Art can make you healthier both mentally and physically. Mentally, art can help you be present. You can engage in activities where you focus on what is in front of you.
It is also a great tool to break down and analyze your problems, and to have a better attitude. It is a great way to express what you are feeling or thinking without having to express it with words. You can gain a better perspective to determine if your problems are real or are just occurring in your mind.
Physically, art lowers your stress levels and helps your immune system function better. Overall art makes you healthier because it brings you tranquility and mindfulness. In the long term, art might be a remedy for many emotional troubles.
What circumstances benefit from artistic activities?
- When under stress or pressure
- Mental health problems
- Learning disabilities
- Personal problems
- Some medical conditions
Use art as an activity to relax. Don’t think of it as a way to cure yourself, or to create something extraordinary. Remember what is important is the process itself, not the outcome. You are not looking to participate in a gallery (or maybe you could). Above all, you are looking to savor the process, to engage in creative ventures. The outcome could be surprisingly beneficial in the long term.
But how can you do that? What types of activities are good for you? Which forms of art make you healthier?
How to use art therapeutically:
- Expressing yourself
- Playing music
- Playing an instrument
- Painting and Drawing
1. Express yourself
Go to a museum and visit an exhibition, join a class or enroll in a guided tour.
A few years ago, I was in Liverpool’s Art Gallery and a professor was explaining the pre-Raphaelite paintings. For instance, he was talking about John Everett Millais’ painting Isabella.
He encouraged the audience to make wild guesses about the symbolism present in Millais’ painting. After listening to his audience, he explained what he knew about the painting in detail. Briefly, as the professor revealed, the painting shows the moment when Isabella’s brothers realize that she is having a romance with Lorenzo. Every object in the painting symbolizes how they plan to murder Lorenzo so they can marry Isabella to someone wealthier.
All the people present were actively imagining what the elements of the painting symbolized. People were trying to explain what the objects on the table represented. Also, the meaning behind the stares between the characters, etc. All that observing and engaging of the public was the incarnation of an artistic experience of mindfulness.
Being present in the museum and going beyond what is obvious to the eye was mesmerizing. More importantly, interacting with other people but also indirectly with the artist itself, is a therapeutic form of art. Also, this helps develop more empathy and tolerance for others. This will bring you better communication skills and a better perspective toward difficult situations.
When you analyze someone else’s art, you put your artistic persona in conjunction with your logic. The interaction between you and the painting is a way of radiating your sensitive part to a rational world.
You become present, consequently, you express your artistic perspective and you can disconnect from ruminating thoughts.
2. Playing recorded music, art that makes you healthier
Listen to your favorite music at a high volume.
This has a simple explanation, your brain liberates endorphins (which is a natural opiate) when you are happy. This happens automatically when you feel less stressed and increase your enjoyment. If you want to read further, the complete study is from the University of Manchester.
Now, your task is to look for music that you like and then listen to it for a while. You can learn the lyrics if you want (if there are any), turn up the volume, and enjoy.
Enjoy the effect of endorphins and enjoy your favorite music. It does feel better to sing in the shower than to think about the past, doesn’t it?
3. Playing an instrument
Forget about the world immersing in music through your motor skills.
Do you concentrate on a task that stimulates your intelligence and your motor skills? Then, have you noticed that your body is doing something all by itself? Do you see you can perform a set of patterns that you didn’t think you were capable of doing? It feels great, doesn’t it?
That’s what happens when you learn to play an instrument. You are making a concentrated effort for a while, and then all of a sudden you can play a tune.
Even beyond that, the music that comes out of the instrument is a big satisfying reward. Certainly, it is something beautiful that you are producing with your own hands.
While you are performing, you are being in the present because you concentrate so much on doing it right. You focus on reading sheet music or repeating from a recording. Either way, you have to be completely present, or otherwise, you won’t be able to play the instrument. It is difficult to do two things at the same time when you are playing an instrument. A music performer concentrates all the time. There are so many things that need attention. For example, the notes, the rhythm, the fingers, the tempo, the volume, the intention they want to transmit, and so on.
You are achieving mindfulness, and that liberates you immediately of your worries and places you in the present moment. Your focus is on that second that the note lasts, on your performance, and in the enjoyment of music.
Many people are even using music as a form of meditation.
4. Painting and Drawing, a form of art to make you healthier
Express your emotions visually without thinking about the result.
When you are drawing you are most of the time putting a 3D object into a 2D perspective. You are looking at shadows, color combinations, and shapes meticulously. The change of perspective and creativity places you in the present moment: it engages you visually.
You can immerse yourself in the creation and decide whether or not it reflects what you are feeling. You can simply draw letting your imagination flow, or you can use your emotions as a source of inspiration. This is exactly why this is a form of therapeutic art. This is why art can make you healthier.
You can express your emotions by drawing or painting, or you can just draw what is in front of you. Both forms involve your creative persona. Consciously or unconsciously you are exposing what is inside of you visually. Now, you need to make it a habit and you will be able to interpret your emotions better.
What happens when you combine two colors? What happens when you place that shape in that pattern or one direction or another? This powerful technique, for example, helps you be more in touch with your intuition.
What is the difference between painting and coloring? Why can you be mindful with both?
Painting and coloring are like meditation because sometimes you repeat a pattern that engages your brain. Coloring repeatedly is like breathing when you meditate.
That’s the difference with coloring. Some people find it easier to concentrate on something that they are seeing. Some people like having a plan in front of them.
You can use coloring books, or color your doodles or a repetitive pattern you have created.
Be here today, enjoy art, and the way it makes you healthier. Engage and value mindfulness activities.
I listened to John Downland’s Galliards while doing this research. I must confess the music placed me in the baroque. Also, the trees outside made me think of scenes from Jane Austen’s books.