While it sounds shockingly simple, engaging in art is a powerful tool for improving mental health.
Studies have shown that a wide variety of mental health conditions benefit from artistic expression. Some of these include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, addiction, attention disorders, grief, relationship issues, eating disorders, and more.
Experiencing art—visiting a museum—has benefits, but the strongest mental health gains come from creating art—like painting a canvas. This is because the creation process releases dopamine in the brain, which is a chemical that generates feelings of happiness.
The health improvements are especially significant for older people. Art can reduce symptoms for people with dementia as well as increase memory, reasoning, and resiliency. The self-expression art offers may even help those nearing the end of their life reach a sense of peace.
Like traditional therapy, art offers tools for coping with mental health issues, like recognizing and processing feelings, finding meaning in life, providing catharsis, and offering a means for self-discovery. But unlike traditional therapy, it isn’t necessary to have the supervision of mental health professional.
Art is a big category that includes many different methods for creative self-expression. Music, dance, writing, film, painting, sculpting, gardening, and cooking are just a few examples. These art forms provide mental health benefits, making it easy for most people to find a creative outlet they’re interested in.
Plus, most art types can easily be practiced from home, so nearly everyone can explore this type of treatment. There are, however, extra benefits to practicing it in a group setting, like reducing loneliness and increasing social connection.
Even for people who don’t see themselves as talented artists, art is beneficial. The most important factors for feeling the positive effects of art are simply maintaining an openness to creativity, experimentation, and emotional release.
Given the ease of practicing it, the ready availability, and many benefits, art is an incredible tool for people of all ages who are interested in boosting their mental health.