A Vision for Living
The Creative Soul
Ask a group of people who amongst them is an artist and probably no one will raise their hand. Yet, most of us were given visual art assignments as a part of our schooling. Therefore, at some time, we all were artists. There are very good reasons why the visual arts are included in the educational process. Children who receive art lessons are better students, not only while in school, but for life.
First of all, creating art relieves stress and encourages creative thinking. In other words, art encourages positive thinking. Art also boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment. We tend to lost that as we become adults. Think about the delight in a child’s face when they have completed a coloring page. We will discuss more about the hindrances to creativity next week.
Making art, whether it be drawing, coloring, sketching, or free form, increases brain connectivity and plasticity. Brain flexibility allows new thoughts to form, new avenues of thinking, and opens the door for inventiveness as well as greater creativity. Even viewing art has its benefits. It increases empathy, tolerance, and feelings of openness, acceptance, and love. Goodness knows the world certainly needs more of those!
Art develops the whole brain. Research and studies have proven that art increases attention, strengthens focus, requires practice and develops eye-hand coordination. Additionally, creating art means one is interacting with the world as well as the various mediums and tools being used. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Dr. Heather L. Stuckey and Dr. Jeremy Nobel, writing for the American Journal of Public Health, reviewed research in the area of art and healing in an effort to determine the creative therapies most often employed. Four primary therapies emerged: music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing. In these forms of expression, arts modalities and creative processes were used during intentional interventions to foster health.
Drs. Stuckey and Nobel disclosed that art and health have been at the center of human interest from the beginning of recorded history. “Despite that fact, and despite the invested effort and growth of knowledge and understanding in each arena, it is interesting that we often still find ourselves struggling with the “fundamentals” of art and health and their meaning in society. We make no attempt to clarify or resolve these fundamental issues. Instead, our intent is to summarize current knowledge about the connection between art and health, identify the most compelling next steps for investigation, and generate further interest in researching the complexities of art and health. Legitimate research questions include whether certain art-based therapies are more or less effective than others, whether the impact of therapy can be tied to other important variables and preconditions, and whether health benefits are sustained or short term. These issues deserve vigorous continued attention.”
Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer. Some people with cancer have explored the meanings of their past, present, and future during art therapy, thereby integrating cancer into their life story and giving it meaning. Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness. There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief.
In a quantitative trial of mindfulness art therapy targeted toward women with cancer, researchers found that those who engaged in art making demonstrated statistically significant decreases in symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. In addition to the introduction of self-care through guided imagery, the art-making therapy involved the women drawing complete pictures of themselves and engaging in yoga and meditation. The relaxation and symptom reduction produced by creative expression opened pathways to emotional healing.
Pick up a pen, a crayon, or a paintbrush or a bit of clay and – poof – you have become a visual artist. Artists pour out their emotions through the process of painting. This practice encourages artists to look at their own emotional state and take stock of emotions they may not even realize they have. Releasing emotions through artwork is a cathartic experience for many painters. In fact, even therapists suggest painting or drawing as a treatment path for patients who have suffered psychologically painful encounters. Letting out emotions by painting promotes healing through abstract emotional expression.
People that paint/draw/sculpt experience an increase in their emotional intelligence level. Allowing your emotions to come out in painting helps you understand your own emotional state and realize which factors contribute to your varying moods. Experimenting with different visual art forms can help one understand what triggers feelings such as happiness, sadness, love, or anger. Often, the emotions you feel when creating this work project onto the people that view your paintings. Painters have the ability to bring others happiness, sharing their positive mindset with viewers. This skill makes the artist better company for themselves and those around them. Art gives us all better living.