Many people take part in creative activities simply for casual enjoyment and to engage in a hobby. From painting to writing to cooking, there are many ways that creativity is a part of the human experience.
But art is far more than a hobby or a vocation: creativity has played a role in many aspects of human life throughout history. The development of new tools is creative work that allows us to make technological advancements. Art is often directly used to promote spiritual wellbeing through song, dance, poetry, and more.
It’s clear that creative expression is central to humanity, but what do we know about creativity and overall health?
A literature review of the connection between art, healing, and public health demonstrates some of the benefits through investigation of more than 100 studies about the impact of art on your health. The research suggests that:
- Music engagement can decrease anxiety and calm neural activity
- Visual arts therapy can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness
- Movement-based creative expression can relieve stress
- Expressive writing can help one to process life events and can positively impact mental health
Studies have also demonstrated physical benefits to all types of creative expression, such as strengthened immune system, chronic pain management, and more.
The idea of “art therapy”, specifically, has existed for decades. Although art therapy as a profession has only existed since 1991, art therapy research suggests that art therapy improves mood and reduces pain and anxiety when offered at bedside during acute hospital treatment.
Historically, studies have found that art therapy is reported to have positive effects on symptoms like depression, anxiety, low mood, trauma, distress, poor quality of living, inability to cope, and low self-esteem.
However, you don’t need to enroll in a formal art therapy program to reap the benefits. Any form of creative expression may be a useful tool in improving physical and mental health. Don’t have any artistic talent? The great thing about creativity for wellbeing is that you don’t need to be a natural talent! The benefits of creative expression occur whether you’re a professional artist or a hobbyist who only creates for fun.
While it can be challenging to make creative expression a priority amidst busy schedules, lack of familiarity about creative hobbies, or simply a shortage of motivation, there are ways to take small steps to integrate a little creativity in your life without breaking the bank – here are some examples:
- Search out free online writing prompts
- Grab a notebook or a napkin and draw
- Take photos with your phone camera
- Prepare a meal and plate it like you’re on a cooking show
- Put your favorite tunes on, and dance
- Make it a fun group activity by hosting a craft night
There are many ways to flex your creative hand, and it’s important to remember that we each explore our creativity in our own way. This is your creative process, and yours to shape. Leave us a message in the comments to let us know how you explore your creativity.
Speaking of creative expression, we have begun collecting client artwork submissions to be featured in our annual Art of Hope calendar! Each year, we look forward to the beautiful works of art that come through our doors, eager to see what creative ideas have been brought to life by current and former clients of Jefferson Center.
Do you know someone who would be perfect for this opportunity? Learn more here: jcmh.org/artofhope. Look for your calendar in the mail in early November!
Virginia Harris joined Jefferson Center as a Grant Writer in April 2018, and creates funding proposals and reports to support mental health counseling, early childhood and family services, school-based counseling, affordable housing, and more. Virginia graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 2014, and is currently a Master of Public Administration candidate at the University of Colorado-Denver.
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