Updated: Dec 2, 2020
“The arts are a critical component of healthcare. Expressive art is a tool to explore, develop and practice creativity as a means to wellness.”
Hey there, beautiful people. My blog post this month is about the benefits that The Arts have on your brain and overall well-being. I will speak from my own experiences and present some theories from experts to bring you up to speed.
Art is good for the mind, body and spirit. Scientific studies tell us that art heals us by changing one’s physiology and mental attitude. Making art, dancing, playing music, or writing poetry are all ways to reduce stress because they send the ever so important feel-good hormones to the body. The arts create happiness and a sense of well-being.
I have found for myself that creating art, dancing & listening to music as well as writing poetry allow me to connect with my inner child and my higher self.
There is much evidence that activities involving the arts help facilitate healing which explains why schools, health clinics and hospitals incorporate art, music, dance and creative writing as an important piece in their programs.
I witnessed this first hand when I worked as an art therapist at the Carrie Brazer School for Autism. Upon entering my classroom, the children had smiles on their faces, and during the class their eyes lit up because there is so much freedom of expression when making art. During my time at the school, I also worked one on one with students, and I noticed the same enthusiasm and excitement when we visited the dance and music classes.
One of the pre-eminent researchers in the study of brain science and its relationship to the visual arts is Dr. Girija Kaimal, an Associate Professor in the Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions. Kaimal’s work examines physiological and psychological outcomes of creative visual self-expressions. Her general theory is that when one engages in any activity within the visual arts, the reward pathway of the brain is activated. In other words, creating art makes you feel good.
As I wrote in my previous blog, creating art in the traditional sense and finding ways to be creative in everyday living has been a part of my life as well as my healing journey. I would like to share with you a simple and pleasurable exercise combining gratitude and art.
Two examples of my gratitude art project
Early on in my recovery, with my new understanding of neuroplasticity, I implemented a project using my non-dominant hand which helps create new neural pathways in the brain and in turn facilitates healing.
Daily, I wrote a gratitude journal documenting the things I was grateful for that day. But, instead of writing with a pen and putting them in a list, I drew the words with markers and colored pencils using different styles of lettering and adding some imagery to represent these words. This project helped me feel hopeful and optimistic. Reviewing my day in this way allowed me to feel gratitude and take notice of the things throughout that day which brought joy and connection into my life.
The drawing aspect of the project stemmed from my teaching years. At the beginning of the school year I had my students create art portfolios to hold their artwork for the year. They always enjoyed learning and or refreshing their skills in the art of lettering. I instructed them to write their first names on the front of the portfolio with big bubble or block letters.
Example: My daughter's portfolio cover
It is simple, fun and empowering to write your name in big and bold letters! You can try this on the front of a journal or make your own portfolio using 18"x 24" colored construction paper.
What type of creativity can you engage in today or throughout this week? I would be so delighted to have you try my gratitude/art practice. If you feel hesitant to draw, you can make a collage by printing images from the internet or cut pictures from magazines.
Please leave me comments below on how you enjoyed these ideas or reach me by email at email@example.com to share your successes.