We love to engage in creative activities such as writing, dancing, acting, or drawing because we enjoy it. We are aware that creativity is good for us because it makes us feel happy. But did you know that creating art can also make you healthier? Here are six ways how making art can improve your mental and physical health.
Health Benefits of Being Creative
1. It Relieves Stress
Did you ever get lost in sketching, writing or knitting? It’s no wonder you did because studies show that creative activities impact your body similarly as meditation. Simple artistic activity starting from writing, sculpting and drawing to making collages and taking photographs can protect your overall health and wellbeing. According to the American Journal of Public Health, art therapy can help patients suffering from chronic diseases relieve stress, and retain their sense of self.
The AJPH also mentions that observing art is enough to decrease stress and psychological disturbance. So, if you are not ready to use creativity as an outlet for your emotions and feelings, you can observe art by visiting a museum or attending a concert. It is essential to be aware that expressive art therapy is not about becoming a good artist, but about enjoying the entire process. Simple don’t worry about the finished product and savor the moment and have fun with it.
2. It Renews Brain Function
We know that work and school projects positively stimulate our critical thinking. However, engaging in creative tasks stimulates our brain, promotes the production of new neurons, and rejuvenates brain functions that are vital for maintaining a healthy central nervous system. Also, studies have shown that people who take on craft-based projects in midlife have up to 50% less chance of developing mental diseases that affect our cognitive abilities such as dementia.
3. It Can Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Unfortunately, not only our bodies change as we get older, but our minds as well. Although it is impossible to stop the process of aging, we can take some preventative measures to ward off mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive degenerative brain condition that mostly attacks people older than 65 years. Many people don’t think about that in their twenties and thirties, but the fact is that the habits we set at this age can determine the future of our mental health. According to the Public Library of Science, making art has both brain hemispheres working which is critical for improving and restoring communication between different parts of the brain. Only by nurturing these communications paths, you can prevent cognitive deterioration when you are older.
Experts also claim that engaging in art exercises our medial temporal lobes which play a vital role in making and preserving our memories. Being creative, no matter whether you engage in photography, drawing, dancing or even cooking, can enhance your memory. Creating something improves memory because it requires us to focus and remember small bits of information that will help us move to another step. It doesn’t matter what kind of creative process it is. It can be as simple as decorating your room or as complicated as learning a piece of classical music.
4. It Improves Mood
It is not uncommon to feel down when you are experiencing some difficulties in your life, such as breaking up with your partner, losing a job, losing a family member and similar. Thankfully, simple moments of intentional creativity such as making doodles or singing your favorite song can help you process your feelings and unwind. If you feel like you cannot express your feelings in words, but you seek relief, draw them or make a collage that will metaphorically represent them. Don’t be afraid to depict your worries and fears. Use art as an outlet and let go of every negative emotion in your body and mind. After that, you will feel a lot better and your mood will improve.
Psychologists believe that creative therapy activities can improve your overall emotional health, especially when it comes to increasing your control over emotional pain and depression. During the process of art therapy, you can self-reflect and obtain a better understanding of your inner self. Making art can help you manage our stress levels and handle outside stressors better than before. Art is a way to connect with yourself in ways you never know you could.
5. It Improves Your Social Life
People are inherently social beings, and without a healthy social life, they can never be truly healthy. Without a stable community where you feel like you belong, and without someone to fill your heart and mind with positivity and affirmation, your mental health can crumble.
If you resist communication or have a hard time making new friends, art is a great way to bond with other people through common experiences and interests. Studies show that people, who engage in artistic activities in a group, feel happier, improve their social contact and communication skills.
6. It Helps Manage Chronic Pain
Studies show that being creative promotes much more than happiness and better social life; it also promotes better health. Individuals who have expressed their own traumatic experiences through art have shown significant improvements in various measures of physical health, such as better immune system functioning.
An interesting study conducted on people undergoing HIV treatment showed that patients who engaged in expressive writing or who were listening to music somehow boosted their immune system. Researchers don’t know how exactly this happened, but it was clearly observed that people who wrote about their experiences on a regular basis improved their CD4+ lymphocyte levels.
Art therapy has also helped patients who suffer from chronic pain. By expressing their angry feelings through art, these patients had improved pain control and reduced the severity of their pain.
Apart from living a healthy lifestyle, waking up your inner artist may also be the key toward better physical and mental health. The mental and emotional benefits of creating art play a huge role in achieving long-term wellness. So, if simple activities such as journaling, smudging paint, or learning to play the guitar can have such a great impact on our mental or physical states, why not take advantage of that, and bring more art into our lives?
About the Author: Mary Ann Cohen runs MAC Fine Art galleries and she is considered one of the nations most successful and respected art dealers with over 35 years of International visual fine art experience.