Health Benefits of Art - November 15, 2021
Humans have been making art since forever! To be human is to be creative, so if you ever hear yourself say, “but, I’m not creative…” remember all these things we do as humans. We invent tools; we combine different ingredients to make delicious recipes; we sing songs and play music; we grow beautiful gardens; we express ourselves through our clothing style; we tell stories… The list goes on. We are all creative in different ways and making art is open to all of us. Making art is more than just beautiful images - the process is good for our health.
Studies have shown that making art literally lowers your blood pressure and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) - regardless of your art experience. It doesn’t matter if you are a trained artist or not; it works whether you think your art is ‘good’ or not; it works even if you think you’re not creative! The process of creating art works in a similar way as meditation - it helps us focus and block out distractions. When you are focusing on the details of the work in front of you, your mind stops wandering and your body relaxes.
Creating art is so much fun! When was the last time you played with art materials? Do you remember what it felt like when you were a child playing with paint or markers without any limitations? Without any expectations for the outcome of your art? Pure joy. That finished piece of art that you created also makes us feel good by releasing dopamine - the ‘feel good’ hormone - into our system. Creating art increases confidence and reduces depression symptoms.
Neurobiologist, Samir Zeki, conducted an experiment that shows viewing art that we find beautiful lights up our brain in the same area as when we ‘gaze at a loved one’. That explains why it feels so good to stand in front of my favorite artwork in the Detroit Institute of Art. Every time I visit the DIA I need to spend time with Siskind, an oil painting on canvas, by Franz Kline. I stand as close as I can and stare at it for as long as I can - it feels like a hug to me. Knowing that there is research that explains this feeling is very exciting to me and in fact, doctors are now prescribing visits to museums to hep supplement patients care for a variety of mental and physical health concerns.
Find an image of artwork that you find beautiful - each day for a few minutes, sit with this image - gaze at it - focus on the details. If you want to take this even further, grab a journal and write down how the artwork makes you feel.
- Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making (Girija Kaimal,Kendra Ray &Juan Muniz)
- TEDxUCLA The neurobiology of beauty (Samir Zeki)
- Siskind (Franz Kline)
- Doctors Can Now Give Out Prescriptions for a Visit to the Museum