How and Why I Created the Mental Health Effects of Card Writing Chart

A number of years ago, a therapist from Texas (Lynn McCracken) approached us and started sharing with us about the amazing effects of letter writing on mental health.

A year ago I decided I wanted to dig into this more, and I ended up designing this chart as a way to make sense of how writing affects our brain chemistry.

I've had my own mental health struggles, and understanding what we need to make our brains happy has helped me climb out of some lonely and anxious times in my life. It has also made me understand why certain situations (like living in a remote area for a few years) was really rough on my psyche and why being around people was so healing for me.

Understanding why certain activities make us feel good is motivating. When we remind ourselves that going on a walk outside or smiling to a stranger or sitting down to write a letter is good for our brains, it helps us overcome the resistance that we feel to doing those things. It can help us get to the other side where the “good feelings” are.

As I started to learn more about which types of activities give us which neurotransmitters, I wanted a way to organize my thoughts about which types of cards produce which brain chemicals.

I was inspired by emotion wheels as a way to organize feelings. Often emotion wheels are organized as a color wheel. (See example.)

Do 2 Learn

I realized that many of the colors just felt intuitively right for representing different occasions. Love was represented by red – and also a lack of love equals a lack of serotonin, which results in irritation and anger…which also happen to correlate well with the color red.

I had done so much research into why writing is so good for our mental health, so it was exciting to have it come together in this elegant infographic solution.

In some ways, I’ve over simplified things. Writing a card for any occasion will likely boost most of these neurotransmitters to some degree. Still, I thought it was interesting that writing or receiving a sympathy card was more likely to increase our oxytocin (the kindness and connection hormone which I represent with blue) and writing a "just thinking of you card" (green) is more likely to trigger endorphins (which are produced when you do things that are out of the ordinary).

I also realized that, because certain cards are more likely to boost certain neurotransmitters, you could use card writing as a tool to combat negative feelings.

Feel like you are lacking focus? Write a thank you note that you've been meaning to get to, and it will provide you a dose of dopamine, which will help you focus on completing other tasks.

Feeling lonely? Channel that energy into writing a card or letter to someone who is going through a tough time. It will boost both your oxytocin and theirs.

Feeling irritable? Try writing a love note, especially if they are the person you are feeling irritable with. Appreciation and gratitude can flip the script and produce serotonin, which helps combat anger and irritability.

I hope you take a minute to study this chart and if you are feeling like you’d like to reverse some negative emotions, pick up a pen and try it for a few minutes. See if you feel different afterwards. I bet you will!

Please feel free to download this image and share it with others. I believe that the better we understand what brain chemicals are responsible for which emotions, the better we can learn to regulate emotions and happiness (or at least it’s been helpful for me!).

We include this chart with every order we send, if you want a hard copy.

This chart also helped us create our flagship “Occasion Packs” which each contain a little guide with some of the research about why it’s good for our mental health, tips and tricks for writing cards in that occasion category, and provide a selection of 8 of our most popular cards for that occasion. (I even put a lot of interesting bits of information in the product descriptions, so you should read them if you’re interested!)

[Unfortunately we are in the middle of a reprint so many of the packs are sold out. 🤪 We will let you know when they are back in stock again!]

Hopefully this chart inspires you and helps you identify how card writing can change your mood. Since developing this chart, I’m way more aware of the transformation that happens within me when I take a few minutes to empathize with someone in my life.

Writing to people we love is a unique tool to have in our “mental health tool belt.” It’s like getting outside, getting in movement, eating nutritious food.

Writing offers us a way to connect to our hearts and show up for another person. It’s been shown in studies to be one of the most effective ways to boost our collective mental health.

I am a firm believer that you could write on a napkin, it would boost your mood, and you could send it to someone. They would love it, just because it’s from you to them.

But I also believe that art is another tool in our tool belt, that it can spark your words and provide a little light in the darkness as well. That’s why we pour absolutely everything we have into each card we offer. They can nudge us in the direction of taking the time to write and provide an inviting space to put a little bit of our love, then be kept for a long time, boosting the recipient’s neurotransmitters a little more whenever they see it. 🧠 ✨ 

Happy card writing, friend. I’m so glad you’re here.

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I just wrote a long winded comment and it disappeared!😖

Okay, I will try again! Loved your explanation of the color wheel and suggestions Leah!👏

I am.pretty good at doing cards on a fairly regular basis.

Your Uncle Dennis never forgets a family Birthday, or Anniversary and their are 12 of us, as well as 31 cousins and close to 50 grandchildren!!😁

Uncle Dennis’s home made cards are simple with a Gary Larsen cartoon on the front.😂

Your Granny Tess and her family back in Ireland were terrific letter letters!👏

I of corse, love your T&S cards, and have a stack of written ones to post today!💕🇨🇦

Kathleen Lewanczuk

Thanks for this today, Leah…I love getting to know and understand how things like your “Mental health” chart came into being…as a gardener—I love color wheels and putting colors together in my gardens…Interesting how as I have aged that I can better appreciate “greens and blues” and “lavenders” so much more now than when I was younger and wanted only intense color flowers for my annuals choices…
Love all of your work and your weekly offerings to all of us..keep drawing, writing and stretching all of us along with you in your journey…Have a grand Memorial Day weekend👏😉👩‍🌾…

Cheryl Bryson

I absolutely LOVE writing and receiving cards. Thank you for keeping this gift of communication alive with your thoughtfully created and gorgeous cards!!


When my mom was alive, she was the card writer in our family. She sent all kinds of cards, including birthday, anniversary, way to go, thinking of you and sympathy cards to family and friends. After she passed away a couple years ago, I decided to pick up the tradition and write cards myself. I enjoy the way I feel when I write these cards and I know the people who receive them feel my love. And I like to believe in some small way I am channeling the love I have for her to those who are still alive.


I write and send a lot of cards and letters…now I know why doing this brings me joy. Thank you❤️


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