Do you make time for creative self-expression? In today's world, busy work schedules, daily obligations and the general hustle and bustle of the everyday leave most of us unable to find time to engage in the creative activities we love. Though many can recognize the great impact of self- expression throughout human history and the influence of the arts on our culture, not enough find time to participate themselves. Recently, however, scientists are discovering the many health benefits of creative self-expression, which includes writing, painting, dance, photography, drawing, playing music, ceramics, sculpture and anything in between. Read on and you may decide to join the many individuals who are now making time in their schedules for some fun, artistic endeavors.
In an article published by the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, entitled The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health, one hundred different scientific studies were reexamined to further understand the impact of creative self-expression on ones mental and physical well-being. Each of the one hundred studies chosen included 30 participants who suffered from chronic illness and cancer. The results of these studies showed that visual arts activities impacted the psychological and physical health of participants in the following ways:
- 'Art filled occupational voids and distracted from thoughts of illness'
- 'Improved medical outcomes and decreased depression'
- 'Improved well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones'
- 'Reduced stress and anxiety'
- 'Improved flow and spontaneity, expression of positive identity and social networks'
- 'Improved immune system by strengthening the body's defenses on the cellular level'
Many recent studies further validate that exercising our creativity is good for us. Such findings have lead to the emergence of art therapy, which utilizes the process of creating art to facilitate healing, increase positive coping behaviors and improve an individual's health status. Studies have found that activities like painting and drawing aid in healing by externalizing stress and trauma. Singing, on the other hand, releases chemicals in the brain that serve as natural pain-killers and increases the 'bonding hormone', which makes us feel a sense of trust. Expressive writing can lead to a more positive mood and fewer illnesses while dancing can decrease stress, increase energy and improve sleep quality.
It is amazing to think that all these benefits can be reaped by simply picking up a pencil or paint brush and putting it to paper. By finding even just a few hours a week to express yourself in an artistic manner, you can nurture both your body and mind – now and in the future. The best part? There are so many easy and fun ways to create, all of which can be done alone or with friends and family. Because there are so many different types of art, there is something for everyone. It is important to remember that you don't need to be a professional to express yourself creatively – the health benefits of art are for everyone! Worry less about the finished product and more about the process. Expressing yourself creatively to benefit your health should be viewed as an enjoyable, stress-free, therapeutic activity, so don't worry about your level of skill or achieving perfect results. You don't need to be good at art for it to be good for you. So pick up that pencil and make something! Be creative! Your body will thank you.