There are many different forms of art, from painting to music, and they all contribute to mental well-being. Art and emotion are linked. Many artists find their craft is the only way, or at least the best way, for them to express their emotions. Giving people a means of releasing emotional tension is why art benefits mental health.
Using art as a means of improving mental health requires very little training. You do not have to be good at sculpture or dance to use it as a means of emotional expression. It is not the final product or your art, the picture or the tune, that produced the benefit. The act of practicing an artistic form of expression is what heals you. It is in the feel of the clay and the swoosh of the brush that you can derive mental health benefits from art.
Why Art can be Good for Your Mental Health
Art can be fun and relaxing, and some people really enjoy the time they spend creating and viewing artistic projects. It also has clinically defined benefits to mental health that have been studied and proven. There are some ways that art can improve your mental health.
- Stress reduction: Artistic activities are calming, whether you are playing a march on your tuba or painting a landscape from memory. When you take time out of your day to be artistic, you stop thinking about the world around you. You stop thinking about you, except in the context of your manipulation of clay between your fingers or vibrations of your musical instrument. Art helps you reconnect with yourself and become more aware of your physical state in-the-moment. Art provides a mental escape from your regular activities and problems. Creating art requires a focus on details and a concentration that blocks everything else out.
- Creative thinking: Art, music and dance are all creative forms of expression that use a different part of your brain. The creative thinking process engages your brain in different ways and produces different brain chemicals than your everyday logical thinking. It is good to exercise your brain in this way. When you are adept at creative thinking, it can be applied to problems to suggest alternative solutions. There are no right and wrong answers in art — everything is subjective. This opens the mind to creating and considering alternate possibilities. Exercising creative thinking in the pursuit of artistic endeavors improves your mental health by preparing your brain to tackle everyday issues in positive new ways.
- Brain connectivity and plasticity: Plasticity is your brain’s ability to change and grow new connections over time. In some ways, positive mental health depends on your ability to adapt to new situations as you get older. Recovering from bad experiences is also dependent on your ability to develop new thought patterns, working around the old pathways that no longer serve you. This is especially true in PTSD and addiction. Your brain is stuck on old thought patterns and needs to find a way around them. Building new thought patterns is part of the solution to these problems. Engaging in artistic activities creates new connections or pathways in your brain between cells. This type of brain expansion is believed to be connected with intelligence, as well.
- Self-esteem boost: Each area of art is a specific skill and talent, and practicing the one you enjoy the most can improve those skills. Over time, you will see a noticeable improvement in the quality of your finished works, and that can boost your self-esteem. Completing a piece of art can provide tremendous satisfaction in your ability to manage the medium and express your own vision. Self-esteem is built on recognizing your own accomplishments and understanding their implications to the rest of your life. If you can do this, you can do other things, as well. Art gives you a chance to chart your growth and contemplate the outward expression of your emotions at different stages.
- Increased empathy: Viewing art, whether it is your own or someone else’s work, registers emotions in your brain. Those feels are perceived in the same part of your brain where you sense romantic love. Through brain chemicals and neuroscience, art increases your feelings of love and empathy for others. Empathy can strengthen our connections to one another and improve mental health. When you empathize with the people around you, you are less likely to experience stress in response to their words or actions. Art creates a reduction in stress and an increase in relationship healing.
While you are enjoying yourself creating art, you are also improving your mental health. That is another good reason to make time for your artistic endeavors.
Art Therapy for Depression
Using art as part of a mental health therapy program can enhance your success and speed up recovery. Brookhaven Retreat offers art as therapy as an optional component to their treatment programs. Women find comfort in self-expression and can delve into their subconscious to connect with missing pieces of themselves. Experiential therapy like art promotes social, spiritual and emotional healing.