5 Ways Poetry Can Improve Your Health

World Health Day is on April 7, spurring us all to think about how to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health. You might know some of the most common recommendations from experts—like eating healthy, exercising, and meditating—but did you know that reading poetry makes the list? In fact, science shows us that poetry can have an effect on everything from our memory to our sleep patterns. Discover five ways poetry can enrich your health.


Poetry can increase creative thinking and cognitive stimulation

Put simply, thinking in different ways benefits the brain. With its many unique forms and uses of language, poetry demands a lot of our minds—and the results are significant. According to a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, participants who read poetry showed an increase in both linguistic fluency and mental flexibility.


Poetry can help with chronic mental and physical pain.

Scientists observed 75 people experiencing chronic physical and emotional pain over a period of three days to see if different forms of art therapy, including poetry and music, could ease their pain symptoms. Participants rated their pain and depression levels on the Visual Analog Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory. The study found that poetry significantly reduced both pain and depression levels. Furthermore, people were more likely to describe themselves as “hopeful” following time spent reading or listening to poetry. 


Poetry can promote quality sleep.

Reading before bed has been found to reduce stress at high rates, relaxing levels of stress even more than other forms of self-care like listening to music, drinking tea, or exercising. A study from the University of Sussex showed that reading could lessen stress by 68%, preparing the body for deep, uninterrupted sleep. For comparison, listening to music had a 61% success rate and taking a walk improved relaxation rates by 42%. 


Poetry can help keep memory intact. 

From music therapy to pet therapy, many techniques aim to promote memory processes and lessen dementia symptoms. At New York Memory Center and in other memory care facilities across the country, spoken word poetry has been implemented as a form of dementia treatment.


Poetry can prolong your lifespan.

For frequent poetry readers, their love of the genre just might give them more time to power through their growing TBR pile. According to recent research published in Social Science & Medicine, reading regularly is a predictor of longevity in older adults.