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Poetry and Wellbeing

Poems come in all shapes and sizes. Some are long, some are short. Some leave you feeling happy, some leave you in tears. Poetry is an amazing art form and expression. Not only does it have the power to invoke emotion, there is evidence that suggests that poetry has healing properties. Poetry can be used in a number of forms of therapy: writing poetry, analysing poetry and reading poetry. These therapies have suggested that poetry has the power to heal psychological and physiological ailments.

 

There was a study carried out on a group of student nurses who wrote poetry. The findings of the study concluded that ‘students can use poetry writing to meaningfully explore nursing practice, engage with critical thinking, and consider the feelings of others’[1]. Poetry therefore can be used as an educational tool. Poetry is a multidimensional art form, where the shape of the poem, the line lengths or even the fonts used can convey meaning. When writing a poem, there are many techniques that can be used to illustrate messages in the poem such as the use of metaphors and similes. The study shows that ‘students use metaphor to explore emotional and relational aspects of practice and the technique of self-distancing when describing difficult and angering events’[2]. Poetry can be used as a coping mechanism.

 

It has been suggested that poetry has healing properties. Sometimes when we feel down and read an uplifting poem, it can make us feel happier. However, research has taken a step further to suggest that poetry can heal physical pain, not just psychological pain. A study in 2016 on a group of women with breast cancer concluded that ‘their quality of life had tangible improvements two months after group poetry’[3]. The therapy ‘reduced patient’s physical complaints’ and ‘improved their performance’[4]. Despite the promising results, it is unclear whether the effects were due to the group setting or the poetry itself.

 

Poetry can touch us on a personal level and on a group level. It has the power to shape us and change us as people. But there is discourse between what the poet write and what we interpret. We discover meaning from poems through our personal experiences and our understandings of the writing and the words. Nevertheless, as research suggests, poetry is ‘proactively encouraging students to adopt particular ways of expressive writing might be beneficial for student’s health and wellbeing’[5]. The effects of poetry may be a positive one. ‘Such an approach has the potential to improve quality care provision and support… emotional health…, which might lead to a reduction in compassion fatigue, stress and attrition’[6].

 

Have your say: Is poetry really powerful enough to heal us? 

 

For more information visit:

We have an Increasing Wellbeing and Inclusion in Early Years Settings course.

 

Sources:

[1] Jack, KF and Illingworth, S (2017) Saying it without saying it: Using poetry to talk about important issues in nursing practice. Journal of Research in Nursing.

[2] Jack, KF and Illingworth, S (2017) Saying it without saying it: Using poetry to talk about important issues in nursing practice. Journal of Research in Nursing.

[3] Daboui,P., Elyasi,F., Gozashi,M., Iran,P. and Moradi,S. (2016) Improvement in Patient: Reported Outcomes After Group Poetry Therapy of Women with Breast Cancer.

[4] Daboui,P., Elyasi,F., Gozashi,M., Iran,P. and Moradi,S. (2016) Improvement in Patient: Reported Outcomes After Group Poetry Therapy of Women with Breast Cancer.

[5] Jack, KF and Illingworth, S (2017) Saying it without saying it: Using poetry to talk about important issues in nursing practice. Journal of Research in Nursing.

[6] Jack, KF and Illingworth, S (2017) Saying it without saying it: Using poetry to talk about important issues in nursing practice. Journal of Research in Nursing.

 

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