Art and Mental Health

Authors: Tuğçe Özdemir and Guadalupe Farah

We’re all familiar with traditional mental health treatments like therapy and psychotherapy. But did you know that there’s a vibrant world of alternative and complementary therapies waiting to be explored? Today, many people venture beyond conventional medicine, seeking approaches that not only serve as alternatives but also complement existing treatments. 

Among these complementary approaches, we find special diets, mindfulness practices, and physical exercises like yoga or dancing. However, in this post, let’s dive into the captivating realm of art and creativity. How does art impact our mental well-being? 

But wait… are arts and mental health related?

Art has been a universal language for centuries, transcending time and cultures. From ancient cave paintings to modern masterpieces, it’s how we communicate, express, and connect. Since the very first human beings began telling stories to make sense of the world, art has played an integral part in how we teach and learn. But beyond its aesthetic appeal, art possesses a profound ability to heal and promote mental well-being.

The relationship between the arts and mental health is well established in the field of art therapy. Here, art-based techniques – painting, dancing, role play – become evidence-based interventions for mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. But guess what? Art’s healing touch extends beyond therapy sessions. In various non-therapy contexts, the arts are used to promote mental well-being.

Art provides a safe space to externalize and make sense of complex feelings. Moreover, engaging in artistic endeavors activates different parts of our brain, creating conditions for mindfulness. As we identify and name our feelings through art, we cultivate self-awareness and emotional intelligence. And being mindful is just that: being aware and conscious of our thoughts and states of mind without any judgement. 

What is the impact of art on mental health?

Art can be a powerful ally in navigating the emotional journey of processing difficult emotions. The impact of art and creativity on mental health is profound and far-reaching. Engaging in creative pursuits offers a great antidote to the stresses and anxieties of modern life. Through creative expression, you can process complex emotions, express yourself authentically, and find solace during life’s toughest moments. It fosters problem-solving skills, boosts self-esteem, and encourages personal growth and self-improvement. 

Creativity positively influences mental well-being in several ways, including:

  • Reducing stress: some artistic activities can redirect the focus away from stressors, providing a much-needed break. 
  • Improving problem-solving skills: creativity encourages flexible thinking and enhances problem-solving skills.
  • Facilitating self-expression: art allows you to express your inner thoughts and emotions authentically.
  • Offering a positive distraction: engaging in creative activities can distract you from negative thoughts. 

But the most important thing here is that you don’t need to attend classes or spend a lot of money to practice art! You can create art in the comfort of your own home. Art can be anything, and you can incorporate it into your daily life. Embracing creativity in everyday routines means seeing every task as an opportunity for innovative thinking, imaginative expression, and self-discovery. Whether you’re journaling — writing or sketching your thoughts, emotions, and experiences — or gardening, which can be a form of outdoor artistry, you are engaging in art.

So, try something new within the arts and allow yourself to make mistakes! The more mistakes you make, the more you learn. Art isn’t about perfection; it’s about exploration and play. Experiment with different materials, and maybe even listen to music while you create. Enjoy the process and see where your creativity takes you…

 

Reference links:
https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/complementary-alternative-or-integrative-health-whats-in-a-name
https://www.jstor.org/stable/48754138
https://theconversation.com/brain-research-shows-the-arts-promote-mental-health-136668
https://www.who.int/initiatives/arts-and-health
https://saliencehealth.com/the-healing-power-of-art-and-creativity/
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