A brown paper envelope and the edge of a brown kraft paper card, on a table, surrounded by white rose-like flowers.

The timeless joy of sending (and receiving!) a card

When was the last time you wrote a greetings card? If it’s been a while, then you’re not alone. Last year saw the sales of physical cards slump, as people stayed home and felt unclear about the risks surrounding shared touched objects. However, E-cards and print-on-demand online card services enjoyed a buoyant year, showing that while we may not have been able to go out and buy cards, we certainly still want to send them.
Humans have been sending messages of greetings for a long time – ancient Egyptians exchanged greetings engraved on gifts. Later, in the 15th Century, Woodcut printing gained popularity in Germany for the creation cards and at the same time romantics began to send Valentines to their beloveds – the earliest example of which can be found in the British Museum. Today, the industry is worth billions and there are cards for pretty much every event you can possibly think of – from passing a driving test to wishing someone a Happy Star Wars Day (May the 4th, in case you were interested). And according to a recent report, cards that mention coronavirus are enjoying immense popularity on sites like Amazon and Etsy.
It’s about you… and me
To send a greeting might seem frivolous in an ‘always on’, hyper-connected world, but psychology tells us a different story. The cards we send and how they are received are actually a really unique and important insight into the human experience. Consider the last time you stood in a store and selected a card for someone you love… was it an easy process? How many did you discount for having the wrong sentiment? Or being just that bit too cheeky? Did you immediately dislike some? Or were you drawn to others? There’s a really good reason why there are hundreds of thousands of different styles, messages, shapes and sizes – because they are made to reflect us, our needs and how we wish to present ourselves to others. Anyone who has agonised over a Valentines Card will know that they certainly say substantially more than just ‘have a nice day’.

A pair of hands, opening a red envelope and pulling a white card from inside. On the card is written ‘you are awesome’ with a child-like illustration of a small three-spiked crown above the first ‘e’ in ‘awesome’.
Psychologists found that giving and receiving a handwritten card or note boosted wellbeing.

Little letters and the awkward brain
UK postal operator, Royal Mail conducts plenty of research around the sending and receiving of all kinds of items, but the standout statistic (particularly in the light of the last year) has to be that nearly three quarters of people in the UK feel that the writing of cards and letters has positive mental health benefits. However, an interesting study recently might some shed light on why, despite the positives, we often just don’t. Psychologists Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley specialise in the study of happiness and conducted experiments that particularly focused on ‘thank you’ notes. Participants were asked to predict how surprised, happy, or potentially awkward they thought the recipient would feel.
They found that senders underestimated how happy recipients would be to receive a handwritten ‘thank you’, but they also overestimated the awkwardness that someone might experience when receiving a heartfelt thank you note. Kumar and Epley also found that a handwritten note or card expressing gratitude boosted wellbeing for both parties. So, even though we might find the personal touch of sending a card a bit awkward sometimes, it’s actually a really great way for everyone to feel good.
The things we hold dear
Friends, family, health, love, experiences and togetherness. We’ve certainly all thought a lot more deeply about all of these things of late and they are where we, as humans, place real value. Essentially, these are the reasons we put so much thought into the cards we choose and the words we use. When we receive or send a card that is to celebrate any of these things, we are creating a connection between people – something tangible that you just can’t replicate in WhatsApp or via email. It intuitively feels valuable and tells the recipient that they are valued. A card is like sending a slice of your time to someone you care about, time that you’ll never have again and that you are sending as a gift. And what can be more treasured than that?
Do you suddenly feel like sending a card? Pop over to Creative Park and discover beautiful cards and crafts in all shapes and sizes to share with your loved ones.

Written by Marie-Anne Leonard

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