You’re Not Alone: Using Poetry to Heal During Mental Health Awareness Month
Poetry is a uniquely powerful art form. Poets have the ability to shape culture, support social movements, and collectively heal society. On a micro level, poems can help you heal, too.
Millions of people struggle with mental health. Your family member, your friend, your coworker—or even you—might be one of those people. Despite its universality, struggling with mental health is often a lonely, painful journey.
From mild anxiety to debilitating mental health diagnoses, Mental Health Awareness Month shines an important spotlight on the urgent need to increase awareness and end stigma surrounding mental health, which can also make taking care of yourself challenging. Plus, searching for effective self-care activities can often feel frustrating and demoralizing—what helps one person feel relief might yield little benefit for another. We want to encourage you during Mental Health Awareness Month to explore the many ways in which poetry can support you throughout your healing process.
Listen to Podcasts with Spoken Word
If you’re in a place where reading a poetry book feels too challenging, especially if you’re experiencing difficulty focusing, listening to spoken word artists or poetry-themed podcasts is a good first step to using poetry as a means of self-care. Ada Limón, acclaimed poet and author of the recently released book The Hurting Kind, hosts The Slowdown, a podcast in which Limón reads another writer’s poem every weekday. This might inspire you to slowly begin writing poetry for yourself. Keep in mind that this practice is not about comparison—it is instead an opportunity to connect and reflect.
Read and Write Outside
Spending time outside has an overwhelmingly positive impact on mental health. Being in nature can help your mind feel more clear, increasing feelings of calm. Combining this with a mindfulness activity, like reading or writing poetry, will help you feel more creative as well as lead to a sense of accomplishment. Consider reading an inspiring book—you can’t go wrong with one of Morgan Harper Nichols’ books—to inspire feelings of hope during painful times.
Everyone deserves to feel seen and heard. But when you’re suffering mentally and emotionally, especially from depression or anxiety, you might feel ostracized and isolated. Falling into a pattern of believing nobody understands or personally relates to your painful experiences can feel inevitable, which is why finding community is so important. The simplest first step to take could be following poetry Instagram accounts. @readpoetry__ and @littleinfinitepoetry are great places to start. Try connecting with fellow poetry lovers in the comments of a poem you relate to. You never know what kind of meaningful relationships you can foster simply by using social media.
Healing your mental health can be a difficult journey. Because everyone’s process looks different, it’s important to discover a healing path that’s right for you. In addition to finding self-care methods you connect with, it’s vital to seek help—speaking with someone you trust about care options is the first step. At Read Poetry, we see you. You’re not alone.