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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 December 9, 2019

      5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

      5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

      Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

      Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

      Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

      1. Get Rationally Optimistic

      Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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      This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

      In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

      The result: no more mental stress.

      2. Unplug

      Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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      How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

      It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

      Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

      3. Easy on the Caffeine

      Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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      Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

      4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

      That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

      How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

      • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
      • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
      • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

      While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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      5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

      This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

      The result: mental stress will be gone!

      So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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      Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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