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Finding the Right Words: The Healing Power of Poetry

For generations, poetry has served a source of inspiration and solace for people in need of healing. From sonnets to free verse to haikus, the art of poetry has provided a space, and a medium, for humans to explore and express their many emotions – including those that are hard to put into words!

The oldest form of poetry dates back to ancient civilisations, like the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Greeks. Dating at around 2100 BCE, the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest narrative poems, telling the story of legendary kind Gilgamesh and his friend, Enkidu. Another ancient form of poetry is hymns and psalms, which were intended to be set to music, and were widely popular because of their ability to contain wide ranges of human expression.

While not all forms of poetry rhyme, all poetry has rhythm – and for good reason: it’s melodic and hypnotic, giving those who read and speak it the chance to indulge in a different form of reflection and meditation.

Poetry is so much more than just a form of artistic expression because it has the power to heal, bringing comfort, validation, and inspiration, to those who read and write it. We’re setting out to explore the ways poetry can promote healing and well-being, from expressing emotion to fostering mindfulness – and everything in between.

1. Poetry helps us express our emotions.

By putting our feelings into words and thought into the words we use (as is required when writing verse), we are better able to process how we feel and the experiences that have made us feel that way. Poetry facilitates this in both a personal, and a universal way that gives us the courage and the permission to write our truth, while giving others the gift of knowing they’re not alone. And that they never will be. In this way, poetry can heal and bring comfort to those who are struggling by providing a sense of connection and validation.

2. A tool for resilience.

Resilience is imperative to weathering the highs and lows of life – and poetry helps us to develop it. By reading about the struggles of others, as well as their triumphs, in the poetic form, we gain deeper insight into the trials and tribulations of being human, as well as the perspective and inspiration we need to know we can overcome whatever we need to.

3. Mindfulness and self-reflection

Poetry encourages mindfulness and the ability to self-reflect because of the way we write and read it. It calls on us to be present in the moment while we’re engaging with it, and to pay attention to the images it creates, and the rhythm of the words upon the page. Poetry also gives us the tools we need to be able to gain a deeper insight into what we feel in a way that fosters and encourages improved understanding of ourselves, and others.

4. Emotional processing.

Poetry creates a resonance or vibration that has a healing effect on the mind and body, by working with the amygdala of the brain, which is responsible for processing emotion. When we read or hear poetry, it activates our senses and create a powerful emotional response that can resonate within us, affecting our mood and our perspective.

Now see what we mean…

What would a blog post on the healing power of poetry be without a poem to show what we mean? Allow us to share with you ‘The Guest House’ by Rumi, a poem that is often used in mindfulness and compassion practices because of its ability to encourage the reader to welcome all emotions and experiences as guests in the guest house of the self. Here’s a small excerpt:

“This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out

For some new delight.”

- Rumi

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