3 ways poetry promotes health and wellbeing

3-ways-poetry-promotes-health-and-wellbeing

I often write how poetry is a life-savior. But in this particular post I want to dive even deeper in specific ways poetry can help you deal with every day stress and anxiety.

For me, personally poetry is a space, a huge empty room I can fill with anything I want.

Any emotion, fear, anger, desire and love I can put there, observe with care and sort them out. It’s a perfect mechanism to put your feelings under control and actually get freedom to breathe easily again, take off that pressure from your chest. Poem gives you back your voice, your permission to shout, to rebel, to smile! The American poet, Edna St Vincent Millay so beautifully put it in her famous sonnet

 I will put Chaos into fourteen lines And keep him there.

And even those who turn their heads and ears from poetry will still now and then switch on their radio, bang their hands in the rhythm on the stirring wheal and sing along their favorite tune. Aren’t poetry, songs and lyrics very close cousins offering us that immediate relief we look for in everyday life?

Another thing I have observed that poetry offers as a healing component is that many of us reach for literature in hope to find explanation for the things we cannot articulate, express or even understand ourselves. Poet knits a story in his poem ‘as it is’, yet it stays subjective and mono-observant. Still, there’s an inclination, that when we are sad, we are most comforted by sad poems and sad music. Often poetry comes with some sort of solidarity in times of solace where while you read your favorite authors somehow even subconsciously, you validate your own experiences as universal – which  makes acceptance of particular situation  much easier and less volatile. 

Jeanette Winterson, in her book ” Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal” says,

you can use poetry as a light and a laser.  It shows up your true situation and it helps you cut through it.

But also, on the other side of word-spectrum lies different possibility. And with every reading of a poem you are empowering yourself with additional hope and inspiration.

We know this at the most fundamental level as with reading each line we bring forth our own meaning, analyses, forcing us to make new connections among images, events, people and situations. ‘What is’ can be easily transferred to ‘what if’ and there is your healing power. The poem always brings you in the now, in the present moment: that creative pause you steal for your self in the every day routine is an escape from dreadful, petty ordinary things and a gate to inner peace and stillness.

Poetry is the celebration of life. Dark and bright moments – what ever they are, poetry is your companion. It can make you laugh, or even fall in love with yourself like Susana Thenon writes in ‘Nuptial Song’ (about being ‘happily married’ to yourself).

Use poetry as a beautiful distraction in your life instead of indulging in junk food, tabloids and TV realities. That is your safe harbor in the tumultuous time of your every day situations.


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Can Art impact our health?

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.

              ~ Pablo Picassopicasso

This is one very interesting and emerging topic. In the last decade, there has been done a lot of research with positive results on how arts can help us improve our health and help us in our healing journey – both mentally and physically.

The idea that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process has been embraced in many different cultures. Throughout recorded history, people have used pictures, stories, dances, and chants as healing rituals.

Each type of arts (visual, acoustic or verbal) has its own benefits.

In this post I will exclusively focus on writing and the power of language. The results of some researches are quite fascinating. For example, Dr. James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin has designed several studies to show the links between writing and health:

Writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health. Although the scientific research surrounding the value of expressive writing is still in the early phases, there are some approaches to writing that have been found to be helpful.

In a series of exercises, healthy student volunteers who wrote about traumatic experiences had more positive moods, fewer illnesses and better measures of immune-system function than those who wrote about superficial experiences. Even 6 weeks later, the students who’d written about what upset them reported more positive moods and fewer illnesses than those who’d written about everyday experiences.

In another study of students vulnerable to depression, those who did expressive writing exercises showed significantly lower depression symptoms, even after 6 months, than those who had written about everyday matters.

There have been also developed a range of new therapies that use arts as basic methodology and approach with noticeable success. For the visual summary of how arts can beneficially impact our health you can look at the infographic given at this link that was developed by Art and Health Network Canada.

So, whenever you can, surround yourself with art or get involved in some artistic work: it’s fun, creative and most importantly is doing good for your health and wellbeing.

Health by Rafael Campo

While jogging on the treadmill at the gym,
that exercise in getting nowhere fast,
I realized we need a health pandemic.
Obesity writ large no more, Alzheimer’s
forgotten, we could live carefree again.
We’d chant the painted shaman’s sweaty oaths,
We’d kiss the awful relics of the saints,
we’d sip the bitter tea from twisted roots,
we’d listen to our grandmothers’ advice.
We’d understand the moonlight’s whispering.
We’d exercise by making love outside,
and afterwards, while thinking only of
how much we’d lived in just one moment’s time,
forgive ourselves for wanting something more:
to praise the memory of long-lost need,
or not to live forever in a world
made painless by our incurable joy.