How to Achieve Happiness by Writing Love Letters to Strangers 1

Going through life minding your own business can be a safe way to live, especially in a big city. However, going through life submerged only in your own world can develop into depression and loneliness. What if you could improve your happiness by helping others and exploring your city?

Living in a city, or moving to a new place can be emotionally overwhelming. Big cities are full of action, buzz, and competition. Cities can therefore be some of the loneliest places on earth if you don’t have anyone to confide in. One culprit of modern day loneliness is the turbulent lifestyle people lead in cities. We tend to become so consumed in the race for success that we forget about everything and everyone else. That kind of behavior can make our lives feel meaningless in the long run.

Feeling out of place has become more common through excessive digital consumption and social media. It can get depressing to realize that our “real lives” look a lot less shiny and interesting outside of the digital world. The important thing to remember here is that there are many people who feel the same way. Every person we pass on the street is the protagonist of their own complex story connected to feelings about the world and the people in it. It is the realization that:

“each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”  (Definition of ‘sonder’ by The dictionary of obscure sorrows.)

That means, we all have more in common than we believe and even though we are consumed by our own world, we remain connected to those around us so we might as well try to make each other’s lives more enjoyable. Recognizing the issue can help us come up with a subtle and non-invasive solution.

Happiness through exploration and giving

Recent scientific research has shown that people who spend their time helping others, feel more accomplished and happy. Thanks to fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates positive stimulation in our brains. That puts giving on the list of factors for a happy life. So, why not use these findings to improve the quality of our lives?

This week’s Talk of the WeekLove letters to strangers” by Hannah Brencher can help you get started. Making someone’s day while exploring your city could give a new perspective on life and the things that truly matter. You might even make a new friend out there while you’re saving the day and spreading kindness.

Watch the talk below and get inspired:

Here are some more tips on how to get started from Hannah Brencher’s website.

Some good places to leave love letters and notes in Vienna:

  • University campuses – the high levels of stress students deal with on a daily basis can be extreme. Finding a nice note might save a stressed-out student from having a meltdown.
  • Museums Quartier – People often chill here alone, sometimes just to be around people. Finding a nice note might help them feel included.
  • In Viennese Cafés, somewhere among the newspapers, magazines, or flyers.
  • Public bathrooms, next to mirrors or flyer boxes.
  • Subway stations.
  • City libraries.
  • Office buildings.

picture credits: pexels


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About Anita Matkovic

Anita has a degree in Transcultural Communication from the University of Vienna. She spends her time translating, teaching English, and proofreading. She is a language enthusiast with a chronic case of wanderlust.

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