Every Mother’s Day we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to get our mother as the perfect gift. Whether she be our biological, step, adopted or friend mother, we want to let her know how grateful we are for all that she has contributed to our lives.
We recently surveyed moms trying to figure out what gift mom would value most. The results exposed that mothers valued the gift of communication above all others. Letters specifically, and depending on the age group the desired content varied. It seems mothers have a longing to hear from their loved ones that they matter, that they are doing a good job and words of encouragement.
This is not surprising as research shows that positive words have a profound impact on human well-being. When we read a positive written word about ourselves, our body temperature actually changes to mimic that of a hug.
What you may find surprising is that the words need not come from someone else. Further research shows that the mere act of writing positive words to ourselves can improve immune system functioning, mood and our overall well-being.
Indeed, regular therapeutic letter writing, or journaling, can also help us find meaning in our experiences, view things from a new perspective, see the silver linings in our most stressful or negative experiences and raise our self-esteem.
It can also lead to important insights about ourselves and our environment that may be difficult to determine or notice without the process of focused writing. While the research is recent, this is not new as poets and storytellers throughout the ages have captured and described the cathartic experience of putting pen to paper.
Perhaps this Mother’s Day, once you’ve penned a lovely missive to your mother, you pen one to “the mother in you” as well. When was the last time you took a moment to really reflect on all that you’ve accomplished or over-come as a mom? Or perhaps you’re a brand new mom...what are your hopes and dreams for your journey through motherhood? We all have them, triumphs and failures, hopes and goals. Have you ever written words of encouragement to yourself in a letter that can be opened and re-opened time and again, especially in times of trouble? And perhaps could even one day be passed down to the next generation of mothers?
Start With the Salutation
If you aren’t in the practice of writing to yourself you may be struggling with where to begin. Start with the salutation. You want something inviting, something to keep you going, but it shouldn’t be dishonest. If you absolutely cannot identify with being sexy, you wouldn’t want your greeting to be “Dear sexiest mother on the planet”. Try to call to the longing within you. Give yourself a name or title that you find endearing. For example, “Dear Me, Dear Lovely One, Dear Warrior, Dear Peacekeeper, Dear Finder of All Things Lost,” … you get the idea. The salutation may set the tone for the rest of your letter.
Next you want the body of your letter to be all the things you long to hear, mixed with your truth. Often we hear what others think of us and want to own that as our truth, whether it’s positive or negative. We sometimes do this instantaneously without actually considering the merit and validity of the statements within ourselves.
For example, when writing to yourself you may say something like, “while it’s true the toaster caught fire and Susie’s socks didn’t match as she left for school, your ability to be positive, attentive and kind in a crisis is unparalleled. I admire your quick wit and catlike reflexes.”
Or perhaps your content can be affirmation based such as, “You are worthy. Motherhood is challenging but you will arise to the occasion. You will excel in some areas and learn from your mistakes but in the end you will come through the fire stronger, wiser and made all the better. ”
Writing to yourself provides the perfect opportunity to archive specific memories or stories, pulling out and putting down the things that matter most to you, whether it be your child’s first tooth or tooth loss, the color of your son’s hair in the sunlight, your emotions after losing someone dear to you or the joy of reaching a goal.
Research shows us that as mothers, writing our narratives helps us cognitively process our experiences in a powerful way. Writing letters to ourselves gives us the ability to link together the stories we live, the lessons we learn and the memories we keep, thus naming and preserving our most cherished experiences. All of which are beautifully, vitally important to us and our well-being.
Always end your letter on a positive note. It can be a call to arms such as, “Now pick yourself up and get back in there…” or a dismissal of something negative such as “It’s all behind you, let go of what doesn’t serve you and step forward…”
There is no right or wrong way to write a love letter to yourself. It’s for you and about you, written by the expert on you… you. Regardless of what you choose as your content (or what comes up as you write) remember to be kind, thoughtful, compassionate, honest, non-judgemental and loving with yourself. After all, this letter is a gift to “the mom in you”.