I've always found release in writing. I have personally considered it one of the best methods to relieve stress and get through particularly tough moments in my life. There's something about putting pen to paper especially that feels even more cathartic than typing words onto a screen. I'm also a huge fan of handwritten notes, so when I saw the two combined in Juliet Madison's The Secret Letters Project: A Journal For Reflection, Growth, and Transformation Through the Art of Letter Writing, I was immediately intrigued.
The book features 20 letter prompts with a recipient addressed in each, beginning with "Dear Stranger" and closing with "Dear Inspiring Person." The goal of the project is to improve your emotional health by using letter writing as a therapeutic outlet, an added bonus if the ability to express your feelings to others also betters as a result.
Each guided prompt explains why you're writing to this person, what to do with the letter, how to write it, and things to consider before getting started. Some may be written with the intention to send it, while others advise you to keep it, burn it, store it, or do whatever you choose. Juliet mentions that the "power is in the process," so it doesn't really matter what you end up doing with the final draft.
"Many people are unaware of how writing a secret letter, a letter just for themselves, can be a powerful tool to deal with challenging circumstances or to simply generate excitement for life and anticipation for the future," she wrote.
It's also important to note that it's perfectly understandable to begin your letters off negatively, especially if it's to someone you may not want to speak to. Just as long as the intention is to resolve that emotion, you have total control over your writing. Remember: the purpose is to take away something positive.
Of the 20 letters in the book, here are nine of our favorites.
Letter #1: Dear Stranger
"Perform a random and anonymous act of kindness by writing an inspiring letter to a stranger." Leave it at a public space (a park, bookstore, elevator, etc.) where it can be found.
Why? You never know how it will impact the reader.
Letter #2: Dear Loved One
"Move through the grieving process by writing a letter to your deceased loved one." Keep it, share it with a friend or relative, or throw it away.
Why? It can help you let go of things you've held inside and allow you to express what you've always wanted to say.
Letter #3: Dear Soul Mate
"Consciously connect with the heart and soul of the future partner you're hoping to find." Keep it to later share with that person, store it in a box, or discard of it symbolically.
Why? This will help you figure out what you really want in an ideal partner and put it out there.
Letter #4: Dear Me
"Write an empowering letter to yourself as an act of self-love and acceptance." Keep it somewhere special where you can reread it from time to time.
Why? You can discover and/or understand yourself better and remind yourself of positive affirmations when you need them most.
Letter #6: Dear Ex
"Resolve past hurts and give yourself closure and peace of mind by releasing all that has been unsaid in a letter to your ex-partner." Discard it in a way that symbolizes a new beginning or send it if you think he or she will benefit from it.
Why? It could a healthy way to release pent up feelings, move on, or show gratitude for what you've learned from your relationship.
Letter #8: Dear Baby/Future Child
"If you are a parent-to-be or wish to be a parent in the future, this letter is to share your hopes, excitement, love, and anticipation for your unborn baby." Save it to give to your child when they get older, keep it in a memento box, or write it in a journal to continue adding to.
Why? This is a way to connect with him or her or even help yourself if you're struggling with infertility or miscarriage.
Letter #10: Dear Illness
"Write to a past or present health condition, acknowledging what it has taught you and the positive aspects you choose to make from it to embrace better health and peace of mind." Keep it as a reminder to yourself or release through a meaningful process.
Why? You'll be able to see your illness in a positive light without allowing it to define who you are.
Letter #18: Dear Spouse/Partner
"Write to your current partner to express gratitude, acknowledge memories or milestones, or to express difficult emotions that may be challenging to express face-to-face." Keep it in a memento box or share it with them.
Why? It can help you work through any conflicts or feelings or allow you to express gratitude for having them in your life.
Letter #19: Dear Friend/Relative
"Is there a person in your life you need to express something to? A friend, a parent, a sibling, a relative, a colleague, or someone you admire? Write to them, either to give them the letter, or to simply release your emotions for yourself." Share it with the person, store it, or let go of it in a ceremonial way.
Why? You can ask for forgiveness, thank him or her for having an impact on your life, or work out any other unresolved emotions you may have.
Choose to write one of these or all of these — it's up to you.