In 2018 I’m doing month long “experiments.” Thirty day journeys into developing habits and routines that I think I may want to implement into my life. At the start of a new year we often have a list of “resolutions” that are vague – things like “lose weight” or “get fit.” These monthly experiments are meant to break a bigger goal down into small steps – steps that will help us figure out if its something we want to add to our routine…or not. Small steps that will help us really develop the habit.
February’s month long experiment was letter writing. I wanted to get back to writing letters by hand and sending them in the mail. I’m of the age where I remember life without email or texting. I remember the joy of receiving letters from the mailbox. Would this bring me joy to write a handwritten note daily?
Why Letter Writing?
I originally heard of this idea from someone who writes a note to acknowledging one person each morning as part of his morning routine. As a former letter writer, I thought this idea was really touching.
As we’ve been decluttering our home these past few years, very few things carry enough emotional weight to land a spot in the “To Keep” pile. One of the things that I almost always keep, however, is handwritten letters from friends and family.
When my father passed away almost 12 years ago, I didn’t take physical possessions to remember him by. I was extremely grateful though to have the handwritten letters and cards that he had written me over the years. Seeing his handwriting and reading his messages of love and encouragement always warms my heart as I remember him.
In todays age of texting and email, it’s very rare to get anything in the mail except around the Holidays. I’m guilty of using the convenience of texting and email as efficient modes of communication instead of ways to connect with my family and friends. There is a time and place for efficient messages…but how do we take time to send heart messages? That’s where letter writing can be such a powerful tool of communication.Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. - Lord Byron #letterwriting #writing #mail Click To Tweet
How the Month of Letter Writing Went
So this month didn’t go as well as last month. I wrote 13 letters the entire month. I was allowing myself the option to email my heart messages…but didn’t end up doing that. Although I didn’t write a letter every single day, I’m choosing to view it as a success. 13 people will have received a hand written letter from me that wouldn’t have if I didn’t set the intention of writing letters this month.
It also gave me the space to consider who I appreciated and what I appreciated about them. Letter writing slows you down enough to truly pause and acknowledge those who have blessed you in some small or large way.
Lessons Learned from a Month of Letter Writing
I honestly felt stumped at times as to who I should write to. That alone tells me that I should do this more often.
Lesson #1: Keep a running list of people you want to appreciate.
Sometimes I went through the day and a person would pop into my head who I should write to, but by the next morning, I’d forgotten who it was I wanted to write.I have a running list of things that bring me joy, and I’m going to start a running list of people who I appreciate and why. I also write a list of three things I’m grateful for each day. I realized I can use that list
Lesson #2: Prepare ahead of time.
I had my favorite pen and my box of greeting cards at my cozy morning routine spot. But I didn’t have any stamps, or the addresses readily available. Therefore, all 13 of the letters haven’t been mailed yet…but I do have the stamps now (at the end of the month) and plan to send them this week.
Lesson #3: Get inspiration from others.
I think January was such a success because I was following a 30 day challenge that was all organized for me! I just had to show up and do the yoga routine each day. Since I’ve finished this challenge, I’ve realized that April is National Letter-writing Month (how did I not know that was a thing). Hmmm…if I had known that ahead of time I probably would have saved this experiment for April.
Regardless of the month, however, it’s always good to get some letter writing prompts. Here’s a blog post with 30 ideas for letters to write and send. This would have been incredibly helpful for me during the month. So if you’re thinking about doing a similar challenge, do a search for National Letter-writing month or letter writing prompts, and it should help you if you don’t have a ready list of people you already wanted to send heart messages to!To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. - Phyllis Theroux #letterwriting #mail #writing Click To Tweet
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Tips for Planning Your Own Monthly Experiment
Decide ahead of time when you will do your activity daily.
I chose to do my letter writing in the morning as part of my morning routine.
Start small. Consistency is more important.
Whatever your 30 day journey is, evaluate where you are right now, and set the daily goal from there.
If your goal is to drink more water, how much are you drinking now? If you drink 16 ounces, then set the goal above that and add on throughout the month.
If your goal is to declutter everyday and you haven’t done any decluttering, set your goal at decluttering one item a day at first. I’ve found with decluttering that a lot of the training is in recognizing the clutter instead of walking around with our clutter blinders on.
Whatever your goal is, doing it daily is the important part. Start small with the amount and increase as the month progresses.
When you feel yourself hesitating, say this to yourself…
At one point during last month’s journey, I found myself saying, “Ugh, I don’t feel like doing yoga.” I was lying on the ground feeling lazy. As I lay there debating, a statement came to me.
“I am a person who does yoga every day.”
It rang true to me. Yeah, I AM a person who does yoga every day. I got myself up and on to the mat.
If you find yourself hesitating, affirm your desire and intention and see if that changes something for you.
Reward yourself daily or weekly
If your task is difficult for you, plan a small reward after you complete it. It will help you stay motivated.
In March my intention is a daily meditation of 15 minutes. I’ve been meditating for awhile now, but it’s been sporadic in my daily morning routine. If I’m short on time, my meditation is usually the first thing to go. I’d like to commit to doing it daily and see what a difference that makes to my life.
Do you enjoy letter writing? How do you make it a regular habit? Let me know in the comments!