Handwritten valentines create a legacy of love and literacy
Hetty Roessingh/ The Conversation
Romantic love is a complex emotion thought to have ancient roots in human evolution, and associated with the need to pair-bond in stable relationships. Through songs, poems, diaries, journals, cards and artwork, love is celebrated for its ability to send both lover and beloved into the enthrallment of passion, whether the feelings are lasting or as ephemeral as love letters on the sand.
But the practice of sending keepsake love messages began around the end of the 18th century. In 1913, Hallmark produced the first commercial Valentine’s Day cards.Valentine’s Day is now entrenched as a day for sending and receiving messages of love to our partners, parents, children and close friends.
Evolving research in the neurosciences and psychology underscores the value and benefit of these messages, especially if they are handwritten, for sender and receiver alike.The sender may, however, under-estimate the value of these handmade messages. We need to be reminded of the important role they play as Valentine’s Day approaches — not only to enhance relationships among people of all ages, but to help children become empowered and inspired through language, literacy and the power of the pen across time and space.
Happiness for giver and receiver
Importantly, the happiness outcomes of expressing gratitude accrue to those who write by hand. Writing by hand creates neuro-circuitry to the brain that typing does not. The hand-brain complex lays down neuro-pathways when writing messages to those we care for, creating meaning and memory, and triggering the release of dopamine in the brain through the neurotransmission of the feel-good sensation of writing words of love and gratitude.
Writing cards, notes and love letters carve these pathways more deeply, over time, creating embodied cognition and contributing incrementally to a sense of well-being and happiness.
Psychology research time and again underscores the importance of and the connections between happiness, gratitude, an overall sense of well-being and strong relationships with others.