Why Art and Creative Pursuits are Good for Health
Art and creativity play a crucial yet underrated role in life. Realizing this, I wrote an article in which I explained how art can benefit children and teenagers.
The subsequent mails I received from readers made me feel the real benefit of art and creativity is yet to be discussed.
The biggest benefit of art is it improves health.
Art relieves stress
Art is a stress reliever, and a lot better at it than antidepressants or any other prescription drug. Stress negatively affects your health in more ways than you can think of. According to health experts, simply relieving stress can cure more than 80% diseases.
Understand the neuroanatomy of stress and how art palliates it.
Stress causes certain chemicals in the brain to secrete. These chemicals disrupt the normal functioning of the body, also stimulate some pathways that are typically activated by the feeling of pain. The result is a suit of health problems. Some of the common health issues arising this way are skin irritation, digestive disorders, eye strain, neck pain, muscle pain, respiratory problems, etc.
Practicing creative art, even visiting art galleries to attend exhibitions where famous pieces of art are on display can have a positive impact on your body as seeing colors, symmetry, aesthetically pleasing images and sculpting works can sooth senses and balances neurochemicals in the brain. And that’s not all. It’s a known fact that listening to music brightens up one’s mood. What’s not so well-known is listening to harmonious melodies can ease pain.
Increased cognitive ability
People with psychosomatic disorders have been historically sidelined by medical professionals thinking their problems are not real as these problems stem from deep-seated mental issues.
But new research indicates many diseases that doctors previously thought are being caused by physiological reasons are psychosomatic in nature. This discovery led scientists to believe apparently harmless mood swings or episodes of depression are not actually harmless.
Among the solutions to overcome psychosomatic problems is increased cognitive ability. There’s a relation between cultivating art and developing cognitive power. Art can help one focus, give their full attention to the work at hand. It goes without saying that artists have better cognitive ability than normal people.
A mind that cannot focus fails to shift attention from chronic health conditions, increasing their severity. But a mind that has control over its cognitive power can do that quickly.
Artists age well
Artists are known to age like fine wine. Is it because of their sparkling creativity? Is it because they have more life energy than non-artists? In my opinion, their relationship with art and deep involvement in it keep them energized, so they age better than normal people.
Artists in general have more life expectancy than ordinary people because they feel less stressed thanks to art. There are ample proof that stress accelerates the aging process. The American Institute of Stress reported biological aging speeds up due to stress.
Owing to art, artists can keep stress at bay. When they get deeply immersed in their creation, they feel detached from the world around them and connected only to their inner self. Such hour-long meditative state of mind is body’s very own antiserum to lower stress.
The more artists get absorbed into art, the less they worry about earthly matters. Some artists become so eccentric that they virtually live in their own creative world. Creativity is a great antidote to stress. As stress affects them less, they age well.
Art therapy and health
Recognizing the health benefits of art, medical professionals and behavioral psychologists introduced art therapy. Psychology Today defines art therapy as “the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art.”
This innovative therapy has proven effective for children suffering from growth related disorders. Down syndrome, aspergers, autism are some of the development disorders that affect both mental and physical health.
Because art and creativity clear learning blockages, autistic children are encouraged to create artwork and exhibit their creativity. The encouragement and the subsequent artistic/creative achievement by these children positively affect their mental health.
Visual art and brain
Visual art increases the dopamine levels in brain. Dopamine secretion is associated with heightened levels of pleasure. When someone receives a reward or praise for something, dopamine level increases. Visual art has also been found to push serotonin levels high.
A study done on dementia patients exposed them to visual art for eight weeks. Afterwards, the dopamine and serotonin levels in their brains were found to be higher than before. They also felt more socially included and evidenced better cognitive capacity.
Brain is like the headquarter of the central nervous system. Visual art impacts the brain, thereby improving overall health and keeping diseases away.