art for mental health

Science Asserts the Value of Art for Mental Health

Science has proven that art is good for mental health because it puts you in the here and now.

Why do you want to be present?

Because you want to be able to control the only thing you actually can, and that is your thoughts.

By being present you are thinking about what is in front of you. You stop worrying about things that either you can’t change at all or have no control whatsoever at this moment.

If you feel stuck or desperate, then it is time to give your mind a break. Teach it to live in the present, because it is the only thing we truly have. It is the only time we actually can do something.

If you realize you have a pattern of not living in the present, give yourself credit for that. Don’t beat yourself up, and be grateful for the experiences you’ve had because everything is as it should be. It is time to help your mind rewire itself to live in the present.

Read further and discover how art is a great tool to give your thinking mind a break. Also, you will learn how it can change your mind to adapt to a more positive and mindful state.

How can you tell you are overthinking?

  • Stuck at the same point after trying constantly to come up with a solution.
  • Judge every one of your decisions.
  • Reality is way simpler and maybe happier than the way you are thinking about it.
  • Look online constantly trying to find answers and you are not moving forward.

It is hard not to think, and sometimes you suffer because you are concentrating on trying not to think. Now, to move on, you have several options, and art is one of them.

It is a great way to let go of the things you cannot change, things not in your control. Also, let go of trying to come up with answers and engage in artistic creation. Don’t torment yourself by trying to change things, allow your creative being to take over.

It is okay to trust your rational thoughts to analyze some decisions. But, if you haven’t come up with a solution, choose a creative form of expression. Use art instead. Making art is very easy to implement and you have nothing to lose. Give art a chance.

The use of art has shown to have great benefits. Look at this research that shows how science has proven that art benefits your mental health.

What things do you need to start using art for mental health?

  • Time
  • Some materials

You just need two things. Also, the willingness to change something and to live in the here and now.

According to science, this is how your mental health benefits from using art:

  1. Improves self-esteem
  2. Relieves stress
  3. Increases empathy and tolerance
  4. Helps with the burden of chronic pain
  5. Promotes brain plasticity
  6. Develops a growth mindset
  7. Boosts creative thinking

Below you’ll see in detail each one of these aspects put into practice. Also, you’ll find great resources for you to read further and tips to engage in artistic activities.

paint piano sepia flora
Drawing piano keys by Sepia Flora

Art is the daughter of freedom.

Friedrich Schiller

1. Improves Self-Esteem

If you think about it, the number one thing that interferes with our self-esteem is our thoughts. If you keep your feelings to yourself, you might end up hurting yourself even more.

With art, you can express and put into perspective all the thoughts bothering you. You will gain perspective and notice when your mind is complicating things.

Imagine that art serves as a filter that suppresses bad feelings. If you start, for instance, playing an instrument, you will focus on playing the instrument and your mind will quiet. When you express yourself artistically, your negative thoughts begin to disappear and you become mindful of the situation.

Remember that engaging in art is not about the outcome, but the process itself. So when you make art, your results give you a feeling of accomplishment. No matter what you did, you produced something beautiful that you can share with others if you want to.

Here are some activities you can try.

2. Relieves Stress

A scientific study shows the possible benefits of art for mental health by analyzing cortisol levels. The study shows that cortisol lowers and dopamine rises when you engage in artistic activities. As simple as that.

The idea is to use self-directed art to guide yourself to anything you want to express. Use art freely and later pay attention to what came up. It’s like splashing paint on a piece of paper. Later you can analyze what you have created or what thoughts have arisen.

Whether it is constantly bugging you or something that just popped into your head, express it.

Use your troubles as a source of inspiration, as these artists did.
Can you imagine a world without The Scream by Munch? How impoverished would it be?

scream of munch by sepia flora
The Scream of Munch by Sepia Flora

This is not to encourage you to feel depressed or anxious. It is to encourage you to analyze what is going on in your head. Sometimes you can feel stressed or anxious and it’s normal, use it as inspiration for a beautiful creation. Other times you are incredibly happy, then paint sunflowers instead and spread your joyfulness to the world.

You can use art to learn to distinguish your feelings and you get to know yourself better. This lowers stress as well because you realize what your target is and you can work on it directly.

3. Increases Empathy and Tolerance

First, why is empathy something good to cultivate?

Empathy allows you to manage your feelings because you perceive your troubles from a different perspective. You will have more tools to feel less stressed or overwhelmed by what is happening to you.

If you develop your empathy you will be able to handle difficult situations better. For example, at work. The better you communicate and understand how to handle situations the more others will be able to understand you.

Now, if you want the benefits of cultivating empathy, use art, go to museums and galleries. Think: How could you express your feelings towards others by painting?

empathy art for mental health
Photo by: Stefan Stefancik from Stocksnap

This study shows how people became more tolerant and understood how others lived in the past, by looking at paintings.

Caring about others, and caring for a greater good takes your mind from what is bothering you. Also, you’ll gain a little perspective on whether your troubles are all that catastrophic.

Surprisingly music can increase empathy as well.

Again, thinking about others and how others suffer gives you a better perspective of your own life. Listening to music from different countries will broaden your cultural knowledge, and will also help you be more tolerant.

4. Helps with the Burden of Chronic Pain

That big pain or constant despair can be less of a burden. You can try to express it without words as Frida Khalo did.

Take away the pressure of things you can’t change. Physical pain has two possible outcomes: you are in the process of healing, or you can’t do anything about it.

Either way, it is not in your hands. It is your body’s or the doctors’ responsibility. The best thing you can do to help your mind is to release any tension associated with it.

You can release the tension and free your mind by doing something that will help you ignore the constant pain.

Science has shown how therapeutic art expression can help with this health problem. You have to try to ignore the stimuli coming from your body.

cope with pain art for mental health
Photo by: Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

For example, the cellist Pablo Casals played piano. He did right after he woke up and later in the afternoon. Both times of the day to cope with the pain of arthritis.

He didn’t use medication (although always consult with a doctor) and his therapy for pain didn’t have any side effects. 

5. Promotes Brain Plasticity

Brain plasticity is the ability of your brain to change and adapt due to certain experiences. You create new networks in your brain to help you adapt, learn new abilities, and create memories.

If you think about it, you can rewire your brain to be working with you and not against you. A way to do this is, for example, to think positively.

If you want to learn further in the matter look at this book.

How science shows art enhances mental health and brain plasticity?

Just by engaging in a new activity, your brain starts forming new circuits, so choose positive and beneficial activities. Research has shown that brain changes with stimuli.

If you repeatedly make something beneficial, you will want to continue doing it due to the positive results. For example, develop an artistic routine where you are constantly rewarding your brain with positivity.

brain plasticity sepia flora
Brain plasticity by Sepia Flora

This is how an artistic routine rewires the brain positively:

  1. By the feeling of accomplishment when making art without thinking about the results.
  2. By being present and focusing on reality. Listen more to your emotions, not so much to how you label them.
  3. By lowering feelings of anxiety when you get in sync with your breath.

6. Develops a Growth Mindset

It doesn’t matter how talented you are, artistic creations don’t come out of the blue. Art creations do not just pop up after buying watercolors or touching keys or strings on an instrument nonsensically. Creations arise when you work and express using these tools.

Get in touch with your emotions, your soul, and your motor skills to produce something. Start to love the process because you will enjoy getting in touch with your true self. The purpose of being creative is for you to express through your creations without using words.

This is a powerful way to develop a growth mindset. When you appreciate the process, use art therapeutically, and acknowledge that your effort is a valuable resource.

Why science encourages an artistic growth mindset for a healthy mind?

Because no matter what, even if you are the luckiest person alive, you will encounter some adversity in your life. It is just statistics.

With a growth mindset you know you can work things out and face obstacles step by step. Also, you address your problems and try different paths to find a solution. You don’t feel easily discouraged with a growth mindset.

Art teaches you to think that way. That no matter the circumstances and obstacles, you have the tools to work towards what you want.

7. Boosts Creative Thinking

With creative thinking, you look at things with a fresh perspective.

What does that mean?

You focus on things as they are, and consequently, you listen deeply to your true self. Also, you use your creativity to address some situations with a better perspective.

Imagine you could focus on the colors, textures, shapes, and shadows of the things you see. You’ll start to perceive and appreciate the things surrounding you. Also, you’ll start to develop an artistic mindset.

Science encourages the use of art and creative thinking for mental health. This is because you don’t depend on current or past situations.

creative thinking mental health
Photo by: Steve Johnson from Stocksnap

Brainstorming, diagram solutions, and color coding are all artistic tools that broaden your perspective on what you are working on. Using your creativity gives you more tools to figure things out. Get a wider perspective on things by looking into their details and subtleties.

You will become more open-minded if you are in touch with your creativity. Besides, you will communicate better, and develop that part of your brain that wants to express itself more freely.

Let your creativity take over, be practical, and just let your soul speak. Art is a way of expressing what you cannot put into words.

Art is a great resource as a therapeutic solution for your mind. If you want to read further you can look here. Trust how science backs up the use of art for mental health. It is a great reassurance for its use.

Don’t think too much and just give it time. You will love the results.

2 thoughts on “Science Asserts the Value of Art for Mental Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *