Spending quarantine at home has taken a toll on the mental well-being of many people, seeking a healthy outlet. Moreover, people have the desire to be productive and use their minds in a way that feels good.
Professor Brittany Martin, an art professor at the University of Calgary, wrote that 'I have witnessed the mental benefits of an arts-rich life - but don't take my word for it. There is a powerful and compelling case, supported by cutting-edge research, that the arts have positive effects on mental health.' Here are five ways art helps with mental health.
Managing One's Well-Being
Art therapy such as painting, dancing, and acting is a form of intervention for anxiety and depression. Performing arts even for non-therapy reasons have proved to promote mental health as artists want to manage their overall well-being.
The American Art Therapy Association is one of the organizations that advocates art therapy for people to explore self-expression through creative processes. People grow to manage their emotional well-being and at the same time develop new coping skills.
Neuroaesthetics, a branch of empirical aesthetics, is a relatively new study connecting art and brain activity. One behavioral study analyzed how visual art affects neural circuits and neuroendocrine cells, or neurotransmitters released by nerve cells.
Another study by cognitive neuroscientists has discovered that art also reduces stress levels by lowering cortisol levels, a stress hormone. This can be seen through brain imaging or brain wave technology and biofeedback showing the positive effect of art on the brain.
Mindfulness is another way that art impacts health in a positive way similar to yoga and meditation, which has become a growing practice during lockdown. Practicing visual art helps activate various parts of the brain's right hemisphere.
The right brain leans towards creativity, intuition, feelings, imagination, and holistic thinking. Art and mindfulness combined enable the mind to use several parts of the brain to do conscious shifting between mental states, which ultimately results in overcoming cognitive challenges.
Shifting from one mental state to another in a continual, conscious flow results in calm as healthy hormones are released in the body. Art allows people to concentrate on what they are doing and get in a zone of creativity, flow, and healthy self-expression.
There is plenty of evidence that practicing the arts result in better academic performance - such as music prodigies (like Alicia Keys) graduating from university at a young age. Arts is also a great way to learn other subjects, such as associating visual patterns with mathematical numerical patterns.
Also, humans have an innate instinct to create, and arts one of the best and healthiest ways to express creation such as culinary arts, a new musical piece, or a painting.
Art also enables people to express themselves without speaking or the use of words - especially through dance and instrumental music. Classical music had always been associated with intelligence and increasing brain activity. Today, growing trends include post-rock music and lofi playlists.
Most importantly, creating something artistic is not about a person's skills or talents, but the process, emotions, state of mind, and ability to express. Megan Carleton, an art therapist from Massachusetts General Hospital said, 'It's [about] the process, not the product.'
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