Is art the key to better mental health?
Expressing yourself through art has proven again and again to have a positive impact on one’s physical and mental health.
What is art therapy? To put it simply, art therapy is: “the application of visual arts in a therapeutic context” (Creativity and Recovery).
Some people can’t find the words to describe their feelings or problems they face. Art therapy offers a new way to express those hard feelings and problems. It gives them a creative outlet to acknowledge and recognize feelings.
Art therapy can take on any media of art such as sketching, painting, collages, sculpting…ex. The therapeutic and calming tenodesis of art can cause an effect of lower stress levels and a rise in dopamine (Creativity and Recovery).
Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain when a feeling of pleasure occurs. Basically making someone happy. In most cases of depression, anxiety and many other mental illnesses a lack of dopamine is found (Creativity and Recovery).
Letting your emotions out gives you the feeling of relief.
Through art therapy people can find a new way to express themselves without having to put their complex feelings or problems into words.
It isn’t necessary to have a counselor or therapist to experience art therapy. You can simply create art that has an impact on you or reflects how you feel in that moment. It also is not necessary to be considered good at art. Art therapy is a safe space to not judge your artistic abilities, but to get complicated feelings out in a new effective way (Creativity and Recovery).
Through art therapy you can find yourself being able to acknowledge and recognize your feelings. You can do this while creating your art or after you observe what you have created.
Slowing down and having a safe space to accept your feelings helps calm your mind and body, bringing peace to what you’ve been feeling or thinking (Creativity and Recovery).
In times of distress or overwhelming feelings art is a very positive way of distracting your mind.
Art therapy can also improve your self esteem. Creating art can give you a feeling of accomplishment. Once you finish an art piece you can have happy and fulfilling feelings. This can result in giving you confidence and pride in your artwork.
Through these feelings dopamine is released and gives you a “happy high” that can help your mind focus on positive feelings (Creativity and Recovery).
A study done in Cambridge for the past 7 years has collected data to show the effect of art therapy (The Guardian). They host the Leading Arts and Mental Health Charity, running weekly art workshops. The workshop is led by a counselor and artist. They give a creative space for anyone and provide guidance and help to the people (The Guardian).
Within this workshop they have observed a 71 percent decrease in feelings of anxiety, 73 percent decrease in feelings of depression, and 69 percent increase in feelings of wellbeing and social acceptance (The Guardian).
Art therapy is a wonderful way to find and eliminate roadblocks in your emotions and feelings. Through this you can learn to communicate your feelings and ideas in a healthy and beneficial way.
About the author: Grace Peterson is a freshman in Hampton, New Hampshire. She originally wrote this article in January, 2022for her Freshman English class.
Bedi, Saniya. “My Experience with Art Therapy!” Medium, 18 Sept. 2017, medium.com/@saniyabedi05/my-experience-with-art-therapy-2124afc9f2f7.
Slawson, Nicola. “‘It’s Time to Recognise the Contribution Arts Can Make to Health and Wellbeing.’” The Guardian, The Guardian, 11 Oct. 2017, www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2017/oct/11/contribution-arts-make-health-wellbeing.
www.rutor.org, Guest Author for. “Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy.” Rutor.org, 10 July 2018,www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/#:~:text=Art%20therapy%20can%20be%20used