laugh. So go easy on yourself and focus on those things instead.

When it comes to the actual writing of the letter, go for a pen and paper. Studies have shown that we access our deeper emotions better when writing rather than typing! Keep things informal (after all, with whom do you have have a more intimate relationship with- outside of deities- than yourself?) Depending on when you are expecting to read the letter, keep things simple. As scary is it can be to contemplate, we may not have the same mental facilities in the future as we do now.  When it is all written, you can seal it in an envelope, and put in a safe place, or perhaps give it to another person to give back to you at a later date. There's even a website that will send you an email version of your letter at the correct time!

While it can be gratifying and uplifting to get later, the benefits of writing a letter to yourself can have immediate and profound impacts on your life, as first discussed. Have you ever sent a letter to yourself? If so, did you like what you had to say?



Further Reading
Love, Yourself by westophate.org
Want to Improve Your Life? Write Yourself a Letter by Jessica Stilesman
How (And Why) to Write Yourself a Love Letter from Mother Nature Network
Writing a Letter to Your Future Self: Love Who You'll Become from Tiny Buddha
Writing a Letter to Yourself from lettertomyself.com


LETTER WRITING SERIES: THANK YOU NOTES | PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE | LOVE LETTERS | SYMPATHY LETTERS | CONGRATULATORY LETTERS | POSTCARDS | LETTERS OF APPRECIATION | CORRESPONDENCE CHESS | GET WELL CARDS | LETTERS TO SICK CHILDREN | INVITATIONS | HOLIDAY LETTERS | LETTERS TO SANTA| LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION | LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | CIRCLE LETTERS | LETTERS TO POLITICIANS | WRITING TO ADVICE COLUMNS | THE LETTER WRITING GAME | PENPAL LETTERS | LETTER OF COMPLAINT | COVER LETTERS | LETTERS TO PRISONERS | OPEN LETTERS | LETTERS TO FUTURE YOURSELF | LETTERS OF APOLOGY | "OPEN WHEN" LETTERS | FAN MAIL | GOOD BYE LETTER |

8 comments:

  1. I used to do this every year when I was growing up! I would always write a letter on my birthday to open the following year. I was also a compulsive diarist, so it fit in well with that impulse. It's so weird and exciting to open a letter from your own past — I highly recommend it!

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    1. What a lovely tradition to do Emily!

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  2. What a lovely idea! I've never written a letter to myself, but I think it could be very empowering.

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  3. I just celebrated my birthday this month and there is still 2 more days left in March... I think I might just write a letter to myself! I have several personal and professional goals for 2015 that I'm already working towards... Both scary and exciting! Thanks for inspiration!

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  4. Nice post, I love your thought about writing letter cz sometimes it's sound sweet and romantic :)


    www.ismurfshion.com

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    1. Happy Birthday and good luck with your goals :)

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  5. I did this in my senior year of high school! I just need to wait about two to three more years for it to come back to me.

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  6. I did this in my senior year of high school! I just need to wait two to three more years for it to come back to me. :)

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