Letter of Encouragement to a Friend (Why and How to Do It)

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Sometimes all the world needs is a letter of encouragement.

I know that when I've felt down, positive words were the good medicine that I required.

So often we think that we need to move mountains to solve someone's problems.

But that's often creating a bigger task than what is required.

A letter of encouragement is as simple as it is versatile.

And after reading this, you'll know why you should write a letter of encouragement for a friend (or for yourself).

You'll also know how to put one together.

Why Write a Letter of Encouragement to a Friend or Family Member?

To start, let's state the obvious.

An encouraging letter is, well, encouraging.

It lifts spirits and brightens moods.

It also delicately targets whatever pinpricks of emotions are going on in someone else's life.

And let's not forget this: you can also write a letter of encouragement to yourself.

Because writing to yourself in the third person is one of the most effective strategies I know for getting out of your own head.

What's more, a letter is a tool from a seemingly bygone era. People just don't do it anymore.

There's an ironic novelty to something so ancient.

So the fact that you took the time to write--or type--a thoughtful letter will make a world of difference to someone in need.

Lastly, a letter is simply a vessel that carries your words.

What's crucial is the person receiving it.

The target of your letter can be literally anyone. A friend or family member. A neighbor or colleague. 

The written word has a way of passing emotions from one person to another that is unlike a fleeting conversation or errant remarks.

How to Write an Encouraging Letter

1. The key aspect of an encouraging letter is its informal tone

You're not writing to a business associate.

You're not writing an academic paper.

You're writing how you speak, the true way you connect with someone close to you.

Combining informality with a kind, helpful tone is where the magic happens.

Don't worry so much about grammar and punctuation.

Use silly words and inside jokes.

And most important, be yourself.

Humans relate to other human beings, not robots following a program.

2. Think of who you're writing to and the bit of encouragement they need

What's going on in the life of your friend and family member?

What problems are they having?

What comments have they made recently?

You likely know them better than you think--and better than even they might realize.

What can you share that is both personal and true?

What do you see in them that they may have forgotten about?

And what kinds of experiences have you been through that might remind them of who they are at the deepest level? 

Letters of encouragement work best when they are written from the heart.

Don't feel bashful and leave out details when it's the vulnerability that the other person needs.

People going through tough times have a tendency to live in their heads, walling themselves off from the full reality of their situation.

You can cut through myopic viewpoints with your words of affirmation and support.

3. Consider the Writing Platform

If the medium is the message, then it's important to think about the platform on which you're writing.

Here are a few options for your letter of encouragement:

  • Email
  • A card of encouragement with pre-written text you can add to
  • A handwritten letter
  • A long text message
  • A gift that contains a letter with it

The important point is to not limit yourself.

Draw from the experience of your relationship and consider what will have the biggest impact.

Someone who prefers to journal by hand will probably enjoy receiving a handwritten letter, whereas a "digital native" who grew up with a cellphone might prefer to receive a message in a format that is more comfortable for them.

Chances are, you already have a history of messages back and forth.

Which ones hit the hardest on an emotional level?

What platform is best suited for delivering your positive tone and personal touch?

What you say is important, of course, but how you say it is just as important.

In the End, Consider Practicing On Yourself With This Example Letter

I'm a long-time journaler.

I use Reflection.app to get my thoughts out.

Journaling is one of the best mental health strategies I use to maintain my overall wellness.

Often, when I'm reflecting on a day, my entry turns into a letter of encouragement for myself.

It's what I needed at the time without even realizing it from the start.

Here's a letter of encouragement example of what I mean:

Jordan, you've been at this low point before, and you made it through.

You didn't think you would, but you made it.

Remember how you did it?

You focused on small goals. You didn't have to change the world all in one go.

Because changing the world never happens with one big swoop of action. That's a physical impossibility.

It always happens little by little, by working with what's in front of you.

If you don't even think you can manage that, then just focus on your breath.

Inhale deeply and change your physical state.

Think about how much you've learned about yourself and what works for you in the last few years.

Think about how much more you know now than you did even one year ago.

You, my friend, have made so much progress, even when it doesn't feel like it.

Life has setbacks, and that's inevitable. But each failure is a failing forward. Each setback is part of an upward spiral.

You pushed through open-heart surgery.

You chose yourself and your mental health.

And you pursued a career out of love, not because it was the logical thing to do.

I hope you remember this the next time life seems unbearable.

This is a simple note to remind you of your worth.

You don't have to do it all today.

No one is expecting that of you.

All you have to do is be who you are.

The rest will follow.

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