December 1, 2020

Combat Negative Feelings with Positive Poems

Around this time of year, we reflect with gratitude upon the many people, places, experiences, and pets that bring joy into our lives. Understandably, the extraordinary challenges of this year may be weighing on your spirit. There are activities you can do to help put you in a positive frame of mind, such as talking with someone who makes you smile, taking a quiet moment to yourself to breathe, or writing about what you’re thankful for.   

Writer, vocalist, and visual artist Therosia Reynolds leads poetry residencies for middle school students that promote artistic, curriculum, and social emotional learning competencies. Photo courtesy: Therosia Reynolds.

Writer, vocalist, and visual artist Therosia Reynolds guides students through focusing on positive aspects of themselves and their lives in her classroom residency Self-Imagery Spoken Word Poetry. Over five days, students learn literary devices such as imagery, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and alliteration while creating self-affirming poetry. This month, Heidi Cocco, an English language learner teacher at Pinnacle High School, and her students completed a residency with Reynolds.

“Especially now, we need to think about the positives in our lives and ourselves,” Cocco said, reflecting on her students’ experience. “The different pieces of poetry and the literary devices were such an eye-opening part of English language learning.”

Screenshot from Reynolds’ workshop with Pinnacle High School students.
Screenshot: Scottsdale Arts.

When asked why she developed the residency, Reynolds said, “When we say positive things about ourselves aloud repetitiously, we begin to combat negative beliefs and rewrite those beliefs into positive ones. This is where the practice of morning and evening affirmations come in. They are great tools. However, they can be tedious at times. Thinking of creative and fun ways to do positive affirmations not only makes it more accessible, it also makes positive self-talk a bit more desirable. We learn and repetitively listen to songs all the time. When that song is affirming, it becomes an anthem to our soul. That is a great way to do an affirmation. Unfortunately, it is not personalized enough. To make a creative and personalized affirmation, turn it into a poem. This gives you something you can carry with you throughout the day and use to lift your spirits, as well as remind you how amazing you truly are.” 

When we say positive things about ourselves aloud repetitiously, we begin to combat negative beliefs and rewrite those beliefs into positive ones.

Therosia Reynolds

The impacts of their week of positive writing were evident to Cocco: “(Reynolds) helped the students to become alive. Every single day, the students would get immersed in the different aspects of poetry. At the end, they created poems that reflected on how they felt about themselves. When students performed their poems, they stood tall and used their voices. They were very proud of their accomplishment. They were beaming.”

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation has been using poetry as a platform for student voice. More than 1,500 students have participated in poetry residencies since 2014. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

If you would like to try writing your own positive poem, Reynolds has the following tips.

“Begin with your name and something that you like about yourself or one of your favorite things that you can associate with yourself,” she said. “Using myself as an example, I like my brown eyes and chocolate is my favorite flavor. ”

Now, let’s pull out some positives about all of them:  

  • Therosia is nice, smart, ambitious, and fiery. 
  • My brown eyes are almond shaped, enchanting, and dazzling. 
  • Chocolate is wonderful, joyful, and pleasing. 

Next, try combinations and make them about the topic. 

  • Nice Therosia 
  • Brown eyes enchanting 
  • Chocolate pools  
  • Wonderful 

This is just a basic example.  Try it for yourself and see how many ways you can tell yourself that you are awesome!     

We at Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation are grateful for our colleagues, amazingly talented artists, and our community that we are proud to serve. We hope you all had a safe and restful holiday.

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