How writing a poem can make you feel better

davanti counselling rhyme and resilience

Writing down your emotions can be a route to healing. (pic courtesy of

Today is World Poetry Day, set up by UNESCO to “recognise the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind”. You don’t have to be a poet to write a poem. You can just sit down and let fragments of thought and feeling tumble onto the page. Writing a poem is a unique way of connecting to feeling, and can boost your wellbeing. Research has shown that the act of writing about emotional experiences has physiological and psychological benefits. Here’s how writing a poem can help you feel better:

  • Giving emotions to the page can release you from them. The page can hold the feeling so you don’t have to.
  • The structure and discipline of poetry can offer containment for overwhelming emotions.
  • Putting your feelings onto paper or screen is like having your own personal therapist whenever you need to be heard and understood.
  • Writing about your experience can help make meaning from chaos.
  • Writing can help you understand and reconstruct the part of you that’s been hurt, shamed, stressed or depressed.
  • A metaphor can work with difficult feelings without re-traumatising.
  • If you feel stuck, write about your stuckness to release the energy.
  • Writing things down helps you dis-identify from your emotions: you can HAVE emotions but don’t need to BE them.
  • Having a piece of writing to look back on reminds you of the distance you’ve travelled between now and when the pain was experienced.

Happy World Poetry Day!

Related articles:

How to express your true feelings in words on World Poetry Day

How to use a poem to contain overwhelming emotions

How to use a poem to contain overwhelming emotions

Writing a structured poem can help contain overwhelming emotions.

Writing a structured poem can help emotions feel more contained.

Writing things down, especially negative thoughts, feelings and emotions, can make us feel better. Just picking up a pen and writing what comes to mind can be incredibly cathartic and therapeutic, and can help you put into words what you really feel.

To get into the spirit of National Poetry Day, how about attempting to express your feelings in a poem? The structure and discipline of poetry can offer containment to difficult or overwhelming emotion, and can provide a tremendous feeling of release and satisfaction. It can help provide meaning on the page from the chaos in your mind.

There is a poem structure called the acrostic poem. Here’s how to make it work for you:

  • Identify an emotion you’re feeling, or have felt.
  • Pick one word that sums up that emotion.
  • Write the letters of that word vertically down a page of A4 paper.
  • Allow all the thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories and images you associate with that emotion to spill onto a separate page.
  • Place some of those words and phrases next to the letters of your emotion.
  • Fill in the other letters with phrases that fit your emotion, as you’re feeling it right now.

Here’s an example, with the emotion ANXIETY:


And here I am again.

No closer to the reassurance I need:

X-raying all my closest

Interactions to see if they can

Ever be any better.

Truly tired of being inside my head.

Yearning for some peace instead.

The poem will help to ‘ground’ the emotion you’re feeling through the structured engagement with the initial letters of the word. Writing about an emotion in this way names it, captures it, and takes it power away.

Seven ways the ‘unsent letter’ can channel your anger

Write down your angry thoughts (but don't send them) to help process your feelings (pic courtesy of

Write down your angry thoughts (but don’t send them) to help process your feelings (pic courtesy of

Full of rage at someone but not sure you can tell them? Feeling hurt and let down by a partner but fearful of telling them straight? Wish you could tell a parent exactly how they made you feel? I frequently recommend the ‘unsent letter’ as a way of expressing your feelings about or towards someone who’s made you mad, bad or sad.

The unsent letter is a form of writing therapy that encourages you to address a letter to someone you don’t feel you can talk directly to – perhaps a former lover, a friend you’ve fallen out with, or perhaps someone who has died. It’s a way of putting into words a deeply held thought or feeling that has somehow been damaging you in some way, or holding you back. The idea is that you write about your feelings openly – so they’re ‘out there’ – but you don’t have to send the letter. The point is to articulate and process your feelings rather then openly hurt someone else by sending the letter.

So you can rage about a vexatious issue connected to a significant person in your life, and it’s you who ends up feeling better. The unsent letter can be written by hand, or typed as an email – whichever you prefer. Just don’t press send!

Here are seven ways the unsent letter can help to channel your anger… (more…)

Suffering from writer’s block? Try writing about the block to shift it

Writing about your writer's block can help shift the block and get to the point.

Writing about your writer’s block can help shift the block and get to the point.

I always love it when writers share their tips on how they overcome writer’s block – especially when they joke that other professions (eg plumbers, dentists etc) don’t suffer blocks. They just rock up and get on with their jobs rather than waiting for the muse to strike.

In a recent Shortlist article with 20 tips from writers on writer’s block, writers recommend discipline, just getting on with it, imagining you’re writing for a friend or family member, and writing a first draft knowing that no one will see it.

The tip I’ve found from experience that can work extremely well comes from Charles Bukowski, who says:  (more…)

Why reading a good book can be therapeutic (and not just on World Book Day)

A year on from writing this post, I still feel the magic and beauty of books, and the emotional support they can offer us in so many ways. So, World Book Day is always a day to celebrate.

davanti counselling

worldbookdayya Today is World Book Day : a global reason to celebrate all that’s good about books and reading. The point of World Book Day is to get kids “exploring the pleasure of books”, but for adults it’s also an excuse to indulge in the curiosity and escapism a good book can provide. (As if you need an excuse!)

But reading isn’t just about entertainment or killing time on a commute. Studies have shown that bibliotherapy (a form of psychotherapy using reading materials) can help to reduce people’s negative thoughts and mild depressive symptoms.

Here are 10 ways reading can have a therapeutic effect:

  1. Reading helps you make sense of your world and your place in it. There’s a book somewhere that will have a story or situation that is similar to yours, and that you can identify with.
  2. Metaphors can make issues easier to come to terms with – especially…

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Is Facebook becoming the ‘confessional’ of the digital age?

Seeking ‘likes’ from friends can encourage acceptance and forgiveness for our deeds. (pic courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/

Facebook: a platform for perfectly groomed self-promotion, or an explorative ‘confessional’ place to discover your feelings and identify ways to improve yourself? Most of us might think the former, but a researcher into the creative industries thinks otherwise.

The act of posting your achievements for all your Facebook friends to admire, from your latest DIY success to the number of miles you’ve run this week – as well as sometimes admitting to some mistakes you’ve made along the way – can apparently make you more self-reflective. And this can lead to more self-awareness and personal growth, according to Dr Theresa Sauter from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation in Australia.

Showing off what’s been good about your day proves that you’re doing OK in life. And sharing what hasn’t gone so well shows awareness that your behaviour may not be top notch – especially when friends can ‘like’ or comment on what you’ve posted, says the research.

“It can become a therapeutic tool that helps people discover how they feel and how they can improve themselves,” says Dr Sauter.

I think there are two interesting ideas to emerge from this piece of research. (more…)

How to express your true feelings in words on World Poetry Day

anima world poetry day

Let poetry capture the DNA of your thoughts and feelings. (pic:

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” Robert Frost

Today is the UN’s World Poetry Day, a celebration of creativity, diversity in language and individual expression in the written word.

Whether you journal regularly, scribble down a few thoughts occasionally, or craft some beautiful prose when the muse strikes, the act of writing your thoughts down without censoring what’s coming out of your pen can be tremendously therapeutic. Here’s how to get in the healing mood for writing in rhyme –  though poems don’t always have to rhyme:

  • The act of putting pen to paper and letting it flow can be cathartic. Grab a pen and let your thoughts flow onto the page. 
  • A poem is a way of accessing a deeper part of yourself that you perhaps intuited was there but didn’t know for sure if it existed. Let it have some space on the page. 
  • Don’t worry about crafting. A poem can be a few lines long, so there’s no pressure to write a lot. 
  • Don’t censor as you write. Tell your mind to get out of the way and let something deeper come through. Let the feeling have its rise and fall.
  • No one ever sees your words but you, so don’t write as if someone were looking over your shoulder.
  • Choose ink colours that represent your mood: try red for anger, blue for sadness, or orange for power. Then experiment with colours you don’t like so much, and see what emerges.
  • Stand back and allow the true message to filter through you. Writing a poem can be surprising and revealing when you read it back.
  • Enjoy your words. Giving your thoughts a poetry shape can leave you with a huge sense of achievement.
  • Appreciate the little piece of you that has found expression in the world.