The Healing Power of Art
Art in general
Globalization, bringing with it the need to embrace the broad cultural diversity around how personal and societal philosophies interoperate, makes it essential to find more effective ways to create and share meaning and meaningfulness. This need for meaning and relevance in daily experience has long been recognized as one of the fundamental driving forces in artistic creation and engagement.
According to Plato, art was an imitation of nature, but in the 19th century, photography took over that role and captured nature in its frozen state, and in the 20th century, abstract art overturned the whole concept that art was a representation.
Art became a message, a dialogue, a voice, or an idea, conveyed by the artist and interpreted by the viewer. It was no longer defined simply as skill, a display, application, or expression. Art was also not just the expression or application of creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting, drawing, or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. It became more than what was beheld by sight alone. It sought to impact, influence, initiate thought and provoke action.
The documentary film, I Remember Better When I Paint, sums up the findings of research into the cognitive effects of making art. The movie demonstrates how drawing and painting stimulated memories in people with dementia and enabled them to reconnect with the world. However, dementia patients aren’t the only beneficiaries. Expression through art shows that it can help people with depression, anxiety, or cancer, too. And this has been linked to improved memory, reasoning, and resilience in healthy mature adults. The process and not the product is what is significant – creating does not depend on skill or talent, a fact confirmed by art therapists all over the world.
Art and the Brain
An overload of scientific evidence proves that art enhances brain function. It is known to have an impact on brainwave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually increase serotonin levels, change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world.
Countless decades of research have provided more than a sufficient amount of data to prove that arts education impacts everything from overall academic achievement to social and emotional development and so much more. It is proven that the arts develop neural systems that produce all kinds of good, ranging from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance. Simply put, the arts are invaluable to our functioning as an individual and as a society.
Art as a form of therapy
Medical professionals are beginning to recognize the role that creative arts play in the healing process; increasingly, arts in medicine programs are emerging worldwide.
“The arts are a critical component of healthcare. Expressive art is a tool to explore, develop and practice creativity as a means to wellness”, claims the Wellarts Association.
Art invites, instigates and encourages people to express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer. Some people with cancer explore the meanings of past, present, and future during art therapy, thereby integrating cancer into their life story and giving it meaning.
The impact is very evident with young cancer patients, kids who are waiting for transplants and so many others. Children who have lost their appetites due to their treatments suddenly begin nibbling on food while they’re drawing, because they forgot they weren’t hungry.
Psychologist Dr Dacher Keltner, of California University in Berkeley, says that, some things we do to experience the emotions, awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines – like a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art, etc – and have a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.
Artists are healthier
Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Drawing funny pictures can provide a powerful distraction and relaxation while a child is waiting to receive chemotherapy or have medical testing done. The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness. You don’t need to be talented or an artist to receive the benefits, and there are experts and professionals that interpret the underlying messages communicated through your art, which aids the healing process.
Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counselling by therapists, healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and in the broad sense of the term, it can be used to soothe one’s inner-self, thus providing the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself.
Art brings out the inner child
Its proven and understood that artists suffer less loneliness and depression than the general population, by the Research Center for Arts and Culture (RCAC) at the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA). According to the study, mature artists are highly functioning members of society and are twice likely to do volunteer-related work than others.
In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.
In our always-on, always-connected world of television, social media, and on-demand everything, it can be rather easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs bombarding your life.
Art offers an outlet and a release from all that stress. We suggest you open a blank document and start typing, put ink to paper and sketch a drawing, get your camera and capture something, turn up the music and immerse yourself or start a conversation and make it a good one. Building, sharing and crafting something will help put more art into the world. Your health and happiness will improve and we shall all be better off for it.