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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Study Says Art Makes You Mentally Healthier, Even If You’re Not Good At It

Study Says Art Makes You Mentally Healthier, Even If You’re Not Good At It

Not all of us are artists. But all of us can paint, sculpt, draw, sketch, and do some forms of an artsy thing, on varying levels. Some of us are just naturally more gifted than others, but it doesn’t matter. If you enjoy it, do it. You really don’t have to make a living out of it, and if you are unsure as to whether you might enjoy it, still do it. Not only is there a possibility that you might like it, but also a possibility of making you mentally healthier. Yes, you heard it – mentally healthier. Research has shown:

  1. Music and art may have a positive effect on physiological states.[1] Art can improve the well-being of breast cancer patients. In a study, art reduced negative emotions and improved positive ones.[2]
  2. Art can improve overall health and well-being, by offering a form of distraction,[3] improving self-identity and providing a social network to those with chronic illness.
  3. And a recent study in 2016, by Kaimal et al, entitled Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making found that making art can significantly reduce stress levels, regardless of artistic talent or experience.[4]

This was a finding that was and wasn’t surprising. Girija Kaimal, EdD, mentions to Drexel Now:[5]

“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 Experiment

39 Students (33 women and 6 men), between the ages of 18-59 were included as part of the study. There was a diverse representation of race: 18 students reported limited prior experience with art making, 13 some experience, and 8 extensive experience.

The study involved an hour session of which 15 minutes were used for consent and data collection prior and after the session. The remaining 45 minutes were used for art-making. Creative expression took the form of collages, clay modelling, and/or markers.

Using the three mediums (separately or combined), the participants created an imagery of choice. An art therapist was in the room to handle any questions. Saliva samples were taken before and after to test Cortisol Levels.[6] Cortisol is a biological indicator linked to stress. The higher the level, the higher the stress and vice versa.

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Not only was a statistical analysis done, but participants were then asked to provide a brief written description of their experience. One 38-year-old African-American woman said the following after the experience:

“It was very relaxing. After about 5 minutes, I felt less anxious. I was able to obsess less about things that I had not done or need[ed] to get done. Doing art allowed me to put things into perspective.”

The Results

Cortisol levels were significantly lower following the session. In fact, 75% of people demonstrated lower Cortisol levels. Cortisol levels didn’t differ based on prior experience with art-making, media choice, race, and gender. There were differences (only slightly) in levels based on age and time of day.

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Younger individuals displayed a greater reduction in stress levels than older people after art-making. Kaimal provides an explanation for this:

“I think one reason might be that younger people are developmentally still figuring out ways to deal with stress and challenges, while older individuals — just from having lived life and being older — might have more strategies to problem-solve and manage stress more effectively.”

In terms of the time of day – the research continues to point to stress levels being higher in the morning and tapering off over the course of the day. This could be explained by the fact that people ready themselves for a busy day and are engaged in all sorts of activities and then towards the end they unwind in preparation for bed.

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Kaimal plans to take this research further exploring the link between the reduction in stress levels and creative self-expression in a therapeutic environment. She also plans to look at the effect of the visual arts on the elderly and their caregivers.

So whilst some of us may be naturally more gifted than others, it really doesn’t matter. Create art for the enjoyment and realize it’s many benefits.

Reference

More by this author

Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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Last Updated on September 25, 2019

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

When we were still children, our thoughts seemed to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

Just imagine then, how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power!

We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities.

We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

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We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb.

We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits.

And we’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head…

But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

So, how can we tap into the power of positivity?

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“Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are 4 simple yet powerful ideas on how you can get started.

1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

Just take a look at these 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life.

2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

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You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty.

If you seek it, you will find it.

3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what really is important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life that can inspire you.

4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking.

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Instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

Learn from this article how to change your mental images: How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

And remember:

You are (or will become) what you think you are.

This is reasonable enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

More About Staying Positive

Featured photo credit: Lauren Richmond via unsplash.com

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