How I find happiness and health through writing
I’ve dabbled in poetry off and on since my late teens. I’ll go through spurts of massive writing stints followed by some lean months, depending on what’s going on in my life. Over the years, writing and reading poetry has improved my mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Writing poetry, fiction, memoir, nonfiction, or even a blog post makes me happier, calmer, more peaceful, and less stressed. When I’m writing, everything is right with my world. If I go too long without writing, I can tell because I get grumpy! When I feel the grumps coming on, it’s my sign to start writing-—even writing a blog post will get me smiling again.
Research is just starting to reveal what poets and writers have known for centuries.
From the NPR article, Can Poetry Keep You Young? “The early evidence suggests that the arts have positive cognitive, social, and emotional impact on older adults.”
When I’m in the flow of my writing—whether it’s poetry, fiction, or nonfiction—it’s like being infused in a certain healing frequency….like a cat purring on my lap. (Fun fact: Did you know that cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz? Researchers have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing. Scientific American)
In the NPR article, one poetry workshop participant said, “Poetry helped me begin to focus how I felt about losing my son. When you lose, you also remember what you had before the loss. And so poetry allows you to begin to look at a relationship, at what was of value to you.”
When my husband was dying, I turned to poetry-—both the writing of it and the reading of it. Writing has always helped me process my world and discover connections that I know I would not have otherwise made.
Poetry reminded me of the deep connections people can make when they love and respect one another. Poetry reminded me that even in pain and darkness there are things to be learned and gifts to be brought into the light. Poetry reminded me that when we die, we live on in the memories and actions of others. Poetry reminded me of my incredible resilience. Poetry reminded me that the human heart holds onto the tiniest thread of light and hope. Poetry reminded me that there is always new life to grab ahold of and call into being. Poetry reminded me that a simple smile can break down walls the heart has built to protect itself. Poetry reminded me of the healing power of laughter.
Poetry reminded me that I am here to love-—not only to love another but to love all of life—the way the wind rustles through the maple leaves above where I sit as I write this, the way the Olympic Mountains rise up from the gentle waters of the Hood Canal, the way thinking of a friend’s sweet smile makes my heart blossom like a wild rose, the way sunlight warms my face to the beginnings of a new day.
When we are authentic in our writing, we can heal not only ourselves but our readers. People have come to me after readings to share how my words on grief have helped them process their own grief.
When I read Raymond Carver’s book of poetry, “A New Path to The Waterfall,” something shifts and heals inside me. I feel connected to this man who has experienced many of the same feelings I have. Reading his words makes me feel less alone.
And maybe this is the essence of why we write and why we read. To know that even in our aloneness, we are never really alone.
Learn more about my poetry book The Dragon & The Dragonfly