The past few years of anxiety, isolation, and grief have taught us the importance of taking care of our mental health. Thankfully, art is a fantastic, proven tool to improve mental well-being for people of all ages.
There is plenty of evidence that points to the positive effects of art on mental health. Brain imaging shows that creating art reduces cortisol levels, lowering our feelings of stress. Arts-based techniques such as painting, dancing, and role play, have also been used as evidence-based interventions for anxiety and depression.
It’s clear that art can be an avenue to a better state of mind. Here are three ways you can use art to improve your mental health now.
1. Join Group Art Activities
Isolation—especially when prolonged—can be debilitating. The National Institute of Health warns that problems can arise with chronic loneliness. Lack of social circles and emotional support resources can lead to major negative health consequences.
Joining art activities with a group can build healthy connections and fight depression that stems from social isolation. Expressing yourself through art to an intimate group of trusted people can be both self-revealing and cathartic. This is especially true when you don't feel like being in the spotlight or talking about painful or traumatic experiences.
Community centers, local art schools, and community colleges can be a great place to start looking for a class. If you can’t find anything, start by inviting some loved ones over and setting up supplies for activities like painting, woodworking, or drawing.
It doesn’t have to be fancy for you to all experience a positive impact!
2. Practice Mindful Creativity
It's no secret that mindfulness practices, such as meditation and breathing exercises, can improve mental health. They raise awareness of the thoughts and sensations in and outside our bodies, allowing us to detach from stress-inducing elements around us.
We can derive these same benefits from mindful creativity practices such as baking, sewing, painting, and drawing. As you engage in the activity, your focus should be finding your purpose, also known as Ikigai in Japanese.
The book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life explains how the word translates to "a reason for living." Ikigai is a conceptual place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect.
Knowing your Ikigai has tremendous benefits to your quality of life—in fact, it is the best-kept secret of the Japanese to longevity and happiness. Putting Ikigai at the center of your creative endeavors infuses meaning into your work and is an excellent way to practice mindfulness.
3. Use Art to Express Emotions
Art therapy merges art and psychology to help individuals process and express emotions stemming from trauma and stress. It can also help develop social skills and self-confidence.
When people learn to express their emotions through art, they also find ways to foster personal mental wellness. With the advent of digitalization, art therapy has become even more accessible, regardless of location.
Remote art therapy methods allow individuals to express their emotions through art in safe and familiar spaces. This provides an opportunity for patients to show greater confidence and self-expression, making their therapy sessions more productive.
During the process of creating art, you can take yourself on a journey of self-discovery, learn how to communicate with others, and improve your mood and general disposition. Today, take advantage of the many benefits art can have on your mental health!