How art is great for mental health

In this day and age, art is so under looked. It is seen as simply a hobby, a passion at most. It’s true powers are never talked about, and it holds true healing properties. So, what can it do for people with illness? This blog post will aim to make art a more accessible and normalize art to become a part of therapy. Even trying it would be a great step!

So, what can we count as art therapy? A whole lot is the answer. The following is a list, but is not limited to:

  • Music
  • Visual Art
  • Movement-based creative expression
  • Writing

So, what kinds of illness can this possible help?

  • Cardiovascular Issues
  • Depression
  • Chronic Stress
  • Abuse
  • Trauma

Broadly, art could be a great way to unravel bottled up emotion in a low risk environment. It can help embrace cultural diversity, reflect upon meaningful feelings, increase engagement, revive trust, and foster attention. For centuries art has been a huge part of culture and the healing process in the forms of dances, elaborate stories, and chants. In a 2010 study conducted by Dr. Nobel, a team found that positive effects where found from using art therapy to try to heal illness. Music was found to be a notably wonderful medium to work with. Why is one of the best forms of art for healing?

  • Most accessible
  • Most researched form of art (it works!)
  • Can be easily manipulated

Music is a specially soothing medium, and has been proven to show decrease in anxiety. It also has shown to help patients align their emotions. It also can alleviate pain and work to help manage it. The biology of the brain is what makes music such a good tool. The brain works through its neural activity. Neurons are specialized cell that help transmit messages throughout the brain.  Think of it like the mail men of the brain. Neural activity is abnormally rampant when victims undergo mental illness, and music helps to slow that activity down. In addition, there are specialized areas of the brain called the amygdala and the hypothalamus. These help with a lot around our bodies, but also our immune systems. Music also helps to in turn make the immune system more robust. In cancer patients specifically, a team found improvements in their relaxation. They also recorded reductions in the hormone called cortisol while engaging in the music. What is serum cortisol? This is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal gland which in high amounts is associated with anxiety, depression, weakness, high blood pressure, and decreased thyroid function. For example, normal humans have low cortisol amounts when they are sleeping as they are extra relaxed. Patients who suffered by coronary artery disease saw an improvement in their heart rate, oxygen demand, and respiratory rate only 20 minutes into a tape of relaxing music.

In all, art is definitely not the way to 100% heal illness, but it an extraordinary tool to help patients in a safe way. It provides no risks, and has no negative effects like drugs can. Down to the biology of the brain, it has proven to be effective to some extent.

 

Stuckey, Heather L., and Jeremy Nobel. “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature.” American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, Feb. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *