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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

      Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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      Last Updated on October 16, 2018

      The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

      The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

      It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

      If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

      One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

      Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

      In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

      Why you can’t sleep through the night

      The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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      Stress

      If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

      Exposure to blue light before sleep time

      We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

      While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

      Eating close to bedtime

      Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

      Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

      Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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      Medical conditions

      In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

      The vicious sleep cycle

      The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

      Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

      You get a bad night’s sleep
      –> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
      –> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
      –> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

        You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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        How to sleep better (throughout the night)

        To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

        1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

        What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

        Here are a few suggestions:

        • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
        • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
        • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
        • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
        • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

        2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

        What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

        • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
        • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
        • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
        • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

        3. Adjust your sleep temperature

        Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

        Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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        Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

        Sleep better form now on

        Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

        I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

        As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

        Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

        Reference

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