What if your doctor prescribed the health benefits of art as the cure for your latest malady? Would you quickly seek a second opinion? Depending on what ails you, there are some surprising benefits to living the artistic life.

It’s summertime here, and that means vacations and super flexible schedules. It also means that sometimes, finding time to blog can be a challenge. This week, we’re grateful for a recent contact who has allowed us to share an article on the health benefits of art.  We hope you enjoy it!

Here are some proven health benefits of art to improve both your mental and physical health:

Health Benefits of Art for your emotional health

Art improves your self control and self regulation
Often referred to as simple self-control, self-regulation is a crucial skill that must be acquired. Research suggests that most problems, including several health and mental issues that plague individuals of all age groups are in a way related to an inability to control different aspects of oneself. Kinesthetic-sensory qualities of art can potentially enhance self-regulation among individuals of all age groups. Furthermore, art demands patience – an important self-regulation skill.

 

Art helps to process difficult emotions
Creating something is the perfect way to cleanse your mind and bring hope and joy. In addition, patients that enjoy coloring their thoughts on canvas showed a surprising relief from both physical and emotional pain. For instance a 2006 study published in National Center by Biotechnology Information suggested that mindfulness art therapy significantly reduced symptoms of physical and emotional distress among women with cancer. In another study, researchers concluded that art therapy notably comforted adult cancer patients and motivated them to continue with the therapy. Arts and crafts are fruitful for treating patients having a critical mental illness and recommended by several neurologists.

A proportion of the brain is unconscious, and activities like meditation, listening music, and painting activate the unconscious part of the brain that releases positive energy. That energy in turn revitalizes us, both physically and mentally.

Some people have a difficult time expressing their thoughts, and art can be a great way to overcome this dilemma.  Art therapy is also proven to be fruitful for several non-psychotic mental health disorders.

© Laura Gabel, "He Parts the Veil”, watercolor and charcoal, 14 x 17.5, $195.00

© Laura Gabel, “He Parts the Veil”, watercolor and charcoal, 14 x 17.5, $195.00. Purchase Here

Art makes you happier
There is a positive connection between the creative process of making art and our personal happiness. Robert Epstein, in 1996, published an article on “Capturing Creativity” in Psychology Today. Robert extolled the joys of creating art, noting that greater creativity breeds greater happiness. Even more recent research by Semir Zeki, University of London, shows an increase in dopamine and activity in the frontal cortex of our brain when we view art. The release of dopamine results in feeling of pleasure and positive sensations that are experienced immediately after witnessing a stirring work of art.

Art is undeniably a powerful therapeutic tool. Throughout history, visual expression has been used as a form of healing. Talent isn’t a key element when it comes to art therapy. Art therapy revolves around the idea that we all have a gift of creativity within us. When our inner creativity unfolds, it takes us on a healing journey and renders benefits like personal growth, self expression and wellness.

We all face ups and downs on a daily basis. During such times simple doodling and moments of intentional creativity can act as very effective mood-boosters. Our control over emotional pain and depression is significantly enhanced by creativity as noted in a recent study by the National Center of Biotechnology Information.

© Laura Gabel, "Winter with My Lover". Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.

© Laura Gabel, “Winter with My Lover”. Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection. Purchase “Winter with My Lover” Here

Art reduces stress
More than half of the world’s population is affected by mental or physical stress in some way due the growing changes in the current fast paced lifestyle.  Getting involved in art is a remarkable way to manage mental stress.

The Journal of American Art Therapy Association published a study in 2016 showing that  art significantly lowered the cortisol levels and the participants felt much more relaxed after the art session. Creating and appreciating art, both lead to a reduction in the cortisol or the stress hormone levels.

Health Benefits of Art for your Brain

Art improves your memory
Painting boosts your memory skills. People who are involved in drawing, writing, and painting are at a lower risk of developing memory-related illnesses during their older age. A study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggested that drawn words were better recalled than written. According to the study, drawing strengthens memory by integrating visual, semantic, and motor aspects of the memory trace.

Analytic Skills
Creating art involves making decisions about what we plan to portray on the canvas and how it can be achieved most efficiently. Whether it’s choosing which brush to use or what colors should be mixed together to create the hues you want to splash on your canvas, every step of painting involves analyzing and decision-making. If the first version isn’t quite what you want, you figure out a way of fixing it. Artistic activities involve decision-making and problem-solving at every step during the process, which ultimately improves our analytic and reasoning skills.

© Laura Gabel, “Arizona Longings: Drama Queen”. 5x7 framed to 13x16, mixed media. $250. Purchase Here

© Laura Gabel, “Arizona Longings: Drama Queen”. 5×7 framed to 13×16, mixed media. $250. Purchase Here

Health Benefits of Art for your Physical Health

Art improves your bilateral coordination
Bilateral coordination is the ability to coordinate both sides of the body for efficiently completing different activities. For children with special needs, bilateral coordination can be hard to develop.

Art plays a key role in developing bilateral coordination. Crafts like coloring, painting, cutting and drawing, etc. need to use both the hands and hence help in developing bilateral coordination.

Art improves your fine motor coordination
When you engage in any form of art as a hobby, dexterously handling a paintbrush ultimately leads to increased mobility in the muscles of hands and fingers. Other activities like tearing and scrunching paper, pinching clay into pits, threading beads, etc. are all ways to exercise fingers, hands, and wrists. Motor skills improve as you gain dexterity; strength and flexibility; and hand and eye coordination after working with different kinds of objects and materials. 

Art helps with language development
Multiple studies have been done showing the connection between art and language development. Children tend to learn better when they are more engaged and involved. Art provides an excellent opportunity to build vocabulary, develop articulation skills for ideas, and hone observational skills.

© Laura Gabel, “Mr. Faith”. Pastel on UArt, 21 x 17. $695.

© Laura Gabel, “Mr. Faith”. Pastel on UArt, 21 x 17. $695. Purchase Here

Health Benefits of Art Therapy

Art Therapy for Alzheimer and Dementia patients
44 million people suffer from some form of dementia worldwide. Dementia affects our brain’s reasoning ability, memory, communication skills and the ability to effectively perform day-to-day activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Engagement with art activities holds the ability to boost our overall well-being. Several case studies and researchers suggest that art therapy can help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients by improving attention span, self-esteem and social behavior while helping with neuropsychiatric symptoms and psychological resilience.

Art Therapy for cancer patients
Art is a popular therapy for the patients coping with cancer and their caregivers. Cancer patients often experience feelings of anxiety, frustration, fear, sadness and depression, etc. These feelings can be difficult to express in a conventional support group. In many cases, individuals going through such traumatic experiences like cancer often internalize their pain and suffering when they aren’t provided an effective means to vent their feelings. Art allows people to express thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are too agonizing to put into words.

 

Art Therapy for older adults
Art activities help in maintain the health and quality of life of aging adults. Elders benefit from the improved cognitive and tactile abilities and subjective wellbeing from art related activities. Art activities that enable people to work together is believed to boost self-esteem, psychological health and social engagement, which plays a great role in improving the quality of life of older adults.

 

No, the health benefits of art are NOT a cure-all. I, for one, still very much value modern medicine. However, if a little art in my life provides so many benefits, why not start creating today?

 

This article is adapted with permission from the article “24 Proven Benefits of Drawing, Painting and Art” by Nitin Kaku of  What a Portrait.com on February 18, 2019.

 

 

 

Categories: Creating

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