Living with cancer blog

The lost art of letter writing can benefit cancer survivors

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. June 3, 2014

When was the last time you wrote a letter on stationery or in a card that you send to someone the old-fashioned way — in the mail?

Sometimes, I feel like we may be losing touch with how important personal connections are. It's so easy to get caught up in using our smartphones and computers to send messages and e-mails that we forget how lovely it is to receive a genuine letter.

Reflect on the last time you received a handwritten letter or card from someone. How special did you feel? Did you keep it in a special place to read again later?

Letter writing has positive benefits. You may express emotions, gratitude and other feelings that are difficult to put into words when you are face-to-face with a person.

When you write, you can take as much time as you need to create your words and reflect on what you'd like to say.

The act of writing a letter engages you differently from typing or using a computer. The combination of thoughts, reflection and motor skills needed to craft your words is what's so important.

Researchers have even studied the benefits of writing letters of gratitude and found that people reported positive effects including increased levels of happiness and lower reported feelings of depression after incorporating letter writing into their weekly routine.

You may want to write a special letter to people who supported you during your diagnosis, treatment and recovery. This is a perfect way to thank them.

Maybe you'd like to simply write to family and friends and express how much they mean to you. If you've lost track of someone special during treatment, writing a letter may be a nice way to reconnect.

I have a box of special letters. I love to get them out from time to time to read. I especially love to read and reflect on old Christmas letters and letters from special occasions.

This year, I'd like to write more letters to express my gratitude to the people in my life who make it so special. My goal is to create a time to purposely disconnect from technology and experience the simple joy of writing to others.

I'd love to hear how you feel about writing and receiving letters. Share your thoughts on the blog.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

June 03, 2014