Mental Health Benefits of Art
Doing art can help manage and maintain our mental health and wellbeing. Art-based techniques such as painting, dancing and drawing have been shown to be effective in helping mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. There is growing evidence that the arts can be used in various contexts to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. This can be seen in educational settings where performing arts is used to aid the learning of core subjects in or where mentally healthy people use art as a tool to sustain their wellbeing. In other words, practicing art is a really useful tool to build capacity for managing your own mental and emotional wellbeing.
Artistic activities such as sculpting, painting and drawing contribute to lower levels of stress and increased levels of mental calmness. Studies have found that creating art reduces the cortisol hormone (the stress hormone) and increases positive mental states. Creating art can help take your mind off your everyday life and provide a relaxing distraction. Your brain gets into a mental flow when creating art, it helps set aside your worries and focuses on the detail of the art you are creating. This is also known as mindfulness.
COPE WITH DIFFICULT EMOTIONS
Art provides a safe space in which people can explore complex issues, themes and struggles that may be causing them stress and anxiety. In exploring these issues through an art medium, it can offer more clarity and acceptance of the circumstance. This can be an effective communication tool for people who may be finding it difficult to express these emotions verbally (children, special needs, trauma-based).
INCREASED COGNITIVE ABILITIES
Art encourages creative thinking and imagination. This in turn can enhance problem-solving skills. Since there is no “right” or “wrong” when creating art, it provides a safe environment in which people are encouraged to imagine and try out new ways of thinking and doing things. This increased flexibility stimulates the brain and prepares it for complicated functions, similar to learning a new language. This can enhance and support the learning process within education.
Creating art boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment for people. It produces dopamine (the happy hormone), which makes people feel good, increases motivation, and improves concentration. You do not have to be a professional artist or create a master-piece for this to happen. The process of creating itself, stimulates the creation of new neural pathways in your brain that helps to improve mental health, prevent depression and even slow down aging. Allowing yourself the space to express yourself through art can lead to a better understanding of the self and your identity, and in doing so fosters self-love.
Art enhances cognitive abilities and memory. This has been seen specifically for individuals with serious brain injury, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Creating visual art helps to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients with these conditions by providing pleasure, increasing connectivity and promoting cell growth in the brain.