Humans have been creating art for tens of thousands of years. The methods may have changed and evolved, but creativity has remained a constant in how we see ourselves as people. Art allows us to express feelings and thoughts in a non-verbal way, which has led to clinicians and researchers to study the positive effects it may have on our overall well-being. And although the research is still ongoing, particularly as we understand more about how the brain works, studies have shown that art can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Here are a few ways that practicing art has shown to be more than just a fun diversion:
Helping with anxiety: With the help of certified and trained art therapists, scientists have discovered that art therapy may help individuals with anxiety and depression by helping to develop a greater sense of self through the act of creation. That same study found that art therapy was successful in reducing the symptoms of trauma and improved levels of coping and self-esteem.
Reducing stress: Art therapy may also reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, by allowing a person to focus on the task at hand and free themselves of constraints. Participants in this study expressed that the “flow” of making art helped them relax and learn about different parts of themselves.
Achieving balance: At the Mayo Clinic, medical residents use art to help reduce their stress and fatigue. Participants in this program reported improved motivation and mood, plus a better sense of empathy.
Helping improve quality of life: In those with dementia or other neurological diseases, researchers have found art may have therapeutic and instrumental effects on a patient’s well-being. The study says art therapy may help with self-care and can help give someone suffering from dementia a feeling of accomplishment.
Meditating colorfully: The recent popularity of adult coloring books has shown that people are interested in finding ways to bring art into their everyday lives, while helping to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Adult coloring books have been compared to a meditative exercise, forcing yourself to be present in the moment, while relaxing your brain. These coloring books also have a low barrier to entry and can be a great introduction to exploring the benefits of creativity.
The best thing about making art — and one of the points that’s most misunderstood — is that it isn’t a skill, but rather, a process.