Updated: May 4, 2021
Mental well-being is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to living a healthy, well-rounded life. During difficult times, especially like the past year of quarantines and social isolation, taking care of your mind can often take a back seat, which can have negative effects on your long-term well-being.
When you think of your mental well-being, you probably think of things like meditation, getting plenty of sleep, or exercising. But did you know poetry can be a powerful tool for improving your overall mental well-being? In fact, science has shown that poetry can have an effect on everything from memory to sleep patterns. Let’s take a look at five ways poetry can support your mental well-being.
1. Creative thinking and cognitive stimulation
Challenging your brain to think in new and different ways can have a number of benefits for your mind. With a variety of forms and wildly creative uses of language, poetry asks a lot of our minds and the resulting stimulation is significant. One study found those who read poetry showed an increase in linguistic fluency and mental flexibility. So if sudoku puzzles or crosswords aren’t your thing, give poetry a try!
2. Help ease chronic mental pain
You may have heard of art therapy — an approach to chronic pain management where people are exposed to forms of art like poetry and music to alleviate symptoms. A study on the effects of art therapy found that of those studied, poetry significantly reduced both pain and depression levels. Moreso, participants were more likely to describe themselves as “hopeful” after listening to or reading poetry.
3. Improve memory
Building on the benefits of art therapy, many techniques used by art therapists focus on improving memory processes and lessening symptoms of dementia. In many memory care centers around the country, poetry is being used as a form of dementia treatment with noted benefits for those suffering from memory loss.
4. Promote better sleep
Many of us struggle with getting enough sleep and it can take its toll on your mental well-being in a short amount of time. You’ve most likely heard that reading before bed can help you sleep — and it’s true! A University of Sussex study found that reading could lessen stress by 68% and make it easier to sleep, compared to listening to music (61%) and taking a walk (42%). Reading a poem or two before bed can ease your mind and prepare your body for deep, uninterrupted sleep.
5. Live a longer, healthier life
Taking care of your body and mind are important steps to living a long and healthy life. Research has found that reading regularly is an indicator of longevity in older adults. So do your future self a favor and take some time to read a poem and give your mind some fuel!