Art has a profound impact on the human mind. Like portals to other worlds, paintings can transport us to different realities, to the past or the future.
Likewise, music can move us in more ways than one and make us experience a range of emotions without us ever leaving our house. Indeed, experiencing any kind of artistic beauty, whether visual or musical, can help elevate us above the flat humdrum of life.
But art also has tangible effects on the human brain and body. Research shows that consuming and participating in art reduces stress, boosts the immune system, improves focus and memory, and enhances our overall health and well-being.
So how can art and creativity help you become healthier and happier? Read on to discover the various health benefits of art and how you can incorporate more creativity into your everyday life.
Did you know that beautiful works of art can give our brains as much joy as being in love? It’s true; research shows that simply looking at beautiful artwork can increase blood flow to the brain by up to 10%, which is equivalent to looking at a loved one.
When we look at beautiful art, whether it’s still life, an abstract, or a landscape, there is strong activity in the part of the brain that is related to pleasure. In other words, looking at art actually makes us feel better.
And creating one’s own art, like painting, drawing, or writing, can also reduce cortisol levels. According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, engagement with creative activities can reduce depression and even alleviate the pain of chronic disease.
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Like meditation art can help quiet our minds and help us focus on the moment. When we engage in creative activities, we enter a “flow state,” which is the experience of being wholly focused on the work and practically impervious to distractions
Adult coloring books, for example, are great for this. When you concentrate on coloring, you clear your mind of incessant noise and negative thoughts and instead focus on what is right in front of you: the simple joy of coloring.
Writing produces similar benefits. When you write, you shut out distractions and focus on the task at hand. And the more you write, the more you train your brain to focus, increasing your concentration span.
Boosts the Immune System
Art quite literally has healing powers, as studies show it can boost the immune system. According to the study conducted by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, activities that inspire awe, such as looking at beautiful artworks, lower inflammation, and improve the immune system.
Beholding art and listening to music has a direct influence on our health and even life expectancy. Awe, wonder, and beauty – all related to art but also nature – promote healthier levels of cytokines, which help us fight infection, disease, and depression.
Additionally, studies show that people who write about their traumatic experiences show great improvements in various measures of physical health and better immune system functioning. Some studies also show writing helps with chronic pain management.
Music therapy also has immune-boosting effects via the actions of the amygdala and hypothalamus.
Improves Memory & Cognition
Research shows that habitual writing improves neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s ability to form new connections and pathways. Putting your thoughts in writing reduces cognitive load and improves mental clarity.
Music, too, has a significant impact on how well different parts of your brain communicate with each other. Research shows that people who play instruments have better connectivity between the two hemispheres of their brains.
And for people with dementia, creating art, like drawing or writing, enhances cognitive abilities and memory recollection skills. Participating in theater performances may also improve problem-solving abilities and memory.
Looking at art can also enhance memory simply because it reduces stress and promotes relaxation, which helps us retain and remember information more easily.
Enhances Mental Health & Well-Being
Consuming art in any way and participating in various art activities helps decrease anxiety and build coping skills. Studies also show that painting, drawing, and molding and sculpting clay help people deal with different kinds of trauma.
Writing, too, can help people overcome trauma and manage negative emotions. Expressive writing, in particular, has been shown to help people transform negative experiences, such as a loved one’s death or a violent experience, into meaningful events and make sense of their trauma.
The Bottom Line
Without a doubt, art is good for the soul, body, and mind. And you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate or create art. After all, art is a process, an experience, not a product. But even if you don’t have time to make art of your own, simply looking at beautiful paintings or listening to great music has plenty of benefits, so take time to appreciate some art today.