Did you know that poetry can be a great tool for maintaining healthy mental wellness? It's true! A clear mind comes from expression of thought and writing is a great vehicle for our thoughts. Writing can be a self-healing process and one that includes the local literary community around you-- sharing your work and interacting with other writers can help you to clear your mind and better understand your thought processes.
- The concept of being free. Slam poets often use the term "get free" when encouraging another performer who's sharing their truth. This term is an embodiment of what writing and poetry can do for the individual. When you write your poetry, encourage yourself to do so without inhibitions or second-thought. Try to avoid crossing things out or overthinking lines. Don't focus too much on structure and format, but more on what you actually want to say. This will help your poetry be as close as possible to your truth. When writing in this free form/stream of consciousness way it is most effective to pick a topic or issue that's personal to you and allow yourself to go from there. Speak your truth and do what feels right. Learning how to create a safe space for yourself and others is a great way to build a new comfort zone so that you and your fellow writers feel comfortable delving deep and writing about the real stuff.
- Effective wellness writing exercises. There are several approaches to writing poetry that can help you become more honest and introspective. If you're not sure where to start, letter poetry is helpful when trying to resolve conflicts in personal relationships. It's been proven that writing letters to people helps garner a feeling of closure, even if (and sometimes especially if) they are never sent. Another prompt you can set for yourself is to write about a perspective on an issue or argument that you don't agree with. Try putting yourself in the shoes of those who you've disagreed recently as this can help you maintain empathy and an open mind. If you run out of ideas, try to be self-reflective and write from there. The best poetry comes from the heart.
- Why writing works. The act of expression in any art form can be liberating but poetry allows for someone to write about their feelings in a number of ways, be is abstract or literal. A poet can write about depression using the metaphor of ice cream on the sidewalk or they can express themselves through creative non-fiction by telling their story in a more narrative form. This release of harbored thoughts and emotions can be an exhale for the writer, who may have been congested with unresolved feelings. Writing poetry is such a reliable medium because it's an all-inclusive art that can be approached from any way-- there is no such thing as a "bad" form of poetry and something about that makes it safer and comforting. Writing allows for the artist to be introspective in their creation of work, and then communal in their recitation and distribution of poetry.
- The power of storytelling. Never underestimate the power of relatability. Sharing your poetry with others should be an empowering act that makes you feel validated and heard. Listening to poetry and the narratives of others can also be equally as impactful; hearing others talk about things that may or may not relate to you creates a very safe and human energy that diminishes social insecurity. The act of storytelling immediately turns the poetic into the political because you become an advocate of truth, who's contributing to a community greater than yourself. Be responsible with your sharing and don't rush into it unless it feels completely natural. The more you expose yourself to these types of environments, like poetry slams, the more comfortable you'll be in participating in them.
- Education about mental illness. There are many stigmas about mental illness that run strong in society. Many people think of mental illness as something that can't happen to them and distance themselves from being educated about the topic. Others may experience symptoms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder but have been taught to think of it as something to be ashamed of and choose not to process and deal with their emotions properly. If you or someone you know is suffering, writing poetry is an excellent way to share and come to terms with these feelings while allowing yourself to be honest about the impact that your state of mind is having on your quality of life. Writing poetry is an incredibly effective way to process whatever you're going through, and reading poetry and other work from writers who have similar experiences can also help you gain perspective and empathy. Don't be shy! As a Power Poet you have already taken the first step in being part of a community that shares in these struggles and is here to support you as you share your thoughts and overcome personal obstacles.
Hear more on the topic of mindfulness from The Jed Foundation, a trusted partner working to promote mental and emotional health.