How Hand-Written Notes Can Save A Life (And Your Career)

There is power in your prose.

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One of my favorite parts about the workshops I get to lead are the exercises. There’s this different sort of energy that fills the room when you hand the reins over to the people in the room and say “this is your time.” I get to sit back for a bit — take a few sips of water — and watch as people dig in and do good work with the workshop concepts. If you have ever attended one of my workshops, you have most likely taken part in an exercise where I have you write a hand-written note to someone in your life whom you are grateful for. Over the years, I’ve received so many fun, touching stories about the notes that have been written during that exercise and the amazing reactions from the recipients of those notes. And as hand-written notes have given way to email and texting, these stories have become more and more regular of late.

While this exercise and its results have been impactful, nothing compares with conversations that I have had lately with some therapists who specialize in helping teenagers. They tell me that one of their main suggestions for teens suffering from anxiety and depression is to have them write down their thoughts and feelings, by hand, in a journal or in a note format. The therapists I’ve spoken with don’t really advocate any particular format other than that the writings should be done by hand on real paper so that teen can fully concentrate on what they are writing. I’m told that the results of this activity are literally life-saving in some instances — meaning that teens (just like the rest of us) have thoughts that are better served being outside their heads. Some of these thoughts can be very dark and when they remain inside the head, they often get even more dark and damaging. Many therapists have seen clients with depression improve through journaling. They’ve even seen patients on the brink of suicide make significant improvement to the point of being taken off suicide watch — mostly because they got their thoughts out on paper in the form of hand-written notes, written to themselves and to others. I don’t want to over-complicate this article or move too far out of my area of expertise, but my simple deduction at this point is that hand-written notes can, and do, save lives!

Now, your life is likely not in imminent danger, but I can assure you that the benefits of the lost art of the hand-written note are not just for those in troubled times. They’re also for people in a good place. They’re for people looking to support friends and family members. For people looking to express gratitude. They’re for people who are doing well in business and want to do even better.

I’ve been told by thousands of workshop attendees that the mail that they open first is the hand-written note that resides in a hand-addressed envelope. I’ve also observed that hand-written notes get pinned up in cubicles, and saved on night stands and in shoe boxes. And one client recently told me that the hand-written notes she receives get set up on her mantel. Wow!

In my experience, I can tell you that when I left my job in Corporate America (a resignation you can read about HERE), most of the plaques and awards did not make their way home with me. But the one item that I made sure I took with me upon leaving was the big bag of hand-written notes that I’d received over the years. Every now and again, even now (3 years later), I’ll pull a random note out of that bag and enjoy a fond memory of that time and place and person who wrote that note. There is scientific data that backs up this boost that we all feel when receiving a hand-written note. Receiving and reading a hand-written note of appreciation, gratefulness, love, warmth, endearment, zeal, passion, or any other positive expression (even if it’s just to say “hi”) triggers your brain to release a shot of oxytocin — which is the “happy chemical” responsible for the feeling of love, togetherness, and trust.

I don’t know about you, but I like being responsible in some way for helping people feel love, togetherness, and trust.

One easy way to do just that is to write hand-written notes to people. “To whom?” you ask? ANYONE! I’m not kidding. Anyone. Trust me when I tell you that the note that you write will help both you and the person to whom you are writing immensely. Both you AND the person that you write to will benefit from that shot of oxytocin. You AND that person will have a feeling of togetherness as a result of that note. And you AND that person will have a deeper trust level with each other as a result of the note written. To get your thought juices flowing about who you can write to, here are a few ideas: mom (always a great place to start pretty much every single time), dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, grand-parent, grand-child, clients (“Which ones?” you ask? Any of them! Past clients thanking them for the business, current clients letting them know how much you like working with them, and future clients letting them know that you are thinking about and ready to serve them), bosses (yep, they like notes too and they will appreciate the oxytocin shot), employees (they like them a lot!), and most anyone that you can think of will appreciate the note.

At Rewire, we’re pretty big on taking action on what you learn right away, so if this article struck a chord with you, take out a notecard right now, write someone a note, and send it. If you don’t have a notecard, you can buy some easily, or you can just write on any plain paper and tell the person you’re writing to that you were thinking of them and wanted to send them a note. Don’t let the lack of fancy stationery be a barrier to taking action.

Do you have a hand-written note experience? Let us know about it in the comment section below.

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