Creating Art Shown to Help Manage Stress and Depression
Creating Art Shown to Help Manage Stress and Depression

Art—it’s something we all create when we’re young, but as we age, many of us tend to give it up. We may not completely turn our backs on creativity, but, as we focus on all the other important parts of our lives, making art tends to fall by the wayside.

Creating art, though, is something fundamental to our wellbeing as humans. Research has shown us the impact of creating art on our emotional and psychological wellbeing. Making art is an important part of staying healthy, but it also can be a powerful tool to fight stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

Let’s take a closer look at how art can be used to treat mental illnesses and increase our wellbeing.

What Can Creativity Do for Mental Health?

Whether or not you believe you’re good at art, you do have a natural creative streak, and making art is a wonderful way to use and grow your creativity. Like other skills, creativity needs to be used to improve, but many of us don’t always manage to make time to be creative.

There are many reasons why making art is good for our health, including our mental health. Creating Art can reduce the stress you feel and the stress you don’t feel—making art can lower stress hormones and prevent physical damage. Making art engages both sides of your brain and encourages better neural connectivity which makes you sharper and more mentally resilient. Creating something uniquely yours can also encourage self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment, which can help further address negative emotions.

Research on Art’s Impact on Mental Health

Researchers have long been interested in how art can be used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. In one study comparing the physical brain structures of people who either created art or evaluated art, it was found that those who created art showed significantly more connections in the part of the brain called the default mode network. This area of the brain is responsible for many significant functions, such as empathy, reflecting on your emotional state, and thinking about the future.

Creating visual art has also been shown to reduce negative emotions and promote positive ones. Those who create art often report lower levels of depression and anxiety. Producing visual art also has been linked with lowering the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can promote better physical health and reduce feelings of stress.

Participating in art classes may also be beneficial for how we perceive our physical health. Studies found that seniors who took art classes had a more positive view of their own physical health and were more active than seniors who didn’t take the classes.

Creating art while listening to information makes you 29% more likely to recall the information and less likely to daydream. Next time you find yourself in a meeting or a class, why not doodle in the margins of your notes?

Several studies show the importance of creating art, and not merely enjoying it, to get the cognitive benefits.

How Patients Can Include Art in Their Lives

If you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety, stress, memory decline, or other psychological concerns, the good news is that a little bit of creativity may be all it takes to fight back. 

There are many ways to include creativity in your daily life. Doodling on scratch paper, learning a new art form, taking an art class, decorating cakes or plating meals, taking pictures, and even coloring are all great ways to incorporate creative time into your week and reap the benefits of making art. 

Whether you’re a talented artist or a beginner, expressing your creativity is beneficial to your mental health. Many people feel that they aren’t creative because they are not good at making art—which couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you’re not skilled at art, practicing it will help foster creativity, stimulate your brain, and decrease negative feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

We may not need art to survive, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of our experience as human beings. Psychologist Dr. Ellen Winner says about creating art,

“My best guess is that art itself is not a direct product of natural selection, but is a byproduct of our bigger brains — which themselves evolved for survival reasons. Art is just something we cannot help but do. While we may not need art to survive, our lives would be entirely different without it. The arts are a way of making sense of and understanding ourselves and others, a form of meaning-making just as important as are the sciences.”

Find Help Managing Your Depression Today

Living with depression can be incredibly challenging and you may feel hopeless that there is a treatment out there that actually works for you. Whether you’re just beginning to explore potential treatments or you’ve tried a variety of therapies and haven’t found one that works for you, you should know about transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

TMS is a drug-free, safe, and non-invasive alternative to traditional depression treatments. Our team of knowledgeable, caring clinicians will help you find out if TMS is right for you, create a personalized treatment based on your lifestyle and needs, and provide you with compassionate support, every step of the way.

Let’s discuss how Pulse TMS can help you or your loved one! Schedule an appointment with our office today.

Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.