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Study Finds Making Art Can Reduce Your Stress (No Matter How Skilled You Are)

Study Finds Making Art Can Reduce Your Stress (No Matter How Skilled You Are)

In Kindergarten, just after recess, at the end of the day, or after any “rowdy” activity, my teacher would dim the lights, put on very soft music, set the timer for 15 minutes and pass out coloring sheets. We were not allowed to talk during this time–just color. There was no pressure to finish the picture or “produce” a work of art, it was simply a time to allow us to unwind, calm down and de-stress.

Unbeknownst to me, she was definitely on to something.

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What my teacher understood and was able to tap into was the therapeutic effects of creating art. Today, Art therapy is actually a thing. Research shows that there are legitimate benefits of art therapy even if you are absolutely horrible at all things creative and crafty.

In a clinical setting, art therapist use this medium to help people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight.

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Stress reducing benefits of art therapy

BY: A. SYN
    Photo Credit: A. Syn on Flickr

    Recently, Girija Kaimal, EdD. Assistant Professor of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University, conducted a study on the effects that participation in art activities has on stress hormones in the body. The conclusion was simple yet profound: 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

    “It was surprising and it also wasn’t,”  Kaimal said in an interview with Drexel Now. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”

    The research found that cortisol levels (or stress hormones)  of 75 percent of the participants were lowered during their 45 minute art making session. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower stress levels.

    Reaping the benefits of art therapy

    By: SFU
      Photo Credit: By: SFU on Wikipedia.org

      Whether you could give Picasso a run for his money or can barely sketch a stick figure, you can reap the benefits of art therapy. The focus of this exercise is not on the finished product but on the transformative process that occurs during the experience. You don’t need a professional art therapists to reap the benefits of art therapy. Here are a few simple tips to help you become your own art therapist:

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      • Keep it simple. If you know very little about art and don’t consider yourself an especially creative individual, start with a good old fashioned–old school coloring book and a box of crayons or colored pencils. This is a great way to still be creative without actually increasing your stress level trying to create something outside your artistic realm.
      • Paint your feelings. This is another fun and simple way to be creative without the stress of producing a finished product per se. You get to decide what the finish product should be. By painting something intangible like your feelings, you won’t feel limited by your artistic inexperience in the same way you would if you were trying to paint something realistic like a landscape. Just allow yourself to flow freely and paint how you feel.
      • Try a DIY project. This is great for those who are not neccessarily “free flowers.” If you prefer a bit more structure and need to produce a finished product, DIY projects are for you. Remember to ensure the project correlates with your ability and level of expertise. You can try a new recipe, build a book shelf, build a model plane or find something interesting and different on YouTube. Again, perfection is not the destination–it’s about the journey.
      • Draw a picture with your less dominant hand or paint a picture with your toes. This is not just art therapy it is an exercise in hilarity. You will not only create something very unique but you will be completely consumed in trying to master the dexterity to accomplish the task. You will de-stress and have fun simultaneously.
      • Try Journaling. If words are a way that you enjoy expressing yourself, this may be the best creative outlet for you. Try not to focus on grammar, spelling or being entirely coherent and eloquent. Just get it out. You can create lists, journal about your dreams, write short stories, or create perfection (your perfect life, spouse, child, world, etc.). Journaling need not be an everyday activity–just when your mood is right.

      No matter what medium you choose making art is good for the body, mind and soul–even if your creation resembles the deranged scribbles of a grumpy toddler.

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      Denise Hill

      Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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      Last Updated on August 12, 2019

      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

      Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

      But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

      I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

      Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

      1. Nuts

      The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

      Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

      Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

      Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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      2. Blueberries

      Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

      When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

      3. Tomatoes

      Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

      4. Broccoli

      While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

      Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

      Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

      5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

      Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

      The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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      Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

      6. Soy

      Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

      Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

      Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

      7. Dark Chocolate

      When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

      Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

      8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

      Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

      B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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      Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

      Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

      To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

      9. Foods Rich in Zinc

      Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

      Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

      Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

      10. Gingko Biloba

      This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

      It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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      However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

      11. Green and Black Tea

      Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

      Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

      Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

      12. Sage and Rosemary

      Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

      Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

      When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

      More About Boosting Brain Power

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

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