person writing at a table

4 Poetry Prompts to Improve Your Mental Wellbeing

Everyone needs a self-care routine—especially poets, who are often highly sensitive and tuned into the world around them. Luckily, poetry itself is a reliable creative outlet that helps us cope, build communities, and heal from trauma. Here are 4 ways to use poetry as a tool for wellbeing, plus prompts to get you started.


1.   Name your feelings

Life is full of complexity. When this complexity prevents you from understanding what you feel and why, it can be difficult to move past those feelings. Poetry can help you take unfamiliar emotions and transform them into something concrete and manageable.

Try this prompt: If your emotion was a living being, what kind of creature would it be? What would it say? Write a poem that tells its story, starting from the day it was born.


2.   Connect with others

Although writing tends to happen in solitude, you can also use it to build relationships. Joining writing groups and poetry readings are great ways to meet new friends and overcome social anxiety. Poetry provides insight into the writer’s authentic life and stirs empathy in the reader, which in turn facilitates closer, more genuine relationships.

Try this prompt: Invite friends to join you for an exquisite corpse game, a collaborative exercise where each person writes a word on a piece of paper, folds it to hide what it says, and then passes it around so everyone can contribute. The resulting poem can range from absurd to surprisingly insightful, and it’s always a fun excuse to spend quality time with loved ones.


3.   Accept and let go

It might be tempting to push away your negative emotions when you’re struggling, but practicing acceptance builds self-compassion and wellbeing. Poetry is a safe, accessible method for doing so. By putting your pain into words, you face it head-on, giving your ghosts a name and ultimately laying them to rest.

Try this prompt: What are you trying not to think about? Distraction can be healthy, but avoidance can extend our suffering. Write a poem in which you address everything you’ve been avoiding.


4.   Envision a better future

In the grips of severe mental health challenges, it can be difficult to envision a way out. But imagining a positive outcome for yourself is the first step toward creating that outcome. You can build hope and motivation by writing about what life might look like when the worst of it is over, and all is well.

Try this prompt: Imagine a future in which you are happy, healthy, and confident. Write a poem from the perspective of this future self. What does their life look like, beyond your current situation? What would they want you to know?


In a world of unhealthy coping mechanisms, choose poetry instead

As a poet, your sensitivity can be a gift that leads to “new possibilities of perceiving.” But it can also become emotionally draining without regular self-care. Next time you need some TLC to improve your health and wellbeing, I hope you’ll try writing a poem.